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Country Information

El Salvador

Country Information

El Salvador
Republic of El Salvador
Last Updated: February 13, 2017

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to El Salvador due to the high rates of crime and violence. El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world and crimes such as extortion, assault and rob

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to El Salvador due to the high rates of crime and violence. El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world and crimes such as extortion, assault and robbery are common. This replaces the Travel Warning for El Salvador dated January 15, 2016.

Gang activity is widespread in El Salvador. There are thousands of gang members operating in the country, including members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Eighteenth Street (M18). Gangs (maras) focus on extortion, violent street crime, narcotics and arms trafficking. Muggings following ATM or bank withdrawals are common, as are armed robberies at scenic-view stops (miradores). While the majority of the violence occurs between rival gangs and there is no information to suggest U.S. citizens are specifically targeted, its pervasiveness increases the chance of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Due to armed robberies in national parks, we strongly recommend that hikers in back country areas engage local guides certified by the national or local tourist authority. The National Civilian Police (PNC) has a special tourist police force (POLITUR) to provide security and assistance to visitors. More information can be found on POLITUR’s website

Remain alert to your surroundings, especially when entering or exiting homes, hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces. When possible, travel in groups. U.S. Embassy personnel are advised not to walk, run, or cycle in unguarded streets and parks, even in groups. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, and do not carry large sums of money or display cash, ATM/credit cards, or other valuables. Avoid walking at night in most areas of El Salvador. Motorists should avoid traveling at night. Drive with windows up and doors locked to deter robberies. Avoid travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital. Only use radio-dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.

For further information:

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Embassy Messages
Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

Passport must be valid at time of entry

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

No requirement.

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

No, a visa is not required. But you must purchase a tourist card for 10 USD upon arrival. If your U.S. passport shows you were born in El Salvador, you do not need the tourist card.

VACCINATIONS:

None

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

Currency in excess of USD$10,000 must be declared

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

Currency in excess of USD$10,000 must be declared

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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy San Salvador

Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur,
Urbanizacion Santa Elena,
Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telephone: +(503) 2501-2628
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(503) 2501-2999
Fax: +(503) 2278-5522
ACSSanSal@state.gov

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Destination Description

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on El Salvador for information on U.S. - El Salvador Relations.

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Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

You need a passport and either a Salvadoran visa or a one-entry tourist card to enter El Salvador. 

  • You may obtain a tourist card when you arrive at the airport or seaport from immigration officials for a $10 fee. The card is valid for 90 days. 
  • If you plan to remain in El Salvador for more than 90 days, you must apply in advance for a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C. or from one of 17 Salvadoran consulates in the United States.

In June 2006, El Salvador entered into the “Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement” with Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Under that agreement, U.S. citizens who legally enter any of those four countries may travel freely among the other three countries for up to 90 days. If you wish to remain in the CA-4 region longer, you must request a one-time extension from local immigration authorities in the country where you are present. If you are “expelled” from one of the four countries, you are expelled from the entire CA-4 region. 

Minors: A U.S. citizen minor present in El Salvador for more than 180 days is considered a resident of El Salvador. To depart El Salvador, a minor resident needs written consent from any parent not traveling. The process to obtain parental travel consent that is accepted by Salvadoran Immigration can be lengthy. Plan ahead if you intend to have your minor child travel without both parents.

HIV/AIDS Restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any specific HIV/AIDS entry restrictions or regulations for visitors or for foreign residents of El Salvador. Antiretroviral medication with a prescription can be imported for personal use and for the duration of stay. 

Dual Nationality and International Parental Child Abduction: Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. 

Customs: For information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

Volunteers, Mission Groups, and Non-Profits: Groups bringing donated supplies, equipment, and medicine may experience difficulties with customs. To avoid potential problems, clear all donated material with the appropriate office before arriving in El Salvador.

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Safety and Security

The crime threat level in El Salvador is critical and the Travel Warning warns U.S. citizens of the high rates of crime and violence. See below for additional information on crime.

