Updated in 2022.
It’s rather easy to get residency in Guatemala.
It’s an interesting subject that not a lot of Latin America blogs touch on in a sufficient manner.
I myself have flirted with the idea of getting residency in a few Latin American countries (specifically, Mexico, Peru or Ecuador) but never pulled the trigger.
Thing is, some countries make it so easy to stay as a tourist basically year-round (Mexico) that it doesn’t make much sense to go through the process of obtaining residency.
Then again, other countries (Brazil) make it extremely difficult to stay in the country for more than 6 months a year without some kind of residency permit.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to you, what you want to do in the country and how long you’d like to stay.
That will determine whether getting residency or not is worth it.
What’re things like in Guatemala?
Well, let’s find out!
The Basic Requirements
The above info is an overview of what you’ll be required to submit when applying for residency, taken from the US Embassy In Guatemala website.
Like in most other Latin American countries, your road to residency in Guatemala will be through work, marriage or investment/guaranteed income.
Depending on which path you choose, additional documents will be required.
Now, I’m assuming you’re not looking to work or get married in the country (at least not yet!).
So let’s check out the investment/guaranteed income option.
Basically, you have to show that you have a minimum of $1000.00 USD/month coming in from a foreign source.
You have to prove this is a guaranteed income source; i.e that you’re going to keep earning it until the end of your days.
Usually, this comes in the form of a pension from your home country.
But, what if you’re too young to get a pension?
Well, good news. I’ve heard that if you can prove more than $1000.00 USD coming in monthly from just about any source, you can still qualify.
The Guatemalan government seems to care more about the standing of your Guatemalan sponsor (as mentioned above in the picture) than they do about the specific source of your income.
Now, the aforementioned sponsor can be difficult unless you know some high up people in the country. Which, if you did, I’ll bet you wouldn’t be reading an article about how to get residency in Guatemala in the first place.
So, what to do?
This is where hiring a lawyer comes in handy.
While you can do this process yourself, a lawyer should be able to take care of the two most difficult things: pushing officials to process your papers (if not, they may sit in an office forever) and to take care of that pesky Guatemalan sponsor.
Unfortunately, I can’t recommend a lawyer to you, but if you search some Guatemala Expat Forums on the Internet, you will get some suggestions that other expats have used. Expect to pay about $1000.00 total.
Why Would You Want Guatemalan Residency?
Well, that’s none of my business!
No doubt, it will provide you with certain benefits within the country, such as being able to open your own business, easily open a bank account etc.
Also, it will save you the hassle of having to border hop every six months to renew a tourist visa.
Again, the reasons are up to you!
Is Getting Residency in Guatemala Worth It?
Is it all worth it?
The cost, the paperwork, the wait.
Well that completely, 100% depends on you, my dear friend
The thing about Guatemala is that it’s relatively easy to stay as a tourist. You get 90 days on arrival, and if you want another 90 days, you simply go to an immigration office a week or so before your days or up, and you can receive another 90 days.
90 days + 90 days = 180 total.
If you want to stay longer, just leave for 3 or 4 days to a non-CA-4 country (so, not El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua…because the 4 countries have a mobility agreement), re-enter the country and boom! You’ve got yourself another 90 days.
There are several reports in expat groups of foreigners who have lived in Guatemala for years by doing this.
So, it’s quite hassle-free to live in Guatemala on only a tourist visa.
However, if for whatever reason you want or need to earn an income in Guatemala, yes, you’re going to want to get your residency taken care of.
For me? I probably wouldn’t bother. Especially considering the fact that it is technically possible to get a bank account on a tourist visa (you may have to visit a few different banks, but one will probably do it for you).
Unless the government cracks down on its tourist visa policy, I’d just border hop on up to Mexico.
That’s about it!
Just a few notes on getting residency in Guatemala for those of you that are curious about such things.
If you want to learn more, here are some additional resources you should check out.
Oh, and one final, semi-related note…
Do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE believe anyone who claims they can “fast track” a passport for you. These are all scams. You cannot “fast track” your way to a real passport in any Latin American country. And, if you’re caught trying to do this, They Can Throw You In Jail.
At the end of the day, Guatemala isn’t a bad option for residency. In terms of requirements, it’s a lot more lax than other Latin American countries, and many foreigners have successfully acquired their residency. Just keep in mind that this is Central America, and so they may take their sweet time to process your application.
For me, it’s not something that’s high on my priority list. Seeing as how I earn my income from abroad and Guatemala makes it quite easy to stay as a tourist, I don’t see the utility.
But I’ll leave that decision to you!
All the best,
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