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All loan agreements must be signed and witnessed by a licensed Guatemalan attorney. Loan agreements secured by mortgages or pledges must be signed in a legalized public document before an attorney and duly registered in the Property Registry (Registro de la Propiedad). The Guatemalan Commercial Code provides for several types of notes and drafts which include: promissory notes, bills of exchange, debentures, and checks. Notes and drafts are negotiable and their transaction involves a few simple procedures. The negotiation and transfer of instruments payable to the bearer is effective upon delivery of the instrument. Instruments payable to a specific name or account are negotiated by endorsement and delivery.

Medical Services...

A full range of modern medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside the city is limited. In the past year, Guatemala's public hospitals have experienced serious shortages of basic medicines and equipment, with some hospitals on the verge of bankruptcy. Care in private hospitals is generally adequate for most common illnesses and injuries. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States.

Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proven useful in many emergencies. Additional health information may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at (404) 332-4559


In the mid-1980s about 55% of the Guatemalan people aged 15 or more years were literate. Education is theoretically free at all levels, but because of the acute shortage of public schools, many private schools are in operation. Primary education is compulsory. In the late 1980s the school system of Guatemala included about 8500 primary schools, which were attended annually by some 1,098,000 pupils. Secondary schools had an annual enrollment of about 241,100 students.

The University of San Carlos of Guatemala (1676), in the city of Guatemala, is the country's major institution of higher education. A private university, the Rafael Landívar University (1961), is also in the capital city. Guatemala has three other universities, as well as schools of music and plastic arts. Total university and college enrollment in the late 1980s exceeded 67,000.


Guatemala offers the investor an abundant, young and stable labor force with wage rates (at $70 per month) that compete favorably with other Central American countries and Asia.

The economy is dominated by the private sector, which the government only takes 10 percent of the GNP, compared to more than 40 percent in the U.S. and much more in Europe.

Guatemala has a stable and sophisticated business environment with low fixed income tax for corporations, low inflation, a stable currency and low incidence of litigation. The government is committed to free market policies, including the lowering of tariffs and the elimination of non-tariff trade barriers.

Guatemala offers the investor access to U.S. markets through the Caribbean Basin Initiative and the General System of Preferences. Foreign investors also enjoy equal treatment in like situations and constitutional protection of private property.

There are incentive programs for investment and export with no limitation on foreign investment, foreign ownership by individuals or corporations, or restrictions on repatriation of capital.

Hot Investment Opportunities...

Guatemala, a predominately agricultural country, has long relied on traditional products, such as coffee, sugar, and bananas as its main sources for foreign income. A new trend has been emerging in the last two decades with the cultivation of new or non-traditional products, such as vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants.

The non-traditional agricultural export sector offers broad opportunities for foreign investors, both wholly owned or joint-venture enterprises.

Guatemalan producers have achieved full market acceptance in the U.S. and Europe for the high quality and competitive market prices of their exports in many categories of fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants. Exports of these products have been increasingly at a vigorous average of 23 percent yearly for the last seven years, and foreign demand for such products continues to grow faster than the export capacity of Guatemala.

Exports of these product to the U.S. receive preferential tariffs and other benefits under the General Systems of Preferences and the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

Other opportunities can be found in industries relating to the production of these goods, such as refrigeration and freezing, vacuum packing and processing of marmalades, juices, cereals, canning, etc.

With total year end earnings of U.S. $265 million, tourism tourism reached a milestone during 1993 by closing the gap with coffee as the largest producer of foreign earnings in Guatemala. The trend is expected to continue in future years. It is expected that during the next seven years, more than 4.7 million tourist will visit Guatemala and will spend more than $2.6 billion.

The eco-tourism field is wide open and growing in Guatemala as internal strife declines in remote areas. The eco-tourism entrepreneur will find many opportunities in the hotel, cabin or restaurant business among the incredible Mayan ruins, volcanoes, lakes and colonial towns.

Special incentives exist for the tourism investor...

