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Guatemala has endeavoured to clamp down on money laundering by implementing stringent control over international capital flows, which has resulted in mounting difficulties for foreigners to open bank accounts and perform basic financial transactions in the country. Find in this articles tips and advice on how to proceed.

Financial system of Guatemala

Guatemala has 18 commercial banks - public or private - according to the Superintendence of Banks (SIB), which also estimates the assets managed at USD 37.3 bn

Additionally, Guatemala is home to a number of non-bank financial institutions (investment funds, insurance companies, credit-makers, offshore banks, etc.)

The Bank of Guatemala, controlled by the government, issues the national monetary unit; the quetzal (named after the resplendent quetzal, a local bird famous for its bright, coloured plumage and which has become Guatemala’s national symbol). 1 quetzal (GTQ) is approximately worth USD 0.12.

The Bank of Guatemala also oversees the country’s financial and banking system to ensure its solidity and monitors all international accounts in order to curb money laundering, a long-standing issue in Guatemala.

Opening a bank account in Guatemala

Because of the strict anti-money laundering legislation enforced, opening a bank account has become increasingly hard for non-resident foreigners.

Policies can vary significantly from one bank to another: some simply refuse to deal with foreigners, some allow them to open an account under certain conditions (and most particularly the sponsorship of a Guatemalan national or resident), while others have found a workaround by providing foreigners with an ATM and debit card, but not with a cheque book nor an overdraft facility.

The best way to learn the details of the conditions under which you can open an account as a non-resident foreigner in a given bank is simply to walk in its nearest branch, and ask!

Once you have found your Guatemalan bank, all you need to open a current, deposit or savings account is your passport and a proof of address in the country (typically, the electrical bill of the place you are staying at). You may also in certain cases be asked to provide a reference letter from your bank in your home country and/or from a local sponsor. You can elect to open a quetzal account only, or one supporting both dollars and quetzales.

The processing time for the opening of a bank account is around three days.

On the other hand, a credit card or a mortgage loan will prove much harder to obtain as a non-resident. Even after obtaining resident status (for more information, check out our article Residence permit in Guatemala), you will probably need a third party guarantor in order to be granted access to credit.

 Good to know:

You need to be physically in Guatemala to open your account.

 Useful links:

List of banks in Guatemala
Banco Industrial
Banco Agromercantil

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