Updated 11 months ago

Although a legal loophole allows foreigners to legally stay in Guatemala beyond the 90-day period without a residence permit, most expatriates elect to apply for one. Guatemala offers a two-tier residence system whereby first-time applicants are only entitled to a two-year temporary permit, which can be converted into a permanent one upon renewal.

Staying in Guatemala without a residence permit

This may seem quite unusual, but you can stay for years in Guatemala without having secured anything like a residence permit, as long as you leave the country every 90 days to “renew” whichever visa you have for Guatemala (e.g. business or tourist).

However, if this quarterly migration sounds like a hassle to you, applying for a proper residence permit may be much easier. The obtention conditions are not particularly stringent, and the process is quite straightforward.

Attention:

The 90 day process will not be an option if you are going to one of the countries Guatemala has signed an open border agreement with - that is, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

 Good to know:

Provided you signed an employment contract with a Guatemalan company, your employer will initiate and oversee the application process to procure your Guatemalan papers.

Temporary residence permits in Guatemala

A temporary residence permit allows a foreigner to stay in the country for two years, in order to engage in a specific activity (paid work, volunteer work, etc.).

To obtain a temporary residence permit, you will need:

  • a recent photograph;
  • your passport, along with a legalised 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; and
  • the identity documents and financial statements of a Guatemalan guarantor, which can be either an individual person or an organisation.

 Good to know:

A residence permit, whether temporary or permanent, takes approximately three months to process.

Permanent residence permits in Guatemala

The holder of a temporary residence permit can, upon expiry of the document, apply for permanent residence in Guatemala.

To be entitled to a permanent residence permit, you should be:

  • retired,
  • an investor,
  • a dependant of a Guatemalan national or of a naturalised foreigner, or
  • an individual demonstrating outstanding performance in the realms of science, technology, arts or sport.

The documents to provide are the same as for the temporary residence permit, plus a copy of your previous temporary permit.

 Attention:

You can lose your status as a permanent resident if you spend more than a year outside Guatemala without requesting special authorisation from the General Directorate of Migration beforehand.

 Useful link:

Direccion General de Migracion de Guatemala (in Spanish)

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