I Was an Illegal Immigrant (Part 2)

Cynthia:  Part 1 of this story ended when we learned our daughter had cancer. That was mid-June of 2016. Of course, I immediately flew to New Jersey to be with her and help with her two young children.

Edd:  And I temporarily stayed behind to fulfill our obligation as speakers at the International Conference in Quito that was happening the first part of July.

C:  You know, if my application for a new visa had been approved that January, I would have promptly lost it again because I ended up spending almost the next six months away from Ecuador. So as upsetting as the situation was at the time it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

E:  That’s true. So I joined you after the conference and we stayed in New Jersey until September. Friends from California had booked a visit with us in Cuenca then long before Adrian’s diagnosis. Plus you had to enter Ecuador before your 12-IX expired anyway.

C:  Right. We came home to Cuenca for about six weeks then headed back to New Jersey to be with our daughter for the rest of that year. When we returned to Ecuador mid-January of 2017, I was given a new T-3 visa. I’m sorry peeps, I know this is tedious. And then the government dropped a bombshell that month with an announcement of a major change in immigration rules.

E:  Here’s typical Ecuadorian bureaucracy at its best. Or actually its worst. The new rules are announced with no regulations on how the rules are to be carried out. So everyone’s got their own interpretation. Which as you can imagine is a BIG problem. We went to three different local attorneys and got three different answers about how your situation fit into our brave new world.

C:  So we turned to the attorney in Quito who had helped us sort out our other visa fiasco that is detailed in Volume III, “Living the Dream.” As you’re learning, friends, sometimes expat life is a nightmare. She promptly spoke to Immigration officials there and learned that the 180-day, 12-IX option was no longer being issued. But we could go to–are you ready for this?–Azogues again to pay an additional $100 for a 90-day extension of my current T-3 visa, keeping me legal until mid-July 2017.

E:  Man, how we’ve come to loathe that place. Never mind, you’re about to be illegal again, so onto the #$@%$ bus we go. Off to the States in May for another conference, family visit, and to gather your docs for what, the third time? Our daughter wisecracked that collecting paperwork, getting apostilles, and being fingerprinted had become your new hobby! Oh, which is where the UPS store in Ridgewood I mentioned earlier comes in. That’s where you went every time for electronic fingerprints and mailing all this paperwork back and forth to the various government offices for processing.

C:  Yeah, the manager of the store became my newest bestie! We get back to Quito the first part of June and deliver all the documents to our attorney. We’re returning in a few weeks for that year’s IL conference and she promises to have a resolution of my situation by then. At our meeting after the conference she says that Immigration will grant me a new temporary residency visa. With the same maximum 90 days out of the country for the first two years that we’d gone through years ago.

E:  And that’s when I Hulked, right there in that sweet lady’s office. Two years of frustration came spewing out like molten lava. I vigorously declared that her solution was NOT acceptable. That Cynthia’s visa should never have been canceled in the first place–which she said Immigration admitted was true. That we’d spent countless hours and hundreds of dollars trying to keep my wife legal and hell no, she was NOT going to have travel restrictions and everybody needed to figure out something else. Now.

C:  Well, that outburst somehow worked because she called a few weeks later with, finally, good news. Immigration had agreed to reinstate my original residency visa with no travel restrictions. Hooray! We sent our passports to her–they needed yours too for some odd reason–immediately for my new/old visa to be inserted.

E:  Three months later we’re booked to leave for the States and you guessed it. No passports. So she sent them back without the residency visa just in time for our flight, but you had now been illegal again since July and this was October 2017. How were you going to get back into Ecuador this time?

C:  Our attorney said Immigration assured her the regulations would be in place the first week of November and everyone who wasn’t a current resident would be given a T-3 upon arrival. Wow, based on our track record that was a flimsy promise but away we went. When we return in December I tell the man at the Immigration window, “I need a T-3 visa please” and guess what. I get one!

E:  Back your passport goes to Quito. They don’t need mine now, again for some unknown reason. And finally in January 2018 what should arrive by courier but your passport with a new permanent residency visa! Only one step to go–getting your cédula, which ironically is how this whole mess started.

C:  The sun was shining and the gods were smiling on me that day. We went to the civil registry office here in town, completed the application, had lunch, came back and walked out with my new ID card. Zero issues.

E:  You deserved that one, sweetheart. You know what? A lot of our friends have moved to Mexico, Portugal, Columbia. After all you went through I don’t think we’ll have much of an appetite to go through applying for residency in another country any time soon.

C:  Amen to that, Edd. We love living in Ecuador or I wouldn’t have gone through everything we described in the first place. It would have been easy so many times to say, “I am so done with this place…outta here!”

E:  And that’s exactly why I thought we should tell this story. Yes, living in a foreign country has its share of pitfalls. No place is perfect. But when you, and I mean anyone, want something to happen you don’t give up. You never give up. We could have thrown in the towel when our lives fell apart in 2008 but we didn’t. You could have bailed on this mess a dozen times and no one would have blamed you. But you didn’t. So there’s the lesson and I salute you for your perseverance.

C:  One of my attributes. Thanks for your support through the whole ordeal.

E:  Sure. I was like a caddy on this one–carrying your clubs and occasionally offering advice and encouragement. And I only really Hulked once.

C:  Can we please never talk about this again?

E:  I promise.

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  1. Sandy

    Wow, what a process! I have been researching Cuenca and love pretty much everything I read. The whole visa process is a bit daunting but with perseverance (as you have shown!) it is doable. The one thing that has thrown me a bit is the possibility of getting parasites, eek! I don’t know if you have addressed this previously but I would love to hear your perspective.

    Thanks for your blog, I have been following for a long time off and on.


    1. Edd and Cynthia Staton

      Hey, Sandy! The visa process is MUCH easier than in the past. The issue of parasites is such an individual thing. Some folks seem to get them with regularity and others never. Our observation is those who shop regularly at mercados are more prone. In any case, don’t let this hold you back. Three inexpensive pills from any local pharmacy taken daily knock parasites right out.

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