Guatemala Visa And Residency Information

Blue visa stamp for Guatemala

Residency In Guatemala

Entering Guatemala

U.S. and Canadian citizens are granted an automatic 90-day tourist visa upon entry into Guatemala, which is extendable for a further 90 days once in country.

There is no restriction against simply doing “border runs” to continually renew your tourist visa every three months and live in the country indefinitely in this manner. You don’t even need to be a resident to buy property in Guatemala. The cost and hassle of such frequent trips will add up, though. Note that a tourist visa won’t be renewed by visiting any country that Guatemala has a border agreement with: El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua.

Residency Visas

The residency process in Guatemala is straightforward, but applicants often complain about the unexpected and unexplained delays in the process—delays of years aren’t unheard of (the U.S. embassy in Guatemala says they’ve seen delays of up to four years).

If your permanent residency process gets held up, you’re only option is to renew your temporary status until the permanent residency comes through.

Temporary Visas

90-Day Residence Permit

Once in country, you can apply for a 90-day residency permit at the Guatemalan Immigration Central Office (on 6a. Avenida 3-11, Zona 4 in Guatemala City; Phone: 2411-2411; Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Visas are typically issued within 15 days of the application.

When you go to apply, you’ll need to provide:

  • Two recent photographs;
  • A valid passport;
  • A letter of sponsorship from a Guatemalan sponsor;
  • Evidence of the financial resources of both the applicant and sponsor;
  • Fee of 115.35 quetzals.

Many expats, even some that own homes in Guatemala, never bother to get anything beyond the 90-day residency visa, which allows a person to stay in the country for six months. Many informal residents prefer to make a quick trip to Mexico, Belize, or elsewhere every six months, using the visa renewal trip as an excuse to buy products that are not available in Guatemala or cheaper elsewhere. Once you re-enter the country, you’re issued a new tourist visa and can then extend it for another 90 days… giving you a six-month breather until you need to leave again. Note that a tourist visa won’t be renewed by visiting any country that Guatemala has a border agreement with: El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua.

Ordinary Residency (Visa Ordinaria)

If you wish to stay beyond the 90-day residency visa, you can apply for a six-month visa ordinaria, which must be done before the 90-day visa expires.

Applicants must submit:

  • Another statement of support from the applicant’s Guatemalan sponsor;
  • Evidence of the applicant’s financial resources;
  • A report on the applicant’s police record in Guatemala;
  • A medical report;
  • A police report from the applicant’s prior place of residence;
  • A birth certificate authenticated by a Guatemalan Consulate in your home country;
  • Fee of 115.35 quetzals.

All documents not in Spanish must be translated by sworn translator and the translated copy authorized by the Guatemalan government.

These are generally issued within two months of the application. Applicants can work while the application is being processed if permission is granted by the Ministry of Labor in Guatemala City.

The visa ordinaria can be extended for further six-month periods, with the required documents being resubmitted upon each renewal; you’ll also have to pay the same fee (of 115.35 quetzals) for each renewal.

After the fourth renewal (that is, after two years in the country on the visa ordinaria) you are eligible for permanent residency, which will not require such frequent renewals.

Retirement Visa (Pensionado)

Foreigners who are retired and receive an adequate pension from abroad are eligible for this two-year temporary visa. You will not be able to take employment in the country on this visa, but may run your own business or own property that earns income.

You will need to submit:

  • A recent photograph;
  • Your passport, along with a legalized photocopy;
  • A certification of validity of your passport issued by the embassy or consulate of your home country and stamped by Guatemalan authorities;
  • A clean criminal record from your previous country of residence;
  • The identity documents and financial statements of a Guatemalan guarantor, which can be either an individual person or an organization;
  • Certified proof of a guaranteed monthly income of at least US$1,000 for the applicant and US$200 for each dependent; this can be generated from government or private pension or investment income;
  • Evidence of deposits made to local banks from abroad.

All documents not in Spanish must be translated by sworn translator and the translated copy authorized by the Guatemalan government.

These are usually issued about three months after the application is made.

Retirement visa holders cannot spend more than one contiguous year outside of Guatemala or will lose their status (exceptions can be made for medical reasons).

Investment For Residency Visa

Investment visas are granted to foreigners investing a minimum of US$60,000 in Guatemala.

The documentation requirements include:

  • Passport and entry stamp;
  • Clean police record for the last five years;
  • Proof of health insurance;
  • Criminal background check from country of previous residence;
  • Proof of the investment (refundable purchase of government bonds, maintained for five years);
  • A guarantor (a person or company that guarantees your character and financial solvency).

Under this visa, you can own a business or take employment, and you can apply for citizenship in just nine months after gaining residency. If you pursue citizenship under this visa, you are only required to be in country for 21 days for the first year, and only 28 days for the subsequent two-year period.

Other Visas

  • Student visas (for elementary school, high school, and/or university students) are valid for one year. Required.
  • Courtesy visas, issued to diplomats, are valid for one year.
  • Visas temporales are issued to teachers or foreign students and valid for a year.
  • Visas for religious workers are valid for two years.

Permanent Residency

After completing the two-year temporary residency period successfully through whichever visa, you can apply for the permanent residency visa. The process is said to generally take about a year.

Those who are married to a Guatemalan or have had a child in Guatemala can bypass the two-year temporary period and apply immediately for permanent residency.

The required documents are nearly the same as for the temporary options, the only additional element to provide is the proof of your two years of residency in Guatemala.

Note that you can lose your status as a permanent resident if you spend more than a year outside Guatemala without getting authorization from the General Directorate of Migration.

Citizenship And A Guatemalan Passport

Guatemala allows for dual citizenship.

Naturalization

After five years of permanent residency, you are eligible for naturalization.

If you take the investment visa, you can apply for citizenship just nine months after gaining your residency visa.

By Descent

Guatemala recognizes jus soli without limitation and jus sanguinis, so children born in Guatemala as well as those born to at least one Guatemalan parent (even if born abroad) are eligible for citizenship.

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