Jungle Mist

Before you hop on a plane, there are a few things you can do that will make your residency application process go smoothly.

At minimum, you’ll want to make sure your passport has six months or more time remaining before it expires. This time is counted from when you submit your residency application, so give yourself some extra time, just in case.

If you need to renew your passport, you’ll probably want to do that first, since it usually takes the most time.

For US Citizens:
If you need to report a lost or stolen passport, you do so here.
If you only need to renew, here is the place to start.
If you have never had a passport, you’ll need to do these things.

For Canadian Citizens:
Both new and renewal passport applications follow these steps.

For other countries:
While we don’t have experience with every possible scenario, we will certainly try to help no matter where you come from. For specific questions about your country of origin, please email us.

Additionally, you’ll need a Good Conduct / Criminal Record Check from any jurisdiction you have resided in over the last two years. Your passport stamps will be compared with your application, and a stay of greater than 90 days in any one place usually requires a record, so you may need documents from more than one country if you travel extensively. In larger, federated countries like the US, a state or territory level check is sufficient. You do not need to do a full FBI background check. While the process varies from state to state, our service covers the request of records, as well as any additional authentication required. US apostilles are done at both the state and federal level, depending on the document type, and the process for Canadian authentications can be found here.

Pupusas Frying on the Griddle
Pupusas Frying on the Griddle

Depending on the kind of visa you are applying for, you’ll need additional documentation. For example, if you are applying for a student visa, you’ll need authenticated copies of your diplomas, transcripts, letter(s) of acceptance, and related information. For work visas, a copy of the offer letter from the Salvadoran company will be required, and in some cases, more information about the company will be needed, such as balance sheets, registration documents, and more. Each visa program has its own requirements, and our service helps you collect all the necessary paperwork.

If you’ve prepared well, and you bring all the required documents with you, your application will go quickly. There are a few things you’ll need to do when you are here, but on average, you can expect a decision on your application within 45 days of submission. Should your initial tourist visa run out of time while awaiting a decision, don’t worry – your completed application automatically extends your visa for 90 days as if you filed a tourist extension. Additionally, if you obtain some or all of the required documents on your own, be sure to keep all of the receipts for the printing, notarizing, and apostille/authentication fees – if you decide to use our service, we deduct that money spent from our invoice.

Aside from the preparations related to your residency application, you’ll probably also want to learn Spanish, if you aren’t already fluent. While you can easily live here without any knowledge of the language, learning the basics will go a long way toward making your stay more pleasurable. We are partnered with Marlene, who offers flexible, affordable packages with real Latin American Spanish tutors to help you and your family become fluent, lifelong speakers!

Rental Cars: Check out FA Rent a Car

IMPORT/EXPORT

You should also plan carefully for import duties if you plan to ship in a lot of items.

Household goods and personal effects are duty free provided they have been owned and used by the owner of the goods for at least 6 months. The shipment must arrive within 90 days of the owner of the goods’ arrival. Customs clearance takes approximately 2-3 business days.

Documents Required

  • Passport
  • Residence permit / work permit
  • Visa
  • Numero de identificacion (NIT) from the Ministry of Finance
  • Certificate of migratory movement from the Immigration General Office
  • Temporary import permit
  • Bank guarantee, if applicable
  • Original bill of lading (OBL) / air waybill (AWB)
  • Detailed inventory in Spanish
  • Packing list
  • Letter of employment (if applicable)
  • Certificate of change of residence
  • Certificate of residence abroad (returning citizens)
  • Diplomatic franchise (diplomats) 

Specific Information

  • All shipments are subject to inspection.
  • The owners of the goods must be present for Customs clearance.
  • Items cannot be sold, loaned or disposed of during the owner of the goods’ stay.
  • Returning residents must have lived abroad for at least 3 years for duty-free import and provide proof of residency abroad; citizens must not have returned to El Salvador for more than 30 consecutive days during the 3-year period of official residency abroad. 
  • Contact the destination agent for specific requirements of eligibility.
  • The certificate of residence can be obtained from the Salvadoran Consulate and must verify the location and time spent abroad.
  • The packing list must include the value of each item and the make, model, and serial number of electrical appliances.
  • Foreign diplomats and certain government / organization members are granted duty-free entry. 
  • Documents must be received by the destination agent 15 days prior to the owner of the goods’ arrival.
  • Foreigners may qualify for a 6-month delay of duty payment with a bank guarantee for an amount equal to the Customs valuation of the shipment; however, the payment is required upon expiration of the guarantee.

