CUENCA DIGEST: News for Cuencan Residents

14/Septiembre/2012 | 14:51

First North Americans receive their residency visas from Cuenca’s new immigration office

Reporting that the process took about two months from start to finish, William Chester became the first North American to receive his residency visa at the new Cuenca immigration office, on Aug. 21. Several others followed, according to the office.

"My wife and I are very grateful for all the help we received and it is an honor to be residents of Ecuador and Cuenca," said Chester, a U.S. citizen.

A part of the national Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the new visa office, located on Av. Ordoñez Lasso in Edif. Astudillo, opened its doors in June and serves Ecuadorians and refugees as well as expats and potential expats.

According to Ana Lucia Serrano, regional director of the foreign ministry, the Cuenca immigation office is an effort to accommodate the large number of foreigners seeking permanent and temporary visas in the Cuenca area. “There are about 4,000 English-speaking foreigners living here and more are coming,” she says.

Serrano says that the entire visa process, from application to issuance of the cedula, Ecuador’s national ID card, can be handled in Cuenca. Until June, when the office opened, applicants were required to work with the immigration office in Quito. “Many of the staff in my office speak English and can help applicants through the process,” she says. “There is no longer the need to hire an attorney.” The cost for the residency visa, she says, is $320, with an additional $30 application fee.

“It is important that the applicant bring the appropriate documents, depending on the visa that they are seeking, to our office to begin the application process,” she says.

The new office is in the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores on the ground floor of Edificio Astudillo on Ordonez Lasso, two blocks west of Avenida de las Americas. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Applicants can file in person (there is no need to pay an attorney). Personnel are bi-lingual. The office handles new applications only (applications filed in Quito must be completed there). For more information, see (click "Servicios") or email Ana Lucia Serrano at [email protected] or phone 285 0085.

IRS limits number of tax-exempt foreign money transfers

Ecuador’s IRS has announced it will enforce a limit of two $1,000 transactions per month, per person on money being transferred out of the country. In the past, there was no limit on the number of outflows, mostly in the form of wires, of $1,000 or less, which are exempt from the 5% exit tax imposed in 2009.

The tax office also said that the 5% exit tax will be applied to Ecuadorian credit card accounts for purchases abroad, without the $1,000 exemption.

There is no change to the $ 9,720 limit on funds that travelers can take out the country.

Cuenca resident Mary Ann Z. Dion says that recently she also discovered that ATM withdrawals outside of Cuenca are also subject to the tax, though she had though they would not be taxed.  “I had an account at Banco Pichincha, and went back to the US for a while and took several small withdrawals, which were supposedly exempt.  However, when I got my statement, they were taxed.

According to IRS director Carlos Carrasco, the new rules will have a limited affect. “The number of people wiring more than $2,000, in $1,000 increments, out of the country each month is very small. We simply want to insure that the system is not abused.”

Central Bank says Ecuador tax burden is below average

Ecuadorian tax revenues are below the average collected by other Latin American nations, according to Central Bank statistics. The bank says that in 2011, tax collections amounted to 14.82% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). “The average of other countries is 20%,” the bank said. "The tax burden on our citizens is one of the lowest in the region.

The bank said it is continuing to work on agreements with other countries to limit the practice of double taxation. Marianela Mendez, consultant to the bank, says the agreements will encourage foreign investment and facilitate the transfer of banking information between countries.

In addition to Andean nation countries, agreements have also been signed with France, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Argentina, Belgium, Chile and Romania.

Judge rules that Belarusian cannot be deported

Ecuador has freed a Belarusian former police inspector who allegedly faced the death penalty in his homeland after uncovering government corruption there.

His case had come under the international spotlight after the decision by Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, to grant asylum to Julian Assange after the Wikileaks founder sought refuge in the country’s London embassy. One similarity in both cases was the claim that each faced execution if extradited.

Judge Carlos Ramirez, of the National Court of Justice, in Quito, rejected the extradition request for Aliaksandr Barankov, which accused him of fraud and extortion. The reasons for the ruling have yet to be made public.

Wearing a grey hoodie, Barankov, 30, walked free from Quito’s Garcia Moreno prison on Wednesday afternoon. He made no comment but did give a two-fingered victory sign to waiting photographers. Ecuador’s justice ministry tweeted that he was “in good health” and that his rights had been respected during his time behind bars.

It is the second time Ecuadorian courts have ruled in favour of Barankov, who faced an Interpol arrest warrant but claimed he faced political persecution. Judge Ramirez first blocked the extradition last October, finding the evidence presented by Belarus against him to be inadequate.

To stay informed follow the Miami Herald International Edition at www.TodayInEcuador.  Also stay informed at where you can sign up for Gringo Tree news updates.


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