Residency papers for expatriates in Guatemala

As new missionaries in Guatemala, we needed to get our residency papers so we didn’t have to leave for Mexico every six months and still be legal in Guatemala. Here are some of the things we wish we had known when we were going through the paperwork process for residency after we moved to Guatemala.

U.S. Paperwork prep

Read on, but get the following papers together so you can impress your lawyer and get things moving quickly:

  • Complete copy of your passport
    • Yep, even the blank pages and the full cover
  • U.S. Embassy validated copy of passport at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala
    • WARNING: This may be the U.S. Embassy but validation takes time. Get there before 12 noon and you can probably get it at 2:30 that afternoon. Get there in the afternoon and you’ll have to go back the next day. Oh, and each validated copy will cost you US$50. They do accept credit cards if you don’t have the cash.
  • Criminal background check (This must be less than 6 months old when you turn it in and will require you to get things done in the U.S. so plan accordingly.)
  • These may not be necessary but are recommended to have ready:
    • Birth Certificates
    • Marriage Licenses
  • Legalize it all…

NOTE: If your US passport is going to expire in the next year, I recommend that you get to Guatemala and immediately apply for a passport renewal BEFORE you start this process. (It only takes about 10 days to get your new passport from the embassy.) I had to go back through part of the process since my passport expired shortly after we got the permanent visa stamp. Keep your old passport to show the entry date to the immigration office.

Guatemalan Residency Visa Options

According to our lawyer  and other sites there are three main long-term residency visa options (not including student, diplomatic, etc.) Since we just had our baby here in Guatemala, we opted for the Parents of Guatemalan child option. While others are available, I have listed three main options here:

Rentista (Permanent)

  • Requires you to have documentation proving financial sustenance (investments, work, bank accounts, etc.)
  • Requires you to have lawyer certified annual proof of $1000 for the first person and $200 more for each American dependent per month
  • Legal fees (depends on the lawyer)
  • Tax fees

Parents of Guatemalan Child(ren) (Permanent)

  • Requires that you have a child born in Guatemala
  • Fees/Taxes
    • Legal Fees (depends on the lawyer but usually about Q2,000 per person)
    • Tax fee (US$500 per person)
    • Renewal of US$100 every 5 years
  • Papers required:
    • Need to have your child’s official Guatemalan Birth Certificate (Here’s how to get a birth certificate from RENAP)
    • A recent black/white (Guatemalan) passport photo
    • Photocopy of  entire passport
    • Validated passport from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala
    • Certified criminal background check
  • Religious (Temporary 2yrs.)
    • I don’t have further information on religious visas at this time.


There will be a translation fee for your documents to be translated to Spanish by an offical translator. Your lawyer can help with this.

Finding a lawyer

Ask around among other extranjeros and you are sure to find someone with a (abogado) lawyer they recommend. We used and recommend Aracely de Mendieta, at Audicontables Mendieta Vargas Asociados (Edificio Geminis Torre Norte Oficina 11-13, 11 Nivel, 12 Calle 1-25, Zona 10, Guatemala City. She speaks some English but mainly Spanish, but she’s very patient and willing to work with you


After turning in all your information and signing documents with your lawyer, you’ll receive a document saying that your residency is in process. This will keep you from having to leave Guatemala or renew your visa every three to six months.

Note: If you leave the country before receiving your completed residency, you could cause yourself some trouble and have to start the process over. If you plan to take a trip before your papers are done, talk to your lawyer and get a special visa that let’s you leave without ruining your hard work.

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