Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Visa Drama

These past few days have been a bit hectic on my end but I am glad things got resolved pretty quick. Remember I had applied for a tourist visa extension (12X) to get back into Ecuador after my initial 90 day stay? with the extension I was allowed to stay for another 90 days making it a total of 6 months. Tourists can only stay for a maximum of six months in Ecuador within a calendar year.

I assumed since my 12X visa expires in December I could just leave the country then come back in January and start afresh since it was a new year, wrong! I casually mentioned my plans to the folks I work with at the travel agency and they told me that it doesn't work that way. I would actually be allowed back to the country in December 2015 because immigration starts counting from the last day you left the country so if you max out your tourist stay here you will be allowed back a year later after departing Ecuador. I hope that explanation makes sense.

To say I was shocked is an understatement, I started panicking because this meant that all the plans we had made between my boyfriend and I would be totally messed up. I visited the immigration office and they confirmed that if I left Ecuador in December I would not be allowed back into the country until December 2015 so I would have to change my visa if I wanted to stay on for longer. The next best alternative as they advised would be to get a student visa.

I talked to the director of Cristobal Colon Spanish School  where I take my Spanish classes and he was very helpful since he has experience preparing paperwork for student visa applications and his school has a good track record with immigration. All he needed from me was a copy of my passport and my bank statement because I would need this as proof to immigration that I can support myself while living in Ecuador. He arranged all my paperwork and I was all set.

Today early in the morning I got all my stuff ready and headed to immigration feeling nervous as hell thinking if they reject my visa application I would have to come up with a back up plan pretty fast. I got there at 8:10 am and there was already a long line of people waiting to be tended to, the offices open at 8:00 am.

When I finally made it to the information desk so I could be assigned a number to be tended to, the lady at the desk looked at my paperwork and pushed them to the side saying I needed to be better prepared then called out the next person in line. Turns out I needed to stick my passport size photo on the corner of my paperwork and present everything in a binder folder. I looked around me and I swear there must have been more than 50 people waiting, I really didn't want to lose my spot on the line. Fortunately for me this one guard who was managing the lines offered to help me out. He used a glue stick that was at the reception desk to stick my photo on the corner of my paperwork and he directed me right outside the offices where there was a guy selling binder folders. Talk about enterprising folks! there were people selling folders, passport covers and there was even a guy who had set up a copy machine. I quickly bought a folder and the guard arranged everything for me before directing me to the front of the line so I would not lose my spot. I was so grateful to him, I finally got my assigned number and was sent to a different floor to see an immigration agent.

To cut a long story short, I presented my paperwork to the immigration agent who was training another guy so she was going over my paperwork keenly while explaining to him what documents they look for before accepting applications. When she came across the paperwork from my school she mentioned that it has a very good track record with immigration so they trust the documents but if it was another school that they were not familiar with then it might have been difficult to proof their validity. I paid $30 for the visa application at a cashier window located on the ground floor and after presenting my receipt to the immigration agent, everything was all set and she told me to come back on December 1st with my passport and $100 as payment for the student visa.

That's it folks, hopefully all goes well and I will have my student visa in place come December 1st. This visa will allow me 6 more months in Ecuador and I can travel back and forth if I so wish. 

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