I’ve beenliving in Ecuador for the past 4 years now. It’s been quite a ride!
Coming fromVenezuela, I had an unfortunate set of preconceptions about the country and itspeople generally built by stories coming from friends and family in Europe andthe US, as well as news stories mainly coming from Spanish TV, reinforced byraunchy clichés.
Quickly, Ileaed to challenge those preconceptions and I’m proud to say that they weregone in short time. For years, I had to deal with the preconceptions aboutEcuador coming from other Venezuelans, either not living here, wanting to comehere, arriving here or even living here for a while (amid what some call theVenezuelan diaspora, there’s a perceivable increase in the amount ofVenezuelans coming to live here)
Of course,some of those preconceptions were substituted by observations of facts. Thatis, the customs and idiosyncrasy of Ecuadorians, and particularly of people fromthe Ecuadorian Highlands (Sierra) For example, it’s not uncommon forEcuadorians to be generally late for meetings and other appointments, even forbusiness. And this is not seen as lack of politeness or professionalism(Swissotel features it as being”fashionably” late) even though we can argue if it’s a custom thatneeds to be overcome in order to achieve more productivity or improve businessperceptions.
And I’veleaed to love this country. I’ve been way more active in professionalnetworks in Ecuador than I was in Venezuela. At my company, they considermyself a part of the Ecuador Expats community so when I go to activities abroadI usually have dinner with Ecuadorians, not Venezuelans or Spaniards.
Ecuadoralso has emotional scars around migration, as other countries do. But I feelthe country has moved on largely and now sees migration as something thatdefines the country. Ecuadorians abroad are better served by the Govement,and even the private sector (esp. media and banks) see them as a segment tocater for. With economic turmoil, especially in Europe, some Ecuadorians arecoming back to Ecuador which poses a unique situation in global migrations thata very small country in South America is trying to understand.
TheEcuadorian community abroad, especially in Spain and the United States, hasbeen very active and vocal about immigrant rights. They’ve secured some wins,and they’re battling others while still managing the score against them. All inall, this sums up the present of Ecuador’s migration story.
There’spast, there’s present. And there’s future.
This smallSouth American country is now in the global spotlight as a prime destinationfor retirement. Not only the specialized magazines, sites and advisors arepraising Ecuador, but the general tourism industry is also revving up theirinterest and promotion about the country and the tourist flow continues toincrease year over year with Quito, a small city compared to other LatinAmerican capitals, among the cities with higher increase on visitors.
Everyonethat I’ve invited to Ecuador is amazed at this country. They love the country,the people, and even how the macroeconomic situation helps tourism and growth.They come back interested in how to invest and how to come to live here.
And then,they find out. There’s been little introspection in Ecuador about how they dealwith immigration. Years and years of being in the spotlight, growing but takinglittle modeization steps for the migration system grows roots. And that isthe origin of the odd case of xenophobia, and even chrematofobia (I wrote aboutit months ago, in spanish) but in general produces a <b>poorlycompetitive scenario for people that want to come to Ecuador for investing,retirement and working</b>
So whilesome people brag about being able to retire in Ecuador with $650/month, ittus out that setting up a small company can cost four times that (notcounting capital, of course, which should be at about 2x that for any seriousvisa conversation to take place afterwards) and a path of visas towardspermanent residency can cost twice of that — even if you find a way to easilyget some sort of legal status here (which I made me and my family’s #1priority, to not abuse the system) Even then, the financial system is notprepared to build a credit score for you, and public institutions can beclueless when it comes to serve a foreigner.
And if thisis true for Spanish-speaking people, coming from countries which have all sortsof political and operational alignment, ex-Andean Community, MERCOSUR and CELACmember, what should we expect for people migrating from the US or from Europe?Hey, I’ve spent way more money in Ecuadorian visas than I would need to do inUS visas if I wanted to go and live there (an H1 work visa costs $190 and lastsfor years while a temporary visa in Ecuador that you need to renew half a yearcan cost more than $100 each)
In thispost, I wanted to raise the topic for discussion. Perhaps there’s no problem,and the migration system is as mode as it can be. Perhaps there’s no need forintrospection. Perhaps there’s introspection being done at the fundamentallevels in Ecuador and I’m not aware of it. But I’ll guess most people (evensome of my Ecuadorian followers that have jumped in my previous chrematophobiadiscussions) will agree so I also wanted to throw in some ideas:
1. SENAMI, and all other govementinstitutions working with migrants, should OWN the discussion of immigration inEcuador. This probably means creating a higher level committee that overseesthe operation of migration topics across institutions (Police, Department ofState, Interior, etc.) and regulates, by law, the migration policy
2. Operational policies should becomemore transparent. If visas for company authorities are denied for companieswith less than $1000 or $2000 of capital, people should be aware of that — notjust the lawyers that want to rip you off for consultations of such smalldetails.
3. Let’s be bold and have an intealmarketing campaign so that Ecuadorians know the benefits of increased organizedimmigration of people working, investing and living here: “Yo descubrí…un país que ama a sus visitantes”
4. A “Ventanilla Única” forimmigrants should be developed. Why should we go to Policía, the Bank, SRI, allthe Supers, two or three Ministerios, etc.? Also, guidance should be availablethere, translators and other general services. Let’s do it a jointprivate-govement cooperation so tour agencies, lawyer firms, banks and allother parties put in some money to do a quality service not 100% at the expenseof taxpayers?
5. The policy should be conductive to ascenario where all immigrants abide law, and become taxpayers, social securitycontributors, legal workers, etc.
6. Regulation and guidelines protectingimmigrant rights in the financial sector and other govement authoritiesshould be passed. Especifically, the credit system should protect the rights ofthe immigrant since the 1st day his/her funds are invested in Ecuador.
Iappreciate that you take the time to read this kind of posts. Now, it’d begreat if you now take 10 more minutes for introspection and share your insightsin the comments below!