Recommendations received in 2018

ECUADOR INSIDER

By IL's Ecuador Insider

December 2017

By IL‘s Ecuador Insiders, Wendy DeChambeau, Jim Santos, and Donna Stiteler

The Visa Angel on Your Shoulder

By Donna Stiteler

Four years ago, Jodie Mansfield was applying for a residence visa, intending to move from Rhode Island to Cuenca, Ecuador. She asked the owner of the container shipping company she was working with if he could give her a reference for a lawyer to help her complete her paperwork.

“He told me not to spend $1,000 getting someone to help,” Jodie says. Applying for the visa isn’t difficult, “it’s just a lot of work gathering papers.”

When Jodie successfully completed her paperwork on her own in three weeks, she took her new visa to the container shipping company owner to show him he had been right. He said, “OK, now let’s talk about Visa Angels.”

“What’s a visa angel?” Jodie asked.

“You are,” he replied.

Getting her visa had proved not to be as difficult as Jodie imagined, and she realized she could share her experience with others—to help them through the process. Now that she was retired, she had the time to do it. “I knew that if I could do this, others could. All they needed was some hand-holding,” Jodie says. And so she signed up with Visa Angels, a volunteer organization created as a do-it-yourself visa service to assist expats.

Jodie understands firsthand the importance of getting a visa quickly. In 2013, she decided to check out Cuenca, and by the second day of her exploratory trip she was in love. “I was relieved to find what International Living said about Cuenca was true. It ticked off all the things on my list…weather, cost of living, health insurance, and the beautiful architecture.” After her trip, Jodie started planning for a move to Cuenca in a year-and-a-half, after she retired.

But her plans to move to Cuenca were expedited after she became unemployed. Following surgery, she was placed on disability, and found her job was no longer available when she was ready to return to work. This meant her move to Ecuador was accelerated, with less money to fund it.

Jodie’s experience in finding an inexpensive way to get her visa inspired her to start with Visa Angels in Cuenca. It became her personal mission to help others who needed cost-efficient alternatives. Jodie and eight other volunteers in Cuenca now help expats navigate the paperwork and the application process. Jodie and fellow volunteers Gio, Maria Ines, Abby, Sharon and Scott McNeil, and Ransom and Laurie Nichols are a close-knit team with one goal…to save you money.

Jodie on the day she filed for citizenship. © Jodie Mansfield

The idea of getting a visa without hiring a lawyer or facilitator can seem a Houdini-like feat. But according to Jodie, the process is more systematic than complex. The hand-holding and guidance provided by Visa Angels takes the fear out of completing the process yourself. “The paperwork you have to gather is only good for 180 days, so we help with timing and take expats through the process step-by-step,” says Jodie. “We work with people before they come to Ecuador, because it’s easier to get all the documents you need while you’re in your own country. We check the documents (we have an inexpensive translator), we take you to appointments, and work with you until your visa is in your hands.”

The visa process requires navigating a system that is focused on details. One piece of paperwork not completed to Ecuadorian specifications, and you have to go back for another appointment. “But when you think about it, this is a visa that allows you to live here for the rest of your life, so they should be picky,” says Jodie. “This is not a high-paying job for those issuing visas, but it’s a prestigious one. And if they make a mistake and do not get the legal paperwork right, they could lose their job… Having good relationships with the workers in the office helps avoid mistakes. They respect us. And we respect them.”

Jodie sees the demand for visas growing rapidly as Ecuador and Cuenca continue to attract expats from around the world.

“We actually exchange around 200 to 250 emails with every client to assist them during their visa process… And of course, we don’t ask for any money for this.”

In Cuenca, because of the influx of new people, it can sometimes take months to get an appointment at the ministerial offices to be granted your visa. Because of this, Visa Angels now looks for appointments in other cities in Ecuador that dispense visas within a two-week period.

Visa Angels is currently looking for volunteers willing to be trained to help expats interested in making Ecuador their home. Because the volunteers now have to travel, sometimes for hours, to help complete paperwork, Jodie is working on ways to compensate them for travel and time. “The most expensive visa we have done cost around $300, which is far less than the $1,000 to $1,500 fee from facilitators or lawyers,” she says.

Jodie assists in pet relocations as well, once helping an expat bring four Dobermans into the country. She explains that it’s her pleasure to help expats find their way to Cuenca. “I wanted to volunteer doing something. There are many things to do here, like help the animals, or volunteer at domestic abuse shelters. But I wanted to do something to help expats on their next journey.”

For Jodie, the best moment of all is when clients are finally handed their visa. “That moment when they step outside of the ministerial building holding their visa is just so special. They start crying, and I start crying, and it’s just one of the best moments—that feeling of ‘we did it.'”

Contact Jodie Mansfield and Visa Angels at VisaAngels@gmail.com or visit www.visaangelsecuador.com.

My wife and I went into Azogues today thinking we would get a visa extension but instead we got an earthquake. I had no idea it was happening until some locals jumped up and sprinted for the door. In any case it was an ominous beginning to what was already a nerve wracking day. My wife and I had two issues to work through with our papers and I will tell you right now I do not believe we would have been successful if we were not aided by Jodie and Geo (sp?). They walked us into the meeting, had all of our papers in order and did all of the talking that needed to be done. We would have been lost without them and I seriously don't believe we would have been successful. Rules had changed as of 5 PM last night but we ended up coming out smelling like a rose with their assistance. You can just tell that everyone knows them and respects them when they come in. I told them at least 20 times already today but thank you again, Visa Angels.