Dial 911 for emergency assistance in El Salvador.

Protests: Demonstrations, sit-ins, and protests may occur at any time or place, but are most frequent in and around the capital San Salvador. Avoid demonstrations. Even peaceful demonstrations may turn violent. Follow local news media reports or contact the U.S. Embassy for up-to-date information. 

Swimming: Strong undertows and currents make swimming at El Salvador's Pacific Coast beaches extremely dangerous even for experienced swimmers. Since 2008, 16 U.S. citizens have drowned while swimming in Salvadoran waters. Lifeguards are not always present at beaches and lakes. In addition, El Salvador’s search and rescue capabilities are limited, and access to medical resources in these areas is inadequate.

Crime: El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world and crimes such as extortion, assault and robbery are common. Since January 2010, 41 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador. During the same time period, 525 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen, while others were victims of violent crimes.

Typical crimes in El Salvador include extortion, mugging, highway assault, home invasion, and car theft. Assaults against police officers are on the rise. Shootouts between rival criminal gangs and between police and criminal gangs are common. Home invasions and/or burglaries of residences during broad daylight occur in affluent residential neighborhoods in San Salvador. Some of these home invasions are committed by individuals posing as deliverymen or as police officers. 

Exercise caution at all times and practice good personal security procedures throughout your stay.  

  • Always travel in groups. 
  • Avoid remote or isolated locations.
  • Avoid displaying or carrying valuables in public places.
  • Do not leave passports and other important documents in private vehicles. 
  • U.S. Embassy personnel are advised not to walk, run, or cycle in the unguarded streets and parks of El Salvador, even in groups. Exercise only in gyms and fitness centers. Do not travel on public transportation, especially buses. Use only radio-dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.
  • Be vigilant while visiting banks or using ATMs. 
  • Remain vigilant even in well-known restaurants, hotels, and retailers within San Salvador. 
  • Credit card cloning and similar fraud is common. Do not let your credit card out of your sight. 

Armed holdups of vehicles traveling on El Salvador's roads are common.

  • Drive with your doors locked and windows raised. 
  • Avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark and on unpaved roads at all times because of criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. 
  • Be aware that criminals may follow travelers from the El Salvador International Airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. 
  • Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars, or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable to crime.

Armed robberies of climbers and hikers in El Salvador’s national parks are common. We strongly recommends that you engage the services of a local guide certified by the national or local tourist authority when hiking in back-country areas and within the national parks. In 2000, the National Civilian Police (PNC) established a special tourist police force (POLITUR) to provide security and assistance to tourists. It has officers located in 19 tourist destinations.

A majority of serious crimes in El Salvador are never solved; only 7 of the 41 murders of U.S. citizens since January 2010 have resulted in convictions. The Government of El Salvador lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases and to deter violent crime.  

El Salvador, a country of roughly six million people, has thousands of known gang members from several gangs including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street (M18). Gang members engage in violence or use deadly force if resisted. These “maras” concentrate on extortion, violent street crime, car-jacking, narcotics and arms trafficking, and murder for hire. Extortion is a very serious and common crime in El Salvador. U.S. citizens who visit El Salvador for extended periods are at higher risk for extortion demands.

Do not purchase counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are counterfeit goods illegal in the United States -- if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.

Victims of Crime: If you or someone you know becomes a victim of crime, report it to the local police by calling 911 and to the U.S. Embassy. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
We can:

  • help you find appropriate medical care
  • guide you on how to report a crime to police
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
  • provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical
  • support in cases of destitution
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

To stay connected:

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Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: While in El Salvador, you are subject to local law. Your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest. Remember your activities are limited by the type of visa you have. If you violate Salvadoran laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in El Salvador are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. 

Some offenses committed overseas can be prosecuted in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see the Department of State  website and the Department of Justice website on crimes against minors abroad.   

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately.

Prison and detention center conditions in El Salvador are harsh and dangerous. Overcrowding constitutes a serious threat to prisoners’ health and lives. In many facilities, provisions for sanitation, potable water, ventilation, temperature control, and lighting are inadequate or nonexistent. 

