GringoPost | Ecuador: Recommendation for Visa Angels, visa facilitator volunteer

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Recommendation for Visa Angels, visa facilitator volunteer

I recently got my US passport stamped with my Ecuadorian residency—thanks to the clear instructions and knowledgeable help of Jodie Mansfield at Visa Angels.

While I am not super happy to lay out the generalized stupidity of my own approach to the situation, I will only to showcase what an amazing service Jodie and her team provide.

1) I submitted my degree in Quito as soon as I arrived in June. I was told by Senescyt that it would be about 45 days for me to get my degree certified. I started checking week one. There was a box left empty, "Recognized by" and so I assumed that I would have to wait for that to be filled in. I checked about every three days.

2) A month passed, I moved to Cuenca, and kept checking and checking. The around the end of August, I discovered I had to go home for a friend’s hospital emergency. I had a plane ticket go leave the country for work in mid-September. I looked at my Senescyt record and while that damn "Recognized by" box was still empty, I happened for the first time to notice that there was a Registry number and Registration date. I realized my degree had been recognized back on July 4.

3) Realizing I could move forward with my visa application, I dug out my apostilled paperwork and happened to notice that the clock was ticking.... depending on how long I would be out of the country, I might have had to get new apostilles. I panicked and reached out to an expat for advice. He told me to call Jodie.

4) Jodie met with me straight away, instructing me to bring all my paperwork, checking off each thing I needed to make sure I had everything. She double confirmed my arrival, my age, my marital status... she double checked every detail. She pointed out that if I were to stay in the country until the original date of departure in mid-September, I would have overstayed my visa. There were also no appointments at the visa office available on short notice. I had a tricky situation of soon-expiring apostilled docs and a visitor’s visa that was going to run out before I could get an appointment.

5) Then she gave me advice: hand her my paperwork for translation (cheap as heck), leave now and stay out of the country to put my visitor’s visa on hold, return with about 10 days left on my apostilled documents. She'd make an appointment at the visa office while I as gone.

6) When I returned, she had made an appointment in Machala, gave me a very precise list of documents to bring, and arranged for us to be driven out there by a great guy I'll call G. At the visa office, her first time working with that location, the manager went through each page of my prepared documents and said, "Perfecto. Pefecto. Perfecto. Perfecto."

7) Jodie had the email notification of my visa acceptance sent to her so it wouldn't be lost in the shuffle. About 10 days later, she emailed to arrange a return trip to Machala to get my visa stamp.

8) So, this is when I admit that I hadn't even thought to bring the $400 I know is required for the visa. I had money for the driver and the paltry $10 an hour* Jodie charges for her time. So... how dumb am I? Needless to say, I had cash at home. But I am still used to credit card life and was waiting an extra day due to holidays for my monthly money transfer to my ATM. Needless, I was freaking out and tried to see if I could withdraw cash from my Amex. Most Ecuadorian ATMs aren't hooked up to Amex. The one that was for some reason wouldn't spit out any money.

So, you know what Visa Angels did? They fronted me money. Jodie took the cash she had, the driver was calling his mom to get her to transfer cash. They were doing anything and everything to ensure I got my visa that day.

If it weren't for me, my visa experience would have been flawless... because Visa Angels knows what they are doing, do everything right, and know how to communicate to addle-headed expats who have just moved to a new country.

Working with Visa Angels was nothing short of an incredible bargain (as well as efficient and thorough). I understand there are professionals who charge for their time, and I am certainly not against people charging for their time, I am a consultant myself. But I am not sure why anyone would go that route when Visa Angels is around.

*What Jodie charges for is only her time sitting in the visa office... not the drive there, not the time to meet me and explain things, not the time spent making appointments, getting things translated... just the time spent sitting in the office with me, which is the only time she considers "work."

Address: Cuenca

Contact information: visaangels@gmail.com

Recommended by Ellen Malloy:  ellen@ellenmalloy.com