PS. Please don't contact us about the rule changes as I don't want to be responsible for explaining a complex situation when I am not the expert. Their email is listed below.

Address: Cuenca

Contact information: visaangels@gmail.com

Recommended by Joe Kilinski:  joek0044@yahoo.com


Recommendation for Visa Angels- Jodie, visa assistance

My heartfelt thanks to Jodie and Gio for all their guidance as I obtained my temporary visa. With instructions from Jodie, I was able to take care of all the necessary paperwork while vacationing in the states, and then went with them to Azogues to file for residency. Even with my overactive questioning, Jodie managed to keep me calm, and yesterday I became the proud owner of my new visa.

I wanted to take the challenge of dealing with certified copies and apostilles, and can tell you that the hardest part was waiting for things to arrive. As a reference, I started requesting original copies in mid- April, and got the longest awaited apostille, the FBI report, back in the 3rd week of May. None of the apostilles cost me more than $15. I used a facilitator to obtain my original FBI report, just because I had heard that the timelines were too long for direct dealing. I also used priority mailing for each request.

With Visa Angels, you pay an hourly fee for Jodie to accompany you at filing and receiving, and she gives her advice for free as you move through the process. Gio gets a flat fee for being your chauffeur, and is also knowledgeable about the steps needed. The amount of volunteer time given is amazing, and I loved being an active part of the process.

Thank you both from the bottom of my heart for walking me through this important step in my new life.

Contact information: visaangels@gmail.com

Recommended by Penny Kelley:  mountainkelleys@yahoo.com

jerrynellen16 days ago

Jodie and her driver Giovanni are THE BEST! Recently took a "run for the border" with them due to a complex issue with overstaying a previous T3 and they handled it smoothly. We are now happy campers and highly recommend Visa Angels.

    Hooray! I was issued my visa today.

    This is the perfect time to give a big shout-out to Jodie Mansfield of Visa Angels. I really would have been lost without her steady and up-to-the-minute monitoring of the changing laws affecting immigration issues.

    I first contacted Visa Angels a couple of months before my arrival in Cuenca. Ms. Mansfield emailed me clear and concise information on the required paperwork I needed. On more than a couple occasions I had additional questions, not all visa related, and Jodie generously provided me with the information I needed in a timely fashion, and more importantly, her answers and advice were always based on current Ecuadorian law, never hearsay or interpretation.

    “Just the facts”, will do for Jodie.

    My case was rather complex. Again, VisaAngels were able to wade through the complexity of my case skillfully and successfully.

      Visa Angels was founded as a volunteer based service over three years ago. Jodie’s mission to provide competent advice and give generously of her time to help newcomers deserves our heartiest applause and admiration.

      Thank you, Jodie.

      Robert Bradley

      Address: Cuenca

      Contact information: visaangels@gmail.com

      Recommended by Robert Bradley: robtjbradley@gmail.com

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          GringoPost Write a comment • a month ago

          We were very close to hiring an attorney to get our Ecuador visas about 1 year ago. While researching attorneys we came across a few recommendations for Visa Angels. I spent some time emailing the attorneys I had recommendations on as well as Visa Angels. The process just sounded pretty straight forward from all the parties I was in contact with, in fact I read a lot from people who did it all themselves. This started making me question the need for an attorney. The fees I was quoted for the two of us ranged from around $1500 to almost $3000 to get our visas through an attorney.

          We went with Visa Angels and started the process, I was one of the first ones done after the new laws went into effect and am very happy to say with all the changes and uncertainties it couldn't have gone smoother. Jodie was able to get the needed answers and keep me calm while I was reading all kinds of things from other facilitators that turned out to be incorrect.

          If you have money to burn and want to feel important, hire a team of lawyers or hire Jodie and keep your money, either way you will get your visa. The choice is yours, I for one am pretty happy with our decision.

          Address: Cuenca Ecuador

          Contact information: visaangels@gmail.com

          Recommended by Chuck Coffey: coffeyfl@gmail.com

          Stephen Liggett • 7 months ago

          I wanted to express to the community how great of an experience I had with Jodie Mansfield on getting my visa here in Ecuador. My original contact with her was via email when I was still living in the United States. She told me exactly what documents I needed and how to get them. She answered all my questions that I had and was quick in her responses. When I arrived here, she knew all the rules, regulations, and had an effective plan of action for obtaining my visa. Jodie had all my papers translated and at a very low cost. We submitted all my documentation with the government and it was an extremely smooth process because she knew exactly what to do and how to do it in the best way. I recently received my visa and am extremely happy with the whole process and truly enjoyed working with her every step of the way. I recommend her to anyone who is considering moving here or is in need of a visa. She will exceed your expectations.

          Address: Cuenca, Ecuador

          Contact information: visaangels@gmail.com

          Recommended by Stephen Liggett: sliggett.hcsg@gmail.com