Guns: You must have a locally obtained license to possess or carry a firearm in El Salvador. Convictions for possessing an unlicensed firearm can carry a prison sentence of three to five years. The Embassy cannot intervene on your behalf.

Disaster Preparedness: Preparation for natural disasters is essential in El Salvador, which has six active volcanoes, and a rainy season that produces severe flooding and mudslides. 

Find information about natural disaster preparedness on the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website. Find information in Spanish about earthquakes (sismos) and other natural disasters in El Salvador on the Government of El Salvador’s web page. Learn more on our Natural Disasters webpage.

Women Traveler Information: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.

LGBTI Rights: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in El Salvador. There is, however, widespread discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, access to health care, and identity documents. Public officials, including the police, have reportedly engaged in violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons. For more detailed information about LGBTI rights in El Salvador, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) travel, please read our LGBTI Travel Information page.

Accessibility: Salvadoran law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. However, the government does not allocate sufficient resources to enforce these prohibitions effectively. There are few access ramps or provisions for the mobility of persons with sight and hearing disabilities.

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Health

Private and public hospitals do not meet U.S. commonly-accepted standards. The Embassy recommends that private hospitals be used only for emergency care to stabilize a condition prior to returning to the United States for definitive evaluation and treatment. Private hospitals and physicians expect up-front payment (cash or, for hospitals, credit card). They do not bill U.S. insurance companies.

The Department of State does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with the government of El Salvador to ensure the medication is legal in El Salvador.  Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

The following diseases are prevalent:

Vaccinations: All routinely recommended immunizations for the U.S. should be up to date. 

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in El Salvador. For further information, please consult the CDC’s information on Tuberculosis.

You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the following websites:

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Travel and Transportation

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
Major highways in El Salvador are among the best in Central America, but road conditions throughout El Salvador are not up to U.S. standards. Even within the city of San Salvador, it is common to see missing manhole covers and large objects in the roadway marking the danger. 

Avoid driving during nighttime hours or periods of low visibility. Mini-buses, regular buses, and taxis are poorly maintained. Drivers are frequently unlicensed and generally do not adhere to traffic rules and regulations. 

Traffic Laws: Drive defensively as traffic laws are not enforced. Passing on blind corners or cutting across several lanes of traffic is commonplace. Two lane traffic circles are common and are especially dangerous to navigate.

If you are in an accident, call the police and do not leave the scene. The law requires all parties involved in a vehicle accident to stay at the scene until the police respond. Hit and run accidents are common. Salvadoran law requires that the driver of a vehicle that injures or kills another person must be arrested and detained until a judge can determine responsibility.

You may drive with a U.S. driver’s license for up to 30 days. After that time, you must obtain a Salvadoran license.

Public Transportation: Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of El Salvador’s national tourist office and the national authority responsible for road safety. Further information on traffic and road conditions is available in Spanish from Automovil Club de El Salvador (ACES).

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of El Salvador’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of El Salvador’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Hague Convention Participation
Party to the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
U.S. Treaty Partner under the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
What You Can Do
Learn how to respond to abductions FROM the US
Learn how to respond to abductions TO the US
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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy San Salvador

Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur,
Urbanizacion Santa Elena,
Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telephone: +(503) 2501-2628
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(503) 2501-2999
Fax: +(503) 2278-5522
ACSSanSal@state.gov

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General Information

El Salvador and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since June 1, 2007.

For information concerning travel to El Salvador, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for El Salvador. 

The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA).  The report is located here.

 

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Hague Abduction Convention

The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention.  In this capacity, the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including El Salvador.  Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority.

Contact information:

U.S. Department of State 
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's
CA/OCS/CI 
SA-17, 9th Floor 
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Telephone:  1-888-407-4747
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
Website:  travel.state.gov

The El Salvadoran Central Authority for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Procuradur's General de la Republica (PGR).  PGR is responsible for carrying out El Salvador's obligations under the Convention and processing Hague Abduction Convention applications.

