Obtaining residency

I got my Guatemalan residency in 2012. It is pretty straightforward and very free of the BS you seem to have to deal with in some other countries. And, most important, the word permanent really means permanent unlike in other places.

I have a pension so I went for Pensionado residency. You need to show that you have at least US$1000/mo of income to qualify for an individual or US$1200 for a couple.

Understanding the Process

First, let me say that Immigration has a new web site so I am guessing there will be some changes. But, going to this page you will see the list of all the options and they appear to not be changed. On this page there are the links to the forms (which contain instructions) for both temporary and permanent residency. 

The one change I see is that your Passport of where you have Citizenship is now required (before it was not) but, on the other hand, your birth certificate is not required. To me that sounds like a win as you needed to have a Passport anyway but getting a birth certificate tends to be a pain. It appears there is no longer a need for photos.

You will also need a police report from where you have lived for the past five years. Each document will need to be authenticated. If your residency is based on money -- investment or pension -- you will need to prove that.

I elected to use a lawyer because when I applied I didn't even live in Guatemala. Clearly I needed to have an address and a contact phone and she supplied that. If your Spanish is decent you should not have a problem doing it yourself but, if you do decide to hire a lawyer (or a Guatemalan that can help) make sure they know the process. If they don't they could cost you thousands of dollars and waste a lot of your time.

Why Emphasize Permanent?

In Nicaragua, when they say "permanent" they mean that every five years you pretty much have to jump through all the hoops again. For example, once again needing proof of your pension if you apply for Pensionado residency. Expect to spend hundreds of dollars and certified documents and toss in a few trips to Managua to boot.

In Guatemala, once you get residency you have it. Your ID card will have an expiration date (10 years, I think) but you only need to go a local RENAP (national registry of persons) office to renew it. For a Pensionado, there is no fee and there are RENAP offices all over the country. For example, I live in San Antonio Palopó which has a population of 8000 and there is a RENAP office here.

This is not to say you can't lose your residency but if you "follow the rules" you keep it. For example, one requirement is to not be outside Guatemala for over 365 consecutive days. (Some countries require you to be in the country more than 50% of the time to maintain your residency.)