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Complete guide to obtaining a Guatemala retirement visa, the required documents, and the best places for retirees

With stunning views of volcanoes, rainforests, lakes, and ancient Mayan sites, no wonder Guatemala is one of the most populated countries in Central America. Nature lovers will have a blast spending their retirement days in this beautiful country. 

Guatemala welcomes retirees from all over the world and all you need to retire in Guatemala is to obtain a Guatemala Pensionado Visa, also known as a retirement visa. 

Once you receive a Pensionado visa, you can travel in and out of the country as you wish. You will also benefit from the Pensioner Law of Guatemala once you meet the requirements established for the retirement category.

Who Is Eligible For the Pensionado Visa in Guatemala?

You can apply for a Guatemala pensionado visa if: 

  • You are retired in your country of residence. 
  • You have legal permanent income from outside of Guatemala.
  • You receive a monthly income of at least $1,250.
  • You are not considered a threat to the safety of Guatemala. 
  • You plan on residing permanently in the national territory of Guatemala.

Documents Required for a Guatemala Retirement Visa

Present the following documents when applying for a Guatemala Retirement Visa:

  • Guatemala Pensionado Visa Application Form.
  • Passport. An original and valid passport must be presented at the time of application, together with a legalized copy of the passport pages.
  • Certification of validity of the passport issued by the Embassy or Consulate of your home country in Guatemala.
  • Police clearance certificate. A certificate issued by the corresponding authority in your country or countries in which you have resided for the last five years. 
  • Copy of the resolution that accredits you as a temporary resident. If applicable.
  • Proof of income. Proof you have a minimum individual income of $1,250 from your home country.
  • Proof you have paid the application fee.

The Guatemalan consular office in your country might require additional documents, or the application process may differ; therefore, it is advisable to contact the relevant authority and ask for information regarding the visa application process.

NOTE: Documents must be apostilled or legalized in accordance with the Law of Judicial Organism. 

How to Apply For a Guatemala Retirement Visa?

You can apply for a Guatemala Pensionado Visa at one of the Guatemalan consular offices accredited in your place of residence. If you are already in Guatemala, you can submit the application directly to the General Directorate of Migration in Guatemala.

Here is a general step-by-step guide on how to apply for a Guatemala Retirement Visa:

  1. Complete the document checklist and pay the required application fees before visiting the consular office.
  2. Submit the documents to the consular office and wait for a response. The consulate will forward your application to be examined by the Guatemalan General Directorate of Migration.
  3. The General Directorate of Migration will examine your application and transfer the actions to the Ministry of Public Finance to authorize the tariff exemptions determined by the law of retirement.

Remember: To apply for a Pensionado Visa if you are in Guatemala already, you can submit your documents directly to the General Directorate of Migration.

How Long Does a Guatemalan Pensionado Visa Take to Process?

Usually, the pensionado visa application takes 15 days to process, but it can take longer in certain cases.

After the Retirement Visa Is Approved

After you are granted the Pensionado (Retirement) visa and enter Guatemala, you must register with the General Directorate of Immigration within a period of 30 days, and receive the migratory certificate.

How Much Does a Guatemala Retirement Visa Cost?

The application fee for a Guatemala Pensionado Visa (Retirement Visa) is $400. Depending on where you are applying from, you can pay the fee at the Guatemala consulate or the General Directorate of Migration.

How Long Can I Stay in Guatemala as a Retired Expat?

A Guatemala Pensionado Visa is issued for a period of five years, which can be extended before the visa expires.

Benefits of Guatemala Pensionado Visa

Once you are granted a Guatemala Pensionado Visa, you will be entitled to the following benefits:

  • You will be exempt from paying taxes VAT for importing your personal belongings or household items.
  • You will be exempt from income tax on incomes declared as coming from outside of Guatemala. 
  • You will be exempt from paying import customs duties when importing vehicles from abroad (the CIF value of the vehicle cannot exceed 25 times the value of said income, or you will be required to pay all taxes on the difference).
  • You will be exempt from payment of fees caused by registration, extension, or change of quality migratory status. 

Can I Bring my Dependents to Guatemala With a Retirement Visa?

Yes, you are allowed to bring your family members (dependants) with you once you obtain a Guatemala Retirement Visa. To do that, you will be required to add an additional amount of $300 for each dependent. Eligible family members include:

  • Spouse (who you are legally married to)
  • Children (not older than 25 years old)

Can You Work in Guatemala With a Retirement Visa?

No, a Guatemala Pensionado (Retirement) Visa does not give you the permit to work. You will not be allowed to work in a position where you will benefit from monthly income, but you can run your own business without engaging in any kind of paid work.