They can be reached at:

Procuradur's a General de la Republica
Novena Calle Poniente, Torre PGR Centro de Gobierno,  San Salvador
Telephone (switchboard):  +(503) 2231-9346
Website

To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in El Salvador, the left-behind parent must submit a Hague application to the El Salvadoran Central Authority (ECA), either directly to the ECA, or through the U.S. Central Authority (USCA).  The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the PGR, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes. 

There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the United States or El Salvador central authorities.  After the case is filed and accepted with the ECA, the ECA assigns an attorney to represent the Hague Convention application during the Hague judicial process in El Salvador, at no cost.  It is important to note that the attorney does not represent either parent's interests; rather, the attorney represents the Hague Convention application.  However, the parent(s) may be responsible for additional costs, including but not limited to airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.

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Return

A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, El Salvador.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Visitation/Access

A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in El Salvador.  The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Retaining an Attorney

Retaining a private attorney is not required in order to submit Hague Convention applications to a court in El Salvador. The ECA assigns an attorney to represent the Hague Abduction Convention application; the attorney also provides information to the court. While not required, a parent may choose to hire a private attorney to represent his/her interests in the case. If a parent retains a private attorney, the attorney should contact the ECA as soon as possible after the filing of the Hague Abduction Convention application. 

The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador posts list of attorneys including those who specialize in family law.

This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney. The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the persons or firms included in this list. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.

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Mediation

The ECA offers mediation at no cost to either party in Hague abduction cases before they enter the judicial stage.  At the beginning of the judicial stage, the family judge may also seek to mediate a pre-trial solution. Additionally, interested parties may contact the Attorney General's office or municipal authorities in El Salvador to seek their assistance in mediating a pre-trial solution. These various types of pre-trial mediation have resulted in resolutions to cases, including several returns of children to the United States since 2009.

Exercising Custody Rights

While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country.  It is important for parents to understand that, although a left behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located.   For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney when planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent.  Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:

  • Endanger your child and others;
  • Prejudice any future judicial efforts; and
  • Could result in your arrest and imprisonment.

To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney.  

For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney. 

Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.

For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.

Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information

DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. 

 

Hague Convention Participation
Hague Adoption Convention Country?
Yes
Are Intercountry Adoptions between this country and the United States possible?
Is this country a U.S. Hague Partner?
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Hague Convention Information

El Salvador is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Hague countries is done in accordance with the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations, as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of the government of El Salvador. 

In order for an adoption application for an adopted child to meet the Convention requirements, a U.S. consular officer must review the case file and issue an “Article 5 Letter” to the Salvadoran Central Authority beforean adoption is completed. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents are cautioned to carefully follow in order the steps outlined in the “How to Adopt” Section below.

The process for international adoptions in El Salvador can be lengthy and complicated for prospective adoptive parents. The Salvadoran authorities responsible for administering adoptions are still working on effectively transitioning to the Hague process and significant delays in the process are common and should be expected.

It is important to note that U.S. citizens temporarily resident in El Salvador who are considering petitioning for their adoptive child as an immediate relative may be expected to reside in El Salvador for a minimum of three years. This includes the one year of residency mandated by Salvadoran law to adopt domestically, plus the required two years of physical and legal custody of the child in order to file an I-130 petition. If you plan to pursue a local adoption and then file the I-130, please contact the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador as soon as possible for more information. Please note that although the competent authority responsible for placing children in foster care may grant you permission to reside with and care for your prospective adoptive child, this may not constitute legal custody; taking the child outside of El Salvador during the adoption process is generally not permitted.

Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Read about Transition Cases.

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS

To bring an adopted child to the United States from El Salvador, you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines who can adopt under U.S. immigration law. 

Additionally, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee under U.S. law in order to immigrate to the United States on an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.

