|Roger and Suzanne earlier this year in Cuenca, |
the city that they soon will call "home".
Our projects center around three important tasks:
1. Getting our paperwork together for a 12-IX visa.
This will be reviewed and finalized at the consulate office in Phoenix and will be needed to get us back to Ecuador for our final home search and prep for our immigration papers. For this task we needed to obtain:
A statement of assets or income covering our stay.... (for us a statement of Roger's social security benefits does the job).
A statement of police record for both Suzanne and Roger covering our locale of residence for the past 5 years. This was obtained from the Mesa police department (the city in which we had resided for twelve years) We then had that apostilled at the Arizona Secretary of State's office.
Certified marriage certificate for Roger and Suzanne. We were married in LaSalle county, Illinois so we got that from the county clerks office and had mailed to a friend's home in Arizona. It arrived shortly after we did but we discovered it can't be apostilled here...it has to be apostilled by the Illinois Secretary of State's office. Onto the internet we went to discover how and where to send the certified copies (we also need this for the other set of documents). Because of time we sent that off via FedEx with a prepaid FedEx return but discovered a few days later that mail requests for apostillization aren't processed for 2-3 weeks after receipt. A few pleading phone calls later, a helpful supervisor managed to cut some of the red tape and it 's only taking a week to 10 days (note our crossed fingers, here). We hope to have that in hand shortly.
A formal request to the Consul General for the visa stating the purpose of the request. Since we will be applying for immigration status as part of our stay under the 12-IX, the normal requirement to have attached copies of a return airline ticket should be waived (or so we are told by the helpful lady at the consulate office here in Phoenix!)
Four passport quality color photos of each of us are also required for the 12-IX.
2. Getting our paperwork ready to apply for resident status:
We actually began this process when we were in Ecuador earlier for our 2 month stay. We had retained lawyers in Cuenca and had given them notarized powers of attorney to handle and begin our application prior to our return in January. This will get our applications in before January, the typical time when all sort of changes in procedures occur in the government offices in Quito. As long as the documents and our application are submitted before those changes (if any) occur we shouldn't be delayed.
Passport photos of us (in this case, only two) were need with this application and those were done in Cuenca and left with our attorneys along the power of attorney paperwork and photocopies of our passports.
In addition, we will shortly be sending to our attorneys the following:
|Just some of the many documents we've prepared and gathered .|
The same statement of income from Social Security, duly apostilled We hit one little hitch in getting that apostille done as the State of Illinois can't apostille an original federal agency document. However, a helpful lady at the Arizona Secretary of State's office knew how to tackle that technicality...she simply prepared a notarized certified copy of the original and was able to apostille that.
In addition, the letter from Social Security has to be presented to and certified by, a consular official here and his statement has to be attached.
More copies of the police reports for Roger and Suzanne (by the way, this is a new requirement added this past year for the immigration application) These are, of course, apostilled.
The apostilled certified marriage certificate is also required here (so yes, we have two copies in our FedEx packet en route back across the country...we hope!)
In addition, translations of the above documents en Espanol have to be prepared, certified as to accuracy and then those are also apostilled and attached to the original documents. (Note: the translation of troublesome certified marriage certificate was actually apostilled HERE in Arizona, not in Illinois. You see, the translation itself and its certification of accuracy occurred here in Arizona and not in Illinois...you really do have to pay attention to the nitty gritty details).
We're taking the added step of scanning our key documents and emailing PDF's of them to our attorneys in Cuenca so they can review them and assure that they are in order before we send them off. Again, you can't pay too much attention to details.
3. Preparing our personal property for shipping to Ecuador:
As if we didn't have enough to keep us busy, we've been at our storage unit here in the Valley of the Sun, revisiting our property we've had stored in anticipation of our eventual move. We've re-examined all of it in order to determine that, yes, we do want to take this stuff. We also had to repack some items based on consultations with our shipping agent as to how to best prepare the items for loading onto an overseas container. Most of our boxes had pretty good inventory lists attached but we had some additional inventory to do and we have to separate our inventory listing from the actual physical boxes themselves. (It is advisable to NOT list your contents on your shipped cartons in order to reduce the possibility of petty theft losses during shipment.)
|Items in storage, numbered and inventoried, ready for the container!|
Our lists are being incorporated into an excel spreadsheet that will list each shipping unit by number, list the contents and estimated value. This will provide the basis of a shipping list for our shipper, as well as a list for insurance purposes. (Note, we are insuring for loss en route but not damage to contents. Our shipper advises damage claims are very difficult to process and even more difficult to recoup. However, the loss of an entire container, while not overly common, certainly can and does occur. This kind of loss is easily verified, the claim seldom contested if you have documented contents and value correctly and should be insured for prior to shipment.)
Oh, did we mention that the aforementioned shipping list has to be translated, as well? It's critically important to have that in the same format and style as the English version as this will help avoid headaches and questions when being received and inspected at customs in Ecuador. Having the numbers both large and visibile from multiple sides of your items is also important.
We owe a lot of thanks to our friends, both ex-patriate and Ecuadorian, who visited with us, gave us tips and advice on what to expect, how to prepare and on how to do some much needed homework. The best advice we could give to anyone starting this process is that it is simply impossible to do too much homework and too little preparation. It is, however, easy to overlook what appears to us as minor details that might cause headaches later on. By all means, getting a good attorney is absolutely essential from our point of view. If you are in the USA, taking time to make an exploratory visit to your governing Ecuadorian consulate office is well worth the investment of time, as well. Plan your visits to both well and come prepared with plenty of questions.
In addition to all of the above, we've arranged with friends here in Arizona to be on hand to supervise our container loading (by the time it occurs, we will be either en route or actually back in Ecuador). We also have an experienced Ecuadorian friend lined up to help us with the transport of our items from the Port of Guayaquil to Cuenca and clearance through customs in Cuenca. We were advised by by parties both here and in Ecuador that clearing in customs in the Cuenca is much preferable in case any questions or issues arise. Having an experienced Ecuadorian agent on hand at custom clearance to handle translation and help tackle any issues is also one of the greater investments in assistance you can make.
During the midst of all this work, we have realized that our recent return to Arizona has marked the one year anniversary of when we sold our home here and began this adventure of deciding how, when and where to retire and live overseas. It has been a long, always exciting, sometimes daunting, journey but we remain full of happy and excited anticipation about our future.
We're looking forward soon to a short break from these tasks to celebrate the holidays with our family and then it will be time to move on to Ecuador and our next round of tasks in "settling down" in our new home.
We are, indeed, blessed with good fortune and happy to be continuing our journey: "juntos en el camino de la vida".