Becoming a Guatemalan Citizen

Portrait of Elizabeth BellDuring the 43 years that I have lived in Antigua, I have co-founded and participated in many committees, associations and foundations to improve the quality of life for our residents.

Ranging today from education to micro-credit and promoting cultural activities, many of these meetings usually relate to finding solutions to problems that we have identified over the years. Four-plus years ago, I was attending one of the group association meetings (where a number of local committees meet), and mentioned that I didn’t vote—but I did enjoy having a voice. It was right before the 2007 elections.

While no one commented, it struck me like lightning that I should become a Guatemalan citizen, particularly since the U.S. allows dual citizenship. And the process began.

Many thought it was a “no brainer” since I married a Guatemalan (widowed), have two Guatemalan children, a Guatemalan business and have lived here so long. It was more work than I thought!

First to Migración, then to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, then to Gobernación in Guatemala City, back to Migración, Relaciones Exteriores (countless times).

Since it is a presidential decree, the paperwork was then sent to former President Colom—oops, they needed more flight information—back again—oops, they didn’t notice a stamp in my passport. Back again to the president’s desk.

Much to my dismay, Migración does keep track of all the airport paperwork we fill out —over 43 years, that was quite a few items. (I thought they made firecrackers out of old paperwork as they did in colonial times!)

This time, President Pérez Molina did sign it on April 9th and the presidential decree was published in the Diario de Centro América. I could have written a book and a half with all the paperwork and certainly have the side-stories to share.

All in all, at least now we can call the government offices and they find the information on their computers! I joined 18 other foreign nationals at Relaciones Exteriores on May 30th to be sworn in as a Guatemalan. I didn’t hire a lawyer and there were no fees (except for the Spanish language test). If “time is money,” it is priceless!

While I missed voting in the 2011 elections, I can now call it my country. That is priceless.


  • Keith H. Moore

    Dear Elizabeth, I really enjoyed your article on obtaining dual Guatemalan-United States citizenship after being a 43 year resident of Guatemala. I am very proud of you for undertaking and completing the somewhat complicated process of becoming a dual citizen of the USA and Guatemala. I was amazed at the bounty of information the article contained in less than a page. I was equally impressed at how succinctly you presented so much information while also being thoroughly entertaining. I found it incredible that the process is so lengthy and involved; including getting the final decree of citizenship signed by the President of Guatemala! I hope many North American and other foreign residents of Guatemala learn from your experience; follow your example and complete the process to become dual-citizens after reading your fine article.
    Love and best wishes to you and your family from your friend, Keith H. Moore

  • Delia

    Do you have information on applying for residency on the pensinado program?

  • En la web sí es posible tener un conocimiento claro, especialmente dirigido y ante todo con referencias importantes de todo tipo sobre abogados de inmigracion, abogados de inmigracion en miami y abogados de inmigración como nos gusta mucho a los lectores. Es una fuente de información altamente recomendable, que me parece que debiera ir en directorios de Internet que se especializan específicamente en estos temas, y considero que esta clase de artículos incluso pueden realzar el interés por los mismos en los casos de personas neófitas.


    you didn’t have to give up your other nationality? As far as I have read you are asked if you give your former nationalities when becoming a Guatemalan or is just that you have to say so … but you actually don’t go to the US embassy to do so.

    My wife is Swiss and well we talked about doing it because she wanted the passport but she doesn’t want to give up the Swiss passport, can you enlighten me a bit?

  • Ches Edrington

    I am a pensioner and fluent in Spanish. I also have a felony conviction from when I was young. Will this keep me from getting citizenship or even entering the country?

  • Elizabeth Bell

    I would submit the papers and not mention the conviction. The Guatemalan government requires certain paperwork – if the conviction appears, it may be a problem – but it may not appear in the State where you the info. (Don’t mention it).

  • Onton Ze

    Hello Elizabeth,

    How much money does it cost for Guatemala citizenship?
    What is the current cost of living compared with the states?
    Are you able to buy gold or silver coins in Guatemala?


  • Elizabeth Bell

    There is no fee for the Guatemalan citizenship although there are expenses in doing the paperwork and going back and forth to the offices. I am not familiar with a comparison of the cost of living with the US and Guatemala and there are many factors to compare with would include rent (or own?), food and where you live in the US and Guatemala. You may check the internet for silver coins in Guatemala. To my knowledge, there are no gold coins.

  • Keilyn Arreaga

    I’m so glad to see that someone else applied for dual citizenship. I recently just finished my paperwork and it was a real hassle but I’m glad I did it. The only thing was I didn’t take a Spanish test and I never swore in as a Guatemalan. I’m not sure if it’s because I was told that I was born with natural rights from Guatemala (parents were born in Guatemala) even though I was born in the US. What do you think?

  • Elizabeth Bell

    Great you got ALL of the paperwork done! The Spanish test is just verbal so, with Guatemalan parents, probably not needed. I am not sure about the “swearing in” process but if you got the Presidential decree for citizenship and publish it in the Diario Oficial, you are all set!

  • John O.

    I’m an US citizen who frequently travels to Guatemala. I’d like to apply for dual citizenship. Do I start with the US Embassy or in guatemala?

  • Elizabeth Bell

    You will want to begin with Migracion in Guatemala. You may request information at your local Guatemalan Consulate. The US Embassy is not part of the process.

  • Ileana Carolina Gross


    I am so grateful that you wrote the article regarding becoming a Guatemala citizen. When I was reading it…I got very emotional. I was born in Guatemala 51 yrs ago. I live in the states. My parents are both Guatemalans. We became US citizens…I however kept my Guatemalan passport. It has expired. I was 16 then. On this trip I was going to see about renewing the passport. Is that possible? I want to have the dual citizenship. I love the USA …but I love my Guatemala. Since I was a young child my parents would save so that we would vacation every year in Guatemala. I was able to get to know my family. And since you live there….you know the warmth of the is hard to explain. My parents no longer have their G passports. But I do….do you know what I need to do. I went to Guatemala city to renew the passport and the line was incredible! I was not able to wait in the line.
    I plan on moving to Guatemala for spurts now that I am older. My parents sacrificed their family so we could have a better life. And I guess we did. Both my brother and I have successful careers..great American spouses….but my Guatemalan family is missing. Can you direct me in what I need to do? My family was saying something about needing to have some kind of ID…in the past it was called “cedula”….I think? I speak Spanish and English fluently…it was a requirement in my house…thanks to my parents again! I plan on building a house there in Guatemala…Xela. I want to spend some of my time where my ancestors lived…I need some “Guatemala”

    Thank you,
    Ileana Carolina

  • Elizabeth Bell

    So happy that you liked my article. Cedulas are no longer available as we now get DPIs. I think you can get one at your local Guatemalan Consulate or here in Guatemala. You will want to renew your passport even though there is a long long.

  • John O.

    I first commented on your blog on August 17th. Here’s a quick follow-up. I drove 8 hours to the Consulate in Chicago and they told me to apply first for a 90-day Resident Permit before I apply for dual residency. I’ve sent my paperwork back to Chicago and now I must wait……

    Does anyone know if “purchasing a home” in Guatemala is a requirement for full residency? Just wondering!

  • M Gram

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I am a born American citizen, however my father is a citizen of Guatemala (born in Guatemala). I was wondering if I will lose my American citizenship when becoming a Guatemalan citizen due to the fact that there is a clause that states that I must give them passports associated with any former nationality. So do I have to give up my American passport, thus my American citizenship to become a Guatemalan citizen??

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