Ecuador – A Leap of Faith

Part Three – Visas and the Container

The Visas

Our VISA applications for Ecuador have been approved! There are a variety of possible visas to choose from that will give you two-year temporary residence status: student, retiree, and investor to name a few. We chose the Investor Visa as most suitable to our situation. 

With this Visa, you can either buy property for a minimum of $42,500 US or place the money in the bank @7% for 2 years. We chose the latter. To be eligible for this Visa, you need to prove that you have a minimum of $425 US coming into your account every month for the 6 months before your application. To apply for permanent residency, you have to show that $425 US enters your account every month during your temporary residency. If you are married, one spouse is considered a dependent. As such, the equation changes to $425 + $250 for a total of $675 US a month instead of $850 US. We decided to get married. Although the Visa triggered the idea of getting married, our marriage was much more than a practical thing. Our marriage is based on a 20-year love story! 

We got married at our home on July 16th, fifteen days before we had to hand over the keys to the new owners. Sheesh, what was I thinking? Twelve days to pack the whole house! I never thought getting married would make a difference for me, but to my great surprise, it has. I love being married to Dan. Life is beautiful.

In summary for a temporary two-year residency Visa in Ecuador, you need money, verifiable proof of regular income, and a criminal background check by the RCMP, approved by Global Affairs Canada (which was backed up 75 days due to the pandemic). Sent to the Ecuador Embassy in Toronto to be apostilled (international notarization) and then sent back to us so we could bring it to Ecuador. The same process applied to approving the marriage certificate. Needless to say, there was a bit of stress (and a lot of praying) around the documents arriving on time. They did. The apostilled marriage certificate arrived the day before we left. And we left two days late because of Hurricane Ian. Blessings come in all kinds of ways. 

The Visa process is quite complex because Ecuadorian bureaucracy is ponderous (I’m being nice.). Everyone has his finger in the money pie. As such, we had to run back and forth between the lawyer, the bank, the notary, the photocopy shop, and the ministry not to mention waiting for what seemed like hours twiddling my thumbs. So inefficient. 

I don’t recommend trying to get a visa in Ecuador without a lawyer. You will waste a lot of money, end up feeling very frustrated and angry, and you still won’t have a Visa. You can not insult or force Ecuadorians. They are very sensitive that way. From start to finish the Visa took 6 months and cost us each about $1500 US which includes a 3-month basic healthcare coverage. Patience, forbearance, and acceptance. We are guests in their country.

The Container

OMG, the container!!!! What an arduous and complex process. We decided it would be easier and more economical to ship our home to Ecuador versus storage in Quebec. Long story short I will never ship my home in a container again BUT, I am very happy to have my belongings here now. In the end, it was a good decision but filled with trials, tribulations, and costly unknowns.

Packing up the house and leaving the country is deeply uprooting and destabilizing. There are many layers of processing going on simultaneously all facilitating and heralding a massive change into the unknown.

My whole life passed before my eyes; pictures, letters, projects, school books … places, family, friends, and relationships. A roller coaster of emotions, thoughts, and reflections. I read a letter I wrote to my Mom right after my son’s birth. So interesting especially now as my son has recently become a father. Laughter, tears, sighs, and curiosity all jumbled together. 

We made a big fire in the backyard and burned all those Bell, Hydro, Mastercard, and Bank statements years worth, woosh up in flames. Our fire burned for days. A gradual unwinding of time, of release and liberation.

Making the house perfect was a lot of work. But boy, what a great feeling. And all the while planning a JamborDing (a combination Jamboree, music party, and wedding). It’s amazing what you can do when you set your heart and mind to it. A beautiful and perfect JamborDing it was, 70 family members and friends, music, a marriage ceremony, and the most gorgeous day … love was in the air, as was an adieu; a celebratory and slightly sad adieu.

Many people asked me, “Do you have any regrets? Do you think you will like Ecuador? What if you don’t like Ecuador?” All valid questions. All I can say is we took time to enjoy our home, our lake, our friends, and our family before we left. Cherishing every moment. Also, I have to admit to being so busy that I didn’t have time to regret, doubt or worry. When you are living in the present moment you can spare yourself the suffering which comes from the fear of the unknown. I do not regret selling my house. I am not disappointed with Ecuador because I had no expectations. I was following the flow on a very tight schedule.

Shipping your belongings in a container has to be done in a very specific way. The boxes, furniture, and Dan’s guitars had to be carefully packed to endure 1 month of travel by sea and then another 12 hours by truck through the Andean mountains. When you ship household goods, the border agents want to ensure that you are not shipping substances or articles you would be selling. Household goods are duty-free. As such they are very strict. Everything has to be listed exactly as it is in every box. Everything! They were weight restrictions for clothes, restrictions for home appliances and electronics and so much more.  In short, a nightmare. 

We were told they would only open about 40% of the boxes if the lists were good. We were very careful in packing, labeling and listing. And all this in 14 days!!!! I was doing most of the packing as Dan was busy working on his documentary which he had to complete before leaving.  Endless, it was endless and exhausting. Thank you to all who helped. I wanted to deliver our home in perfect condition. Out of honour and respect. Which we did. 

We carefully packed all 150 boxes into my brother Mike’s Van with my brother Chipper’s help including his truck and trailer. We drove to Rigaud to store our stuff at our friend’s house until the container arrived at the end of August. We shared a 40 ft container together. The cost was $12,000. As tough as that process was, it was only the beginning compared to what was waiting for us on the Ecuadorian end of the container saga.

The container arrived on September 29th in Guayaquil. That’s when the problems started. We were given the run-around, lied to, blamed, and told our lists were all wrong. We were shocked as we had been so careful and thorough. Then we were told we would have to pay duty on many items. We were obviously being conned and swindled. But, it was all part of the game because, with a payment of $800 US to the border guards, our agent could make the problem “disappear”. We brought it down to $500. The language barrier, lack of understanding of the culture, and being in a vulnerable position certainly complicated our situation. We were able to get help and eventually managed to get them to release the container for delivery. To do so though we had to put in a refundable deposit of $5,500 to ensure the return of the container. This was an unknown expense. Fortunately, we had it. Ready, excited, and relieved to receive the container after 3 weeks we learn we had one more unexpected payment of $2100 US to make before they actually released the container. Demurrage fees. Demurrage is the time the container sits in the port without being used for transport. In our case, it was 22 days. Our shipping company had arranged for 8 days. Every day after that cost money; the first 5 days a $100 US and every day after that was $130 US. 

The container was delivered on Oct 21st, but the truck couldn’t make it up the road to the houses. We had to hire two trucks to help transport the boxes and furniture to each house (at our cost). When they opened the container – shock and horror. The belongings that we had packed so carefully were packed in any old way. Heavy boxes and furniture on top of fragile objects like Dan’s guitar or Yannick’s handmade bike etc. Every box had been opened and the contents heedlessly shoved back in, in any old way, then thrown into the container. We were in disbelief at the blatant lack of respect and care. Especially since we had paid an Ecuadorian agent $5,500 US to supervise the process and make sure nothing was stolen. This was almost half of the total cost of shipping and delivering the container. And as we have since learned we have been lucky compared to so many other container horror stories.

It’s all water under the bridge now. Chalk one up to experience. The mind and body are destabilized by the unknown. We didn’t ask enough questions because we didn’t know what questions to ask or what to expect. Hopefully, this chronicle will be of help if you ever decide to do the same. This experience has been one of the downsides of our Ecuadorian trip to date, but it is small in comparison with all the wonderful experiences we are now having here. 


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