When last we left our heroes…
We had applied for our residency visas on August 22nd, and were told it should take about a month for processing. Fast forward 8½ weeks. Stephanie had been checking every day, and was wondering what could have gone wrong when we finally got an e-mail saying our visas were ready. They gave us a date to come and pick them up, but alas, we would still be traveling. No problem, they were willing to reschedule to a date that suited us.
Once in Cuenca, we showed up ahead of schedule, and once again got to deal with Joaquin (who didn’t remember us at first). Before we could be granted our visas, we needed to participate in an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt. The first thing we had to do was to take our original CD to the central bank, and register it. Joaquin told us to take it to Pablo Cuesta at Banco Central, and that was it.
We found out the bank was only about a ten minute walk away, and when we got there and mentioned Pablo’s name, someone directed us to the second floor. The trouble was that second floor had about two dozen unmarked offices. We stood around looking clueless until someone directed us to the right office. Good ol’ Pablo motioned us in, and without a word started working on our paperwork. We sat there, quietly, hoping he knew exactly what to do, and would tell us what we needed to do next. It turns out that our original CD will remain locked in a fire file under lock, key, and combination until we become citizens and no longer need an investor’s visa.
Back we went to Immigration where we presented Joaquin with proof that our CD was now snoozing comfortably with its other CD friends at Banco Central. The next step was to pay up, yo! Residency visas are kind of pricy at $320 a pop, but it’s worth it. We queued up at the cashier where we hit another roadblock. Most of the cash we had brought for the visas was in twenty dollar bills, but we did have two fifties. It turns out that in addition to not liking credit cards, the good people of Ecuador do not like any bills larger than $20. When we told them the fifties were all we had, they made us fill out a form with all our personal details, and the serial number of each bill. If they ever turn out to be fake, I’m sure the secret police (or whomever) will ram down our door in the middle of the night and demand twenties for the “bad” fifties.
Back with our friend Joaquin, we now needed color copies of our passport with our new visa in them. Wait…the visa was no already in our passports?? How anti-climactic! No, “Congratulations!” No, “Welcome to Ecuador.” Not even a handshake. We took a journey around the corner to the local copy place, where for a mere $4, we had our copies.
“Hi Joaquin, we’re back.” We now had to fill out cedulá applications. The cedulá is a government issued ID card, and is pretty much the equivalent of a Green Card in the U.S. Guess what? We needed copies of said application. Why we couldn’t just fill out two, I don’t know, but we tried a new copy place, and yay – lower prices – this time it was only $1.10.
We returned for the last time to Joaquin who checked everything over, and then sent us to another department in the same building to apply for the cedulás. This time he got a sense of how excited we were, and cracked a smile as he congratulated us. We looked over our new visas while we waited for our turn. Pretty cool…
The girl in the new department would now enter our info in the cedulá system. (I guess.) But first, she needed more money. Only $4pp, but back to the cashier we went. He seemed to have forgiven us for the “Affair of the 50s,” and took our money without complaining. We took the receipt back to the Cedulá Girl™, who double checked our cedulá applications, and gave us another sheet to take with the application and have the whole shebang notarized. She told us to take the notarized package to the Civil Registry for our cedulás “within five days.” With our “no time like the present” attitude we set off for the same notary we had used two months prior in order to git ‘er done.
Notaries in Ecuador are not like those back home. In the States, they stamp a stamp, sign a signature, and take your money. Here, it is a whole process, and the notary (who is addressed as “Doctor”) has a dedicated office. One of his front line girls took more copies, collected everything, and sent it back to the notary himself. After a few minutes, she sent us in to him. Seated behind an enormous desk, he verified all of our personal information, and stamped and signed a bunch of pages. He told us how here in Ecuador, every notarized document is verified, remains on file, and is much more of a bureaucratic nightmare than Stateside. (I have to learn to stop saying “at home.”)
He sent us back to his front line girl, who then stamped everything, stamped some more, initialed everything, stamped every blank page as intentionally blank, stuck a foil seal here, embossed there, and stapled the whole thing into a very official looking packet.
By now, the whole process had taken about three and a half hours. We took our very official looking packet, and found our way to the Civil Registry office a 12-minute walk away. Being pretty much the only gringos there, they seemed to know what we needed when we said the magic word, “cedulá,” and directed us to a much shorter line than the others we had seen. When our turn came, we realized we had been the minor victims of a minor language barrier. Remember the Cedulá Girl ™ who had told us “within five days?” She actually meant IN five days, since it takes that long for new visas to be processed into the system. This turned out be a good thing, for as we walked away, we realized we had not gotten our apostilled birth certificates translated and notarized. Oops! Also, the cedula office guy told us we needed yet another set of copies of our passports. (We went to yet a third copy place, and this time the copies cost us EIGHT CENTS. Wow, it’s hard to know when you are ripped off around here!)
Join us next time for chapter three as we continue with our visa/cedulá process.