  • Exemption once-only from all import duties and taxes on construction materials, equipment, furnishings, and fixtures in general for hotels.
  • Exemption from land tax payment on new constructions or on the value of any expansion and from municipal tax for a period of ten years.
  • The state may grant leases for up to 50 years for lands it owns for the construction of buildings, parking lots, and other facilities.
Apparel: The Guatemalan apparel industry has made robust yearly increases since it started exporting in 1980. Today it is a booming industry with more than 500 factories and some 100,000 workers throughout the country. Between 1985 and 1992 Guatemala had the fastest growth rate for manufactured products exported to the U.S. of all western hemisphere countries.

Hydrobiological Products

Guatemala's territorial waters are an abundant source of fish, including sardines and red snapper. The private sector is very interested in attracting foreign investment for the development of this industry and related areas.

The natural and artificial lagoons existing throughout the South Coast area have led to rapid development of shrimp farming, which has become a principal export to the U.S. and Europe and is carried out under strict sanitary controls.


The Guatemalan financial system has experienced important changes in the last years. From 1990 to present, 11 banks and 5 finance companies, all private, have entered the market, reflecting a 55 and 85 percent increase respectively in the number of these institutions. The number of bank branches has also increased 103 percent. Assets have grown 170 percent, and the capital expanded 168 percent. The dramatic growth indicates profound recent development within the banking system.

All banks handle deposits in checking and savings accounts on fixed terms and grant short, medium and long term credit. Foreigners are allowed to maintain accounts in dollars or quetzals.

Owning A Business...

Guatemala places no restrictions on foreign ownership of local businesses, foreign investment, or repatriation of capital. Foreign companies interested in operating in Guatemala must meet the following guidelines...

  • Proof of the entity's legal constitution
  • Certified copy of the deed of charter and by-laws
  • Proof that the board of directors of the entity has duly resolved to operate in Guatemala and has authorized the legal proceedings to obtain authorization to do so
  • Designation of a legal representative empowered to act and represent the entity in all legal matters
  • Certification of assigned capital; home office and branch offices are expected to jointly meet all legal obligations
  • Declaration of submission to the courts and the laws of Guatemala
  • Declaration that the entity will meet all legal requirements before withdrawing from Guatemala
  • Certified copies of the entity's latest financial statements (balance sheet profit and loss statements)
All documents must be certified by an authorized official in the country of origin and authenticated by the consul, ambassador or minister of Guatemala.

All documents must be translated into Spanish by an authorized translator, and the sum of U.S. $10.00 or its equivalent in quetzals be paid for each authenticated document to the Secretariat for Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The documents must be entered in a notary's records before being submitted to the Mercantile.


To obtain legal residency in Guatemala, a foreigner must do the following...

  • Enter Guatemala with a valid visa or tourist card and remain in Guatemala until the extension expires.
  • File four residency applications requesting An ordinary visa and three extensions of the ordinary visa.
  • After the third and final extension of the ordinary visa, a foreigner may request residency, and must live in Guatemala for a continuous 2 year period, beginning from the date on which the ordinary visa was presented to the department of Immigration.
To file for the extension of a tourist visa...
  • Fill out the correct application.
  • Find an economically stable person or entity in Guatemala that will guarantee the foreigners stay.
  • Present legalized photocopies of passport, with due control in the Dept. of Immigration.
To file for the extension of an ordinary visa...
  • Fill out the application correctly
  • Find an economically stable person or entity in Guatemala that will guarantee the foreigner will conduct themselves according to national laws.
  • Present legalized copies of passport with due control in the Dept. of Immigration.
  • Obtain a police report demonstrating no previous criminal record, which must be legalized by the Supreme Court of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Guatemalan Embassy in the country of origin.
  • Obtain a medical bill of good health.
  • Obtain a report from Guatemalan police indicating the foreigner has no criminal record within the country.
  • Present a legally certified copy of a birth certificate.
  • Present statement of the commercial activity to which the foreigner will be dedicated.
If a foreigner has been hired or contracted by a Guatemalan corporation or company to work in Guatemala, he/she must also fulfill the following requirements...
  • Present a copy of the contract.
  • Present the official appointment of the foreigner by the corporation or company.
  • Present notarized appointment of position to be occupied in the company or corporation.
  • Present the commercial patent and the balance of accounts of the company or corporation.
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