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Who Can Adopt

In addition to the U.S. requirements, El Salvador obliges prospective adoptive parents to meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from El Salvador:

  • Residency: Under Article 176 of the Salvadoran Family Code, adoptive parents who reside in El Salvador and who wish to adopt a child not related to them must reside with the child in El Salvador for at least one year prior to the finalization of the adoption. To satisfy this requirement, the adoptive parent(s) must be appointed the foster parent(s) or guardian(s) of the child, subject to approval by the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA), and prior to the start of the one-year co-residency period. Prospective adoptive parents who claim a residence other than El Salvador are exempt from the one-year cohabitation requirement. 
  • Age of Adopting Parents: Prospective adoptive parents must be at least 15 years older than the child.
  • Marriage: Single individuals may adopt in El Salvador if they are at least 25 years old and at least 15 years older than the child to be adopted. Married couples must both be over the age of 25, unless the marriage is at least five years old, in which case the requirement applies only to one spouse. The Salvadoran family code provides that only legally married couples may adopt as a couple in El Salvador; same-sex marriages are not recognized under Salvadoran law. 
  • Income: Prospective adoptive parents must demonstrate that they are financially, morally, mentally, and physically able to provide for the adopted child. 
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Who Can Be Adopted

Because El Salvador is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from El Salvador must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of El Salvador have determined that placement of the child within El Salvador has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests. In addition to El Salvador’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee under U.S. law to be eligible for an immigrant visa that will allow you to bring him or her to the United States.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS:

  • Relinquishment: Salvadoran law states that a child less than 18 years of age may be eligible for international adoption if the child is abandoned or orphaned and a family court determines that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Salvadoran law also permits the adoption of a child more than 18 who is under the care of a parent or relative if a court determines the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
  • Abandonment: According to Salvadoran family code, a child is abandoned if the biological parents are no longer providing care for their child. This definition is very broad and can include parents that are incarcerated or who left their children in the care of other family members. In most cases, however, the parental rights are still intact and the legal relinquishment or revocation of parental rights does not occur until after the child has been matched with a family for adoption. This is one of the lengthiest and most complex steps in the Salvadoran adoption process. Prospective adoptive parents should not assume that the legal relinquishment of parental rights has occurred prior to being matched with a child.
  • Age of Adoptive Child: Although Salvadoran law permits adoptions of children over the age of 18 in certain cases, prospective adoptive parents should bear in mind that foreign adoptions of children over 16 years of age are not valid for immigration purposes for the United States, except for specific cases of sibling adoptions. 
  • Sibling Adoptions: The Salvadoran Central Authority makes an effort to keep biological siblings together whenever possible. If the children are abandoned in different municipalities, however, biological siblings may be adopted by different families without the Central Authority’s knowledge.
  • Special Needs or Medical Conditions: The adoption of children with special needs is a top priority for the Salvadoran Central Authority. Prospective adoptive parents must pass a suitability review to ensure they are able to care for a child with special needs.
  • Waiting Period or Foster Care: Foreign adoptive parents must formally adopt Salvadoran children in El Salvador, in accordance with Salvadoran laws and procedures, before taking the children out of the country to live. Prospective adoptive parents who reside in El Salvador and who wish to adopt a child who is not related to them must first be appointed the foster parent or guardian of the child, and be prepared to reside with the child in El Salvador for at least one year prior to the finalization of the adoption.
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How to Adopt

WARNING: El Salvador is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in El Salvador before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter” in the case.  Read on for more information.

Salvadoran Adoption Authority 

El Salvador has officially designated two entities as its Central Adoption Authority: the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR or Public Defender’s Office) and the Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia (ISNA or Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents). The Oficina Para Adopciones(Office of Adoptions, or OPA) is the office within the PGR that coordinates and oversees adoptions in El Salvador. Other Salvadoran governmental bodies are also involved in the adoption process. These include the Family Courts, the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONNA) and the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA). 

