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Record Number of Tourist Visas Granted to Ecuadorians by the United States between October 2022 and September 2023

Published on May 08, 2024

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More visas have been issued at the U.S. embassy in Quito than at the consulate in Guayaquil since 2000.

Olivia, aged 20, received her first type B tourist visa to the United States (USA) in 2015. It was valid for five years and required renewal in 2020, which was not possible due to the limited operations of the US missions in Guayaquil and Quito due to the pandemic.

Ecuadorians visit both cities for immigration interviews in hopes of obtaining the necessary documents for travel. According to data from the US State Department, the number of non-immigration visas (for temporary stays for study, leisure, work, among other reasons) decreased during the pandemic.

The US Government presents these figures in a set of documents called the Visa Office Report, issued annually, counting from October 1st of one year to September 30th of the following year, known as the government fiscal year.

In the fiscal year 2020, consular operations were limited starting in March 2020, causing delays in the renewals of thousands of Ecuadorians like Olivia. During that period, the US granted 84,171 B-1 and B-2 visas to Ecuadorian citizens worldwide, a decrease of 51.2% compared to fiscal year 2019 when 172,227 visas were granted, marking a historical record.

However, fiscal year 2022 saw a recovery with 176,528 tourist visas issued. Yet, for the next fiscal year, 2023, 263,415 visas of this type were granted to Ecuadorians, representing an increase of 49.2% compared to the previous period and setting a new record.

Almost 2.4 million US visas given to Ecuadorians

In total, the US has issued 2,395,208 B-1 and B-2 visas to Ecuadorians from October 1999 to September 2023. The vast majority were issued as combined B-1/B-2 mixed visas for leisure and business. This figure includes new documents and renewals.

However, the increase from 2022 to 2023 was not the largest in the last 24 years.

Tourist visas issued almost doubled from 2000 to 2001. From fiscal year 2000 to 2001, the number of tourist visas granted went from 33,830 to 62,855, an increase of 85.8%.

That is, the US issued 96,685 tourist visas to Ecuadorians from October 1, 1999, to September 30, 2001. This coincided with one of the most acute economic crises that the country has experienced due to the bank holiday, lack of employment, the change from the sucre to the dollar, and political instability.

In 2005, the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences calculated, within the framework of an international forum called “Migration, Transnationalism, and Identities,” that 628,308 Ecuadorians left for the United States and Spain from 2000 to 2004 as a result of this crisis.

US still preferred target for migrants

According to the 2001 census, the preferred destination for Ecuadorian migrants was Spain and then the United States. However, the North American country regained the first place after the imposition of the Schengen visa on Ecuadorians who want to enter Spain in August 2003.

The second-largest increase in tourist visas to the US for Ecuadorians after the 2000 exodus coincides with the recent migration crisis, characterized by large numbers of Ecuadorians crossing the Darien jungle, the border between Colombia and Panama, in 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024, with the aim of reaching the US.

In all of 2023, according to the Panamanian immigration service, 57,250 Ecuadorians crossed the jungle irregularly, representing the second-largest nationality behind Venezuelans. The trend continues in 2024, with 8,953 Ecuadorians crossing the illegal route from January to March, behind only Venezuelans.

Crossing the jungle and Central American countries represents a serious risk for migrants. Accessing a tourist visa also does not enable them to work and stay in the United States. To do so, they must apply for one of the five available categories (work visas) and meet strict requirements that many consider complicated and do not even try.

Visa requirements could harm migrants

Juan Pappier, deputy director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, explained in a November 2023 interview that the imposition of a visa on Ecuadorians to enter Mexico “coincided with an increase in the number who crossed the Darien Gap.”

Thus, it is inferred that illegal migration is also fueled in part by people who could not access visas. Pappier added in that same interview that “States should reverse the measures that practically prevent access to asylum and push people to take dangerous paths.”

Rodolfo, a 25-year-old Ecuadorian, explains that in 2021 he sought to travel to Mexico for tourism but was denied a visa. “Luckily I remembered that, since I also have Peruvian nationality, I can enter without problems with my Peruvian passport,” he says.

“Mexico knows that it is a channel to migrate to the US (…). As an agency, there were also many people who called us and asked us for tickets to Nicaragua or El Salvador. Many even tell us that they do not plan to return,” says Gabriela Gracia, CEO of the Jointours travel agency. A large part of the population with irregular immigration status in the US comes from those who did not comply with their maximum terms of stay.

According to figures from the US Department of Homeland Security, 853,955 people violated the deadlines of their visas. According to a November 2023 report from that country’s Congressional Research Service, approximately 42% of the undocumented population living in the United States, estimated at 11 million, corresponds to this category of migrants.

Quito Embassy versus Guayaquil Consulate

More B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas were delivered at the embassy in Quito than in Guayaquil. Of the total of 2,543,011 non-immigration visas granted by the Government of the United States (USA) at its Embassy in Ecuador located in Quito and at its Consulate General in Guayaquil, 1.3 million, or approximately 52%, were delivered in the capital. Non-immigration visas, such as B-1 and B-2 for tourism and business, are for temporary stays in the US. Other types allow you to work and study in the North American country.

However, if the data from the US State Department regarding non-immigration visas for Ecuadorians is analyzed, the trend was that more visas were issued at the diplomatic mission in Guayaquil from 2013 to 2020. This changed in 2021.

This is why the United States could reject a tourist visa application. There is no data available on the number of people applying for tourist visas.

Adrián, a 23-year-old young man, waited six months for his appointment at the Consulate in Guayaquil and was rejected. He is single, has no children, has little work experience, and has no travel history, meaning he has not left the country before.

Gabriela Gracia, CEO of the travel agency Jointours, explains that some of these factors generally negatively influence the chances of receiving a visa. “It’s not easy to lie to them; they have global data. They look a lot at the immigration record, whether they have a travel history, if it is a young person without anchors to the country, a recent graduate,” he says.

It is difficult for that person to access a visa. The delay in appointments for new visas and renewals due to the pandemic also influences the increase in documents granted starting in 2021, adds Gracia.


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