Can I Lose My Guatemala Pensionado Status?

You can lose the Guatemala Pensionado (Retirement) Visa due to the following reasons:

  • You fail to comply with the obligations inherited with the retired resident status.
  • You provide false information regarding your socioeconomic status.
  • You stay out of the country for a period longer than one consecutive year unless you demonstrate that the absence happened due to illness.

Healthcare for Retirees in Guatemala 

The healthcare system of Guatemala is divided into three separate divisions: the public, private nonprofit, and private for-profit sectors. The public health sector provides medical care through hospitals, health facilities, and health centers, whereas the private sector provides medical care within private offices, clinics, and hospitals.

Public healthcare in Guatemala is a “single-payer” system, offering free medical services to everyone and it covers about 88% of the population The public healthcare sector is focused more on treating diseases, therefore primary care in facilities is basic. In big cities like Guatemala City, hospitals provide high-quality medical care, but you will not find the same care in other cities, especially in rural areas of the country. 

Although Guatemala offers free public healthcare services to all Guatemalan citizens there are several medical services like blood work or radiology that can only be performed in private companies. As a result, citizens are forced to opt for private healthcare.

When choosing private healthcare, it is recommended to choose a health plan that offers international coverage for all medical services

How Much Money Do You Need to Retire in Guatemala?

Guatemala is one of the cheapest countries in Central America, making it the most affordable retirement option in the region. You can cover your daily expenses with just about $585  per month without including rent.

The rent price depends on what type of residency you want to live in and your budget. For example, you can find apartments for as low as $300 to $850 (one bedroom) and $650 to $1,700 (three bedrooms) in the city center. Whereas the price range for apartments outside of the city center, the monthly rent goes from $260 to $590 (one bedroom) and $390 to $1,200 (three bedrooms).

Here is a presentation of the average living costs in Guatemala: 

Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre$490
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre$375
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre$1060
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre$670
Rice $1.55
Apples (kg)$3.05
Electricity, Water, Heating, Cooling, Garbage$60

Why Retire in Guatemala?

Here is what makes Guatemala a perfect place to retire:

  • Tax exemptions. Retired citizens of Guatemala will be exempt from tax payments such as import customs during the first year of your retirement in Guatemala, etc.
  • The low cost of living. Guatemala makes a perfectly affordable and cheap option for spending your retirement. Real estate prices are below average and daily expenses are cheaper than in all of Central America.
  • Healthcare. Guatemala offers free public healthcare with excellent medical care to all its residents. As a retiree, you can choose between free public healthcare or private medical companies. The price of private healthcare is still affordable compared to other countries.
  • Nature. With a wonderful touch of green, Guatemala will amaze you with its beautiful nature. Besides the famous natural attractions, Guatemala has great biodiversity with over 1,200 species. 
  • Delicious food. Guatemalan cuisine is diverse in color, ingredients, and taste. Corn, chilies, and beans are considered key ingredients for all Guatemalan dishes. The food is spicy enough to leave you with a delicious flavor and want more. 

Best Places to Retire in Guatemala

Here are the best places to retire in Guatemala:

Guatemala City

The capital city is a popular destination for expats moving to Guatemala. Guatemala City hosts art galleries and important museums and dominates the cultural life of the country. Expats are attracted by the rich culture, great coffee, and restaurants.


Antigua is a great city to get in touch with Guatemalan culture. The colored buildings, stunning volcanoes, and beautiful beaches make Antigua a great place to spend your retirement. While living in Antigua, you will get the chance to try the diverse cuisine and delicious restaurants. 

One of the customs and traditions of Antigua is its patron saint festival which gives the city a colorful view and great atmosphere.

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is the perfect place to get away and enjoy nature. The area has a unique location, surrounded by three volcanoes and steep cliffs. You can spend your days swimming in the beautiful water and walking around the lake. Some of the most popular areas for expats in Lake Atitlan are  Panajachel, San Pedro La Laguna, and Selina.


Panajachel, also known as Pana, is one of the most famous places for tourism in Guatemala. In Panajachel, you will find several restaurants with local and international cuisine, coffee shops, and more. You will enjoy the spectacular view of the lake and the volcanoes surrounding it and can take a boat trip to visit the different municipalities.

San Pedro La Laguna

The town is located on the southwest shore of Lake Atitlan and is famous for its artists and murals. If you like going out at night for a drink and meeting new people, San Pedro La Laguna is known for its nightlife around Lake Atitlan. Pubs, restaurants, hostels, and hotels have made San Pedro La Laguna become a hotspot for backpackers and travelers.

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