Note: If any of the following occurred prior to April 1, 2008 (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force with respect to the United States), the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption: 1) you filed a Form I-600A identifying El Salvador as the country where you intended to adopt; 2) you filed a Form I-600; or, 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s visa application could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions.  For more information, read about Transition Cases. Similarly, if the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force in El Salvador after April 1, 2008, and you have an approved, unexpired Form I-600A or filed a Form I-600 before the entry into force date in El Salvador, your adoption may be considered a transition case. Please contact adoptionusca@state.gov with the details of the case if this situation applies to you. 

The Process

Because El Salvador is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from El Salvador must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements. Adoptions completed out of order may not confer immigration benefits on the adopted child (i.e. it is possible the child would not qualify for an immigrant visa if adopted out of order).

  1. Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider
  2. Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt
  3. Be matched with a child by authorities in El Salvador
  4. Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption
  5. Adopt the child in El Salvador
  6. Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home
  1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider

    The recommended first step in adopting a child from El Salvador is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide services to U.S. citizens in Convention cases. Only accredited or approved adoption services providers may provide adoption services between the United States and El Salvador. The U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider will act as the primary provider in your case. The primary adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services in the case are done in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. laws and regulations. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.

    In addition, the adoption service provider must also be authorized by El Salvador’s designated Central Authority for Adoptions, OPA. Prospective adoptive parents interested in adopting from El Salvador should contact OPA for up-to-date information prior to initiating a new adoption process. The following U.S. Hague-accredited adoption service providers have been authorized to provide services in El Salvador: The Open Door Adoption Agency, America World Adoptions, All Blessings/Kentucky Adoption Services, Villa Hope, Inc., Christian Adoption Services, Inc., Adoption Hope International, Inc., Madison Adoption Associates, and Illien Adoptions International, Inc. Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services.

  2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt

    After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt by the responsible U.S. government agency, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by submitting Form I-800A.  Read more about Eligibility Requirements.

    Once USCIS determines that you are eligible and suited to adopt by approving the Form I-800A, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the adoption authority in El Salvador as part of your adoption dossier. El Salvador’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under El Salvador’s law. 

  3. Be Matched with a Child by in El Salvador

    If both the United States and El Salvador determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the central authority for Convention adoptions has determined that a child is available for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the central authority for Convention adoptions in El Salvador may provide you with a referral for a child. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of a specific child in El Salvador. The adoption authority in El Salvador will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs and provide a permanent home for a particular child. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the adoption authority in El Salvador. Learn more about this critical decision.

    The Supreme Court of El Salvador prohibits granting of guardianships to prospective adoptive parents for the purpose of allowing children to leave El Salvador for subsequent adoption abroad. ISNA investigates the circumstances of an orphaned or neglected child’s family and seeks to find a close relative who may be willing to care for the child. Once satisfied that intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interest, ISNA determines which prospective adoptive parents are suitable matches for the child. OPA is responsible for coordinating with ISNA when a child is matched with prospective adoptive parents. 

  4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption

    After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States (Form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child meets the definition of a Convention Adoptee and will be eligible to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant. 

    After provisional approval of Form I-800, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from El Salvador. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities. 

    WARNING: The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the Salvadoran Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from El Salvador where all Convention requirements are met and the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform the Salvadoran’s Central Authority that the parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that all indications are that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.

    Do not attempt to adopt or obtain custody of a child in El Salvador before a U.S. consular officer issues the Article 5 Letter in any adoption case.

    Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.

  5. Adopt a Child in El Salvador

    Remember: Before you adopt a child in El Salvador, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption in El Salvador.

