Ecuador Removes Visa Exemption for Chinese Citizens

Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry announced on June 18 that it was suspending its bilateral agreement with China that waived the visa requirements for Chinese nationals traveling to Ecuador, due to a “worrying” increase in irregular migration.

The Foreign Ministry said the bilateral agreement will be temporarily suspended starting on July 1 after officials found that roughly half of the Chinese nationals that entered Ecuador were not leaving the country via “regular routes,” nor were they abiding by the permitted 90-day limit allowed to remain in Ecuador under the agreement.

China has been among the top nations of origin for illegal aliens reaching the US-Mexico border since 2023.

Ecuador was one of the two mainland South American countries, along with Suriname, to offer visa waivers to Chinese nationals, and has become the go-to destination for Chinese citizens looking to make the journey north through Central America to the US border.

According to the Washington-based Niskanen Center, 48,381 Chinese nationals entered Ecuador in 2023 but only 24,240 left again, the highest disparity of any nationality.

In a June 18 press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian insisted that Beijing was opposed to “all forms of human smuggling” and China’s law enforcement was “tough” on those “engaged in illegal immigration.”

Lin said China is working jointly with other countries to “tackle human smuggling” and repatriate illegal aliens while maintaining “a good order in cross-border travel.”

According to Lin, the bilateral agreement between Ecuador and China took effect in 2016.

As bilateral relations between the US and China have stabilized, Beijing again began cooperating with Washington to repatriate Chinese nationals who enter the US illegally.

Last year, more than 37,000 Chinese illegals were arrested at the US southern border, a tenfold increase over the previous year. In the first three months of 2024, the monthly total dropped slightly over last year. However, the monthly total rose again in April to 3,282.