Raise your hand if those two items were on the packing list for your last government appointment. Long story short, we got our visas renewed and can stay legally until June. And I didn’t even need to use the underwear.
We entered Ecuador in January on the tourist visa that's routinely given at the airport. Until recently, perhaps last month, that visa was renewable for a second three months. So we showed up at the National Police office in Quito and instead were told that we needed to apply for a Visa 12-IX, at a different office in the city, the following week. We staggered off to pick up our visiting friends at the airport and figure out our futures.
Options facing us as the time included getting the different visa application pulled together in days, staying illegally (done commonly, it appears, with a $200 fine on departure), and heading out of the country within the week before we overstayed our visas. I got kind of fired up about seeing some of Peru, we considered heading home early for a driving tour of the US West, and both girls seemed really clear that they weren’t ready to leave yet, a nice complement to the periodic pleas of “I want to go home.” Although we'd been told that one didn't need to apply in person for the visa, Althea informed me that she really did think we should all make the trip as planned, "just in case they need us there."
The Embassy had a few words of advice, much appreciated since it’s not really their responsibility. The South American Explorers’ Club made me feel less like an airhead for getting blindsided by this: “It’s been totally chaotic” was his comment. A friend in Otavalo spent 3 weeks and 5 trips to Quito getting her renewal. The Ecuador government website told us exactly what to bring to apply, but not where or when.
We headed into the visa office at 5am last Tuesday with both girls in their school uniforms for verisimilitude and cuteness factor. We were fully expecting to spend one day applying, a return trip getting an answer, and a third trip in 7-10 days picking up the paperwork. No phone/mail/fax shortcuts here! Instead we left the office one hour after we turned in the papers with the visas all done. Another hour at the National Police and we are all officially-registered foreigners, with Ecuadorian identity cards to prove it! So we get to stay…but I’m still thinking a trip to Mancora and Machu Pichu might be really fun near the end... - Kristen