    The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in El Salvador generally includes the following:

    • Role of Adoption Authority: OPA will review the adoption documents to ensure they are complete. Due to the complexity of the Salvadoran adoption process, the authority may not inform prospective adoptive parents in a timely manner that their case has missing, incomplete, or incorrect documentation. This can cause additional delays. The U.S. Embassy recommends calling, emailing or visiting OPA on a regular basis during the process.
    • Role of the Court: The Salvadoran family court will issue a final adoption decree that adoptive parents will need to obtain the child’s new birth certificate and passport with the child’s new surname. The time to obtain new civil documents varies in different parts of the country and can take anywhere from 24 hours to two weeks depending on the judge. The court is also responsible for the legal relinquishment or revocation of parental rights; and in some cases, this does not occur until after the child has been matched with a family for adoption. This is one of the lengthiest and most complex steps in the Salvadoran adoption process.
    • Role of the Adoption Agencies: The adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that home studies are completed and for assisting prospective adoptive parents with providing required documentation to the Salvadoran government, including the family court judges. The adoption service provider should also regularly communicate with the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section to ensure consistency with the Hague process.
    • Time Frame: Salvadoran adoption procedures can take 18 to 36 months to complete, but have often taken much longer. This does not include the time necessary for the U.S. Embassy to complete its own investigation, as required by immigration regulations. Because adoption fraud in El Salvador has taken a variety of forms, an investigation of each adoption is necessary to ensure that the child is an orphan, as defined by U.S. immigration law, and that the birth mother is aware that the child is being adopted irrevocably and will be taken from the country. Investigation times vary depending on the complexity of each case.
    • Adoption Application: Filing an adoption application can be done by visiting OPA in San Salvador or by sending a legal representative to submit your documentation. The prospective adoptive parents should be prepared to travel to El Salvador regularly as personal appearances will be required throughout the adoption process. 
    • Adoption Fees: The Salvadoran Central Authority currently does not charge any fees for their administrative services. Prospective adoptive parents may choose to retain a Salvadoran attorney to assist with an adoption and will be charged for those services by the attorney. We advise prospective adoptive parents to discuss options with their adoption service provider.

      In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.  

      Some of the fees specifically associated with adopting from El Salvador include:

      • Salvadoran Attorney's Fee – Typically $3,000-$10,000
      • Medical Exam for the Child – Costs generally may run between $250-$600 (includes vaccinations for all children; includes x-rays for children between 14-16)
      • U.S. Immigrant Visa - $230
      • Salvadoran passport fee - $25
      • Photos for U.S. Immigrant Visa - $5 (for two photos)
      • Hotel stay for one night, two adults at the Hilton Princess, Sheraton Presidente, or Marriott Courtyard Hotel (please confirm prices if you book a room) - $130-170

      The State Department discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted. "Donations" or "expediting" fees, which may be requested from prospective adoptive parents, have the appearance of "buying" a child and put all future adoptions in El Salvador at risk.

    • Documents Required: Each of the U.S. documents listed here must be either authenticated at a Salvadoran Embassy, or a Salvadoran Consulate, or apostilled by the competent authority of the adopting parents’ country (see below). U.S. documents listed below must also be translated into Spanish by an individual appointed for that purpose by a Salvadoran notary public.
      • Certified birth certificate for the adopting parents
      • Certified marriage certificate, if applicable
      • Police clearance from the adopting parents’ municipality
      • Financial statements
      • Home study certification
      • Health certificate for the adopting parents
      • Certification stating that the adopting parents meet the legal requirements of their home State to adopt and that the State will monitor the welfare of the child after adoption
      • Statement regarding who will care for the adopted child in the absence of the adoptive parents due to illness, disability or death
      • Certified copies of the adopting parents’ passports
      • Certified copies of birth and health certificates for any other biological or adopted children in the family
      • Photographs of the exterior and interior of the adopting parents’ home
      • Photocopy of the identity card and certified birth certificate of the Salvadoran attorney
      • Health certificate for the child to be adopted
      • Photographs of the adopting parents, adopted child, and attorney
      • Power of attorney for a specified Salvadoran attorney to represent the adopting parents, which must be executed before a Salvadoran notary public or by Salvadoran Consul at a Salvadoran Embassy or Consulate. This power of attorney must specifically authorize the attorney to perform all necessary steps in the adoption process from beginning to end before the Public Defender’s Office (PGR) and the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA). 