Motor Vehicles

Documents Required 

  • Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Certificate of title / registration
  • Purchase / commercial invoice
  • OBL
  • Diplomatic franchise (diplomats)
  • Certificate of compliance (new vehicles)
  • Certificate of emissions (used vehicles)

Specific Information

  • Vehicles (motorized and non-motorized) can be imported duty free but are subject to taxes.
  • Diplomats can import vehicles duty and tax free.
  • New and used vehicles must be less than 8 years old from the date of manufacture for import.
  • The certificate of compliance for new vehicles is issued by the manufacturer and must be authenticated by the Salvadoran embassy or consulate at origin.
  • The certificate of emissions for used vehicles must be authorized by a mechanic and authenticated by the Salvadoran embassy or consulate at origin.

Driver’s License

  • Generally speaking, a foreign driving license will be recognized in-country for 6 months
  • The requirements to get a Salvadoran license can be found here based on your status, but generally include:
  • Passport/NIT and your Temporary resident card (with a validity greater than three months) or current permanent resident card. (original)
  • Valid foreign license (original and copy) apostilled by the competent authority of the country where it was issued. For any driver’s license not issued in Spanish, a duly notarized translation of the document must be provided.
  • In the case of countries that have not signed the 1961 Hague Convention, they may submit a photocopy of a valid Foreign License, fully legible in all its parts, authenticated in the country of origin and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador.
  • Proof of blood group issued by a clinical laboratory with signature and registration stamp, you can present a proof of blood group issued by a public health institution with the respective seals of the institution. If your blood type is indicated on your foreign license, it will not be necessary to present proof of blood group.
  • Pass visual examination at SERTRACEN offices. (Vision exam fee: $3.39)
  • Cost of license: $54.43
  • These procedures must be requested in the User Service area of the Vice Ministry of Transportation, located at the following address: 2nd floor of Plaza SOHO, Las Cascadas Shopping Center, located on Avenida Jerusalem and the Pan-American Highway, for inquiries and requirements please contact the Call Center at +503 2133-3600.
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Storage Facilities

  • Mr. Bodeguitas (Mr. [B]) is a reputable option with many locations.
    • (In meters, per month)
      • 1×1=$40
      • 2×3=$150
      • 3×6=$350
    • They have secure access from 6am-8pm, seven days. Guarded parking lot. Miscellaneous storage stuff and boxes available. Moving/Import/Export services available through third parties.

Movers

Preferred Movers
Preferred Movers

Pets

Documents Required 

Specific Information

  • The vaccination record must be issued within 6 months of arrival of the animal.
  • The veterinary health certificate must be issued within 15 days of arrival of the animal by a licensed veterinarian at origin.

Restricted/Dutiable Items

  • Firearms and ammunition (the law on arms is complex, please have a competent attorney review it for your specific use case.)
  • Live plants (an original invoice, phytosanitary certificate and a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture are required; subject to payment of duties)
  • Medications (a permit from the local drug administration is required)
  • Cigarettes (200) and cigars (50)
  • Alcohol (an import permit is required)
  • The following items require an original invoice and are subject to the payment of duties:
    • Appliances, machines and spare parts (duty free for diplomats)
    • Gifts and souvenirs
    • Antiques and works of art
    • Precious metal objects, including jewelry and coins
    • Household and electrical items (serial number, make and model must be included on the detailed inventory)
    • Carpets
    • Wine (a permit from a local health department is required)
    • Food items (a phytosanitary certificate is required if the item is not canned and a certificate that the item is approved for human consumption)

Prohibited Items

  • Illegal drugs
  • Pornographic and subversive materials
  • Military clothing and equipment
  • Cleaning chemicals and supplies

Other Trusted Websites for information about El Salvador

Resources for Nomadic Workers