Tips on how to stay in Ecuador for a year (or longer) on tourist visas alone

Tips on how to stay in Ecuador for up to a year (possibly more) on tourist visas

As an American citizen I can stay in Ecuador, among many other countries, for three months on just the free T3 basic entry stamp that you get when you enter the country.

This is how I stayed in Ecuador for a year without applying for residency.

The easiest way to stay for an extended period of time is to get the 12-IX (12-9) extended (six month) visa at the local Ecuadorian Consulate before you leave (Around $230). Once you arrive you can/must register your visa in the “migration” office in Guayaquil, Quito and now even Cuenca.  Before your visa expires you can go into a neighboring country and return for the T3 stamp which you will be eligible for since you didn’t come into Ecuador on a T3 to begin with. If you plan to go by bus make sure you cross the border during the day and read my story on busing to Peru.

* The bus line I now recommend is Azuay and make sure you buy a ticket to a destination like Mancora that takes you through the border and to each one of the immigration sites for stamping, instead of just to the border to figure it out on your own.

You may want to take this as an opportunity to visit Machu Picchu, I highly recommend flying. Just the bus ride from Lima to Cusco can take anywhere from 22-30 hours. You can also fly into Colombia and visit some of the friendliest people and beautiful cities.

The T3 now gives you three more months. Go into a Migration office in one of the three cities I mentioned above and apply for a 12-V visa AT LEAST one month before your T3 expires. This is an extended tourist visa which requires a written letter (in Spanish) with reason for applying such as places you still want to visit ect. It’s a bargain at only $60. This will give you another three months in the country.

If you want to spend more time than the year it is possible but unfortunately you do have to return to the states to apply and get another 12-IV all over again. That will get another six months all over again.

I never reapplied for another six month visa since I have my sights set on other countries but I was advised by several different workers in the Cuenca Migration office that it was an option since it had been a solid year since my first 12-IV. If this is your plan be sure to double and triple verify this information since I was informed by an immigration officer on the way out of Ecuador that I could not return for 12 months. Conflicting information is common where visa information is concerned. I can only attest to what I have actually done. I hope you find this helpful.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paula
    Jan 04, 2013 @ 05:16:30

    Hi you mentioned you suggest a 12-IV form. What is the exact name of the form? I am actually very intrigued in your suggestion because it is very logical. Thanks for the great tip.


  2. Heather Williams
    Jan 04, 2013 @ 06:47:12

    Hi Paula, thank you for your comment. I had my roman numerals incorrect, I was referring to the 12-9 visa. I just amended the blog post. The checklist including links to the required forms is listed here:


  3. Stefanie Herrmann
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 15:18:22

    Hi Heather,
    thanks a lot for this post, if that works out it´ll help me a lot!
    Could you give me some more information on how you got the visa 12-V at the embassy? As I have seen this is a students visa (I am a student at home!) but I thought I could only get that visa with a contract with the university.
    I would be very glad about any tipps or recommendations. My 12-9 Visa expires in January but I really need to come back in February / March!
    Best regards


    • Heather Williams
      Nov 06, 2013 @ 23:31:21

      Hi Stefanie, If you came into Ecuador on the 12-9 and haven’t used the standard T-3 on your initial entry then you can just leave and come back in Feb or March and just take the basic (free) T-3 stamp. If you did used the T-3 when you first entered and then obtained your 12-9 from Ecuador then you would need to get the 12-10 which actually isn’t the student visa. I tried the student visa and after spending a fortune on Spanish classes at the University of Cuenca I still didn’t qualify. The 12-10 is a continuation of the 12-9 and it’s cheaper than the 12-9. It’s good for another 3 months and you can come and go within that time frame. If you’re in Cuenca the office on Ordonez Lasso can do the visa for you and it’s a pretty straight forward process.


  4. Steffi
    Nov 28, 2013 @ 10:17:29

    Hi Heather, thanks a lot for your reply.
    I didn´t use the T-3 to get the T-9 as I applied for the visa in Germany and not in Ecuador, so I haven´t been in the country with this T-3 stamp for the last 360 days. Unfortunately the embassy in Germany says that I can´t just enter again without a Visa and get the T-3 stamp as I have already had a 180-day visa.
    So you said that it is possible to apply for the 12-10 in Ecuador to get another 3 months? I would be in Quito not in Cuenca but that should be the same.
    Did you apply for the 12-10 or do you know how long it would take more or less?
    Thanks for your help!!


    • Heather Williams
      Nov 28, 2013 @ 16:53:04

      That’s strange that the German embassy told you that you can’t enter with a T-3 after having a 12-9 because that is exactly what I did. But yes, you can definitely still get the 12-10, it took about a week to process and they want you to apply a month prior to your current visa expiration. I had a good experience (mas o menos) at the Quito “migracion” office so it should go fairly smooth. Good luck with everything and safe travels!


  5. Steffi
    Dec 01, 2013 @ 21:00:01

    Thanks Heather these are good news!! So I´ll definetely try it 🙂
    Some last questions.. 😉 You mean the Migration office “General de Extranjeria” in the Av. 6 de Diciembre y la Niña, corect?
    Do you remember which documents you had to bring? What did you write into this letter, just that you want to travel a bit longer?
    You said your experience was más o menos…! Could you tell me what was difficult so I can try to avoid these kind of problems?
    Best regards


  6. brian
    Oct 03, 2015 @ 22:11:22

    is this blog still active?


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