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CA-4 Visa for Central America Explained

CA-4 Visa for Central America Explained FLORES, Guatemala- I sit one tick from exiting Guatemala after a five and a half month stay in the CA-4 region. The CA-4 is an agreement between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua to decrease their internal borders and pull together into one region for immigration. So if you [...]

CA-4 Visa for Central America Explained

FLORES, Guatemala- I sit one tick from exiting Guatemala after a five and a half month stay in the CA-4 region. The CA-4 is an agreement between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua to decrease their internal borders and pull together into one region for immigration. So if you enter Guatemala, you get a visa that is good for the other three countries, and vice-versa. The standard tourist visa length for all four countries together is 90 days.

This means that if I spend a month in Guatemala, I only have two more in the other three countries before I need to renew the visa.

Like most multi-country immigration agreements, each country in the region has their own take on the regulations for the tourist visa. Some countries, like Guatemala,  allow most foreigners to renew their visa internally, apparently, for as many times as they would like by paying an additional 300 Quetzales per extra 90 days; while some countries, like El Salvador,  do not allow internal renewals, and you must exit the region entirely for at least three days before returning; in Honduras, renewals are not allowed and you can only do three visa runs out of the CA-4 before you are denied re-entry.

central america visa

Visas to Guatemala

In point, by the rules of the CA-4 agreement, it looked to me as if I had overstayed my visa by two and a half months. I entered the region through Guatemala and traveled down to El Salvador, not leaving the CA-4, for around two months. Upon leaving El Salvador I re-entered Guatemala — again, not leaving the CA-4 — but when I did I was re-stamped in with a fresh 90 day visa.

I did not honor this visa, I took it to be an immigration formality — just as when travelers exit and return to Europe’s Schengen zone within a 6 month period they are stamped out and back in but they are still on their first visa. In fact, I did not honor this new Guatemala stamp to the point that I went to the immigration office in Livingston to get a renewal a few days before it would have been 90 days since I first entered the region.

300 Quetzales per passport were slapped down onto the immigration official’s desk, he picked up his stamper and prepared to renew the visas. But then he stopped. He saw the second entry stamp from when I had re-crossed into Guatemala from El Salvador.

“These visas are good until the end of August,” he spoke as he laid down his stamper. “I would just be giving you the same stamp as you already have.”

He then continued to explain how Guatemala grants one free visa renewal upon re-entry from El Salvador or Honduras. This seemed suspect to me, but the immigration official refused to take the money, and this was a sign that he was serious. It is well spoken of in Livingston that visa renewal money ends up in pockets, so his ambivalence meant something.

Against better judgment, I accepted his word. The prudent traveler never accepts the word of any immigration official or consulate when they speak of the visa rules of their own country — they cannot be trusted, they are often wrong. Many travelers have found this out the hard way — “But they told me in Livingston that . . .” just does not cut it. A traveler must know the official visa rules and make the officials abide by them. Period.

But what about when there are unwritten visa rules?

I was in such a predicament. It was true that the immigration official was just going to stamp my passport with the same type of stamp that I had already had — which was a stamp that said that I left and reentered the country — so what would be the point of getting another?

I saved my 900 Quetzales.

I held my breath when exiting Guatemala at Technica two and a half months later. The fee for a visa overstay in Guatemala is 20 Quetzales per day. For my entire family of three, if our entry stamps that we received when crossing back into Guatemala from El Salvador did not hold their weight, we would be looking at a fine of $615.

Again, I held my breath when I passed our passports over the immigration counter.

The immigration official hardly even glanced at anything other than our less than smiley mug shots.

Stamp. Stamp. Stamp. Get out of here.

Apparently, additional entry stamps renew a CA-4 visa in Guatemala.

Related stories:

  1. CA-4 means no more El Salvador entry tax
  2. Ask visa questions on Travel Help
  3. Don’t overstay your travel visa
Filed under: Border Crossing, Central America, Guatemala, Visas

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3426 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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10 comments… add one

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  • craig | travelvice.com September 2, 2010, 8:34 pm

    I’m sure I’m not alone in disliking this immigration agreement; it’s a bloody mess. Just like the EU, they’re trying to attract the two-week holiday crowd (big spenders) and dump the vagabonds and expats from the region.

    However, the complete lack of coordination is what gives this situation the special Latin American flavor of confusion and vagary.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 2, 2010, 10:46 pm

      The world of long term travel is changing fast. It is not going in a good direction for us old travelers. There is a trend towards low density high income tourism the world over. We are being left in the dust.

      Link Reply
  • Caitlin September 2, 2010, 9:02 pm

    Weird, I had no idea that you could get one free renewal coming from El Salvador or Honduras. Makes me wish I had taken one of my visa runs there instead of going to Mexico every time!
    Oh well.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 2, 2010, 10:17 pm

      This is just what I was told and this is how it worked out for me. I am not sure if I would recommend it — these messed up immigration agreements often lead to a lot of people making false interpretations.

      But, again, it worked for me fine. It may work for everybody. I had a 90 day stamp put in my passport, and I left within 90 days of its date. Also, the stamp is the same as many of the renewal ones. I suppose everything was on the table, and, in the end, perfectly legit.

      It worked.

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  • j. October 15, 2011, 11:36 pm

    One correction (or two, actually…)

    The overstay fee in Guate is only 10Q per day, and the (real) fee for an extension is only about 120Q. For 300-400Q total you can have a service go get the extension for you.

    Of course, bribes for speedy service can add to this if you let them, but that’s the official rate.

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  • rob February 26, 2013, 2:40 pm

    hi wade. 
    i have a slight issue at the moment. i am currently in Nicaragua, having crossed in from El Salvador via Honduras a few days ago. i was not stamped out of honduras although i was stamped in (even though i am still in the ca4 zone). when i return to honduras do you think i am likely to have a problem re entering the country? cheers

    Link Reply
  • Mathew March 12, 2013, 8:56 pm

    Honduras does allow you to apply for an extension to the 90 day Visa. 
    I did it in 2006 and I definitely received more than three 90 day Visas without objection. 
    I don’t remember the cost only that I had to leave my US Passport at the Honduran Passport office in Tegucigalpa (which I understand is still on the anillo periferico across the street from the university UTH). I returned a few days later with new stamps in my passport.

    Link Reply
    • Vagabond Journey March 12, 2013, 9:01 pm

      @Mathew This is post 2006 information. The CA-4 was created and visa policies have changed.

      Link Reply
  • Immad Hamid July 25, 2013, 5:06 pm

    Visa for Guatemala on passport (IMAGE), Can you send the image or send me the link where I can see the image ?
    and it can be on any passport, I just want to see the Image of it…

    I have googled it already but unable to find it because it shows many
    other visas other than Guatemala so please don’t advice me to Google it.
    You can send the image to my mailing address which is:
    precious_immad@yahoo.com
    or you can inbox me at my Facebook account which is:
    http://www.facebook.com/immad.hamid1
    Thanks in advance…

    Link Reply
  • servicesinfo66 November 13, 2015, 11:09 am

    Hi,
    I want to know that I am resident in Brazil, my wife is Brazilian National and I am Pakistani National yet. we would like to plan a tour to Honduras,Guatamala and El salvador I mean CA 4 countries and costa rica also.
    what i will do apply such visas.
    I mean how can i apply for visas and make our travel plan.
    please if you have some usefull information in this regard. so forward it to me.
    thank you very much in advance.

    Link Reply