      The designated Salvadoran lawyer must present two files of all the documentation (one with originals, and the other with certified copies). If the files exceed two hundred pages, both files must be divided in halves with a closing and opening statement from the notary attached to the divided files. The Salvadoran attorney must comply with the requirements stipulated in Article 42 of the Salvadoran Family Code of Proceedings.

      Note: Additional documents may be requested.

      • Authentication of Documents: The United States and El Salvador are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention. U.S. public documents may be authenticated with Apostilles by the appropriate U.S. Competent Authority
  6. Obtain an Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring Your Child Home

    Now that your adoption is complete, there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:

    Birth Certificate

    If you have finalized the adoption in El Salvador, you will firstneed to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport. 

    Once the court issues a final adoption decree, municipal authorities will cancel the original birth certificate and issue a new birth certificate naming the adoptive parents as the child’s parents and showing the change to the child’s name. The new birth certificate becomes part of the record kept at the Alcaldia (City Hall).

    How to obtain a new birth certificate for the child in El Salvador

    Birth certificates are issued by the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) of the city or village where the adoption was finalized. Requests should be addressed to "Alcaldia Municipal de Registro Civil (name of city or village)”. The average cost of registering a child and obtaining a birth certificate is $6.

    Salvadoran Passport

    Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from El Salvador.

    How to obtain a Passport for the child in El Salvador

    Passports are issued by the Department of Migration (Direccion General de Migracion y Extranjeria - DGME).  Adoptive parents can apply for their child’s passport by submitting the final adoption decree and newly issued birth certificate at the DGME office closest to where the adoption was finalized. The cost for this service is $25.  For office locations, please visit http://www.migracion.gob.sv/

    U.S. Immigrant Visa

    After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to finalize your application for a U.S. visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador. After the adoption is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Declaration of Grant of Custody, final approval of the child’s I-800 petition, and to obtain your child’s visa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the consular officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination.

    Note: Prior to making an immigrant visa appointment, adoptive parents must submit their completed packet for review by the U.S. Embassy. Upon receipt of the packet, the U.S. Embassy will provide a list of panel physicians who will conduct the necessary medical exam of the child or children in question. The Embassy will contact the adoptive parent(s) to schedule an interview date after receiving the medical results from the panel physician.      

    Since each case is different, it is possible that the Embassy will request additional documents after a preliminary review of the application and documents submitted by the prospective adoptive parent(s). For processing the child’s immigrant visa application, the following original documents are necessary:

    • Child’s original birth certificate with the name of the biological mother
    • Child’s new birth certificate with the child’s new name and name of adoptive parents
    • Final court decree of adoption and supporting documents
    • Decree from OPA
    • Decree from the PGR
    • Decree from ISNA
    • Article 23 Letter (issued by OPA)
    • Certified document in writing by all known parents irrevocably and unconditionally releasing the child for adoption and emigration
    • Power of attorney designating the Salvadoran lawyer to represent the adoptive parents
    • Form  I-800
    • Form DS-260 Part I and Part II
    • Medical Exam Form DS-157
    • Child’s Salvadoran passport with the adoptive parents’ last name
    • Two front face photos, 2”x2”, against a white background
    • Adoptive parents’ most recent income tax forms
    • Visa fee: $404

    CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT

    For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

    For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship. 

    *Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting. 

    Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

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Traveling Abroad

Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.

Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.

Obtaining a Visa to Travel to El Salvador
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are afixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for El Salvador see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.

Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.

Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to enroll with the Department of State. Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in El Salvador, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.

Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

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After Adoption

Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements

El Salvador requires post-adoption reports. The Oficina Para Adopciones is required by law to follow up on the adoptee’s situation through the Central Authority or accredited body every four months for a period of three years after the adoption is finalized. We strongly urge you to comply with El Salvador’s post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to that country’s history of positive experiences with American parents.

Post-Adoption Resources

Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services. 

Here are some places to start your support group search:

Note:  Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents. 

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Contact Information

U.S. Embassy in El Salvador
Final Boulevard y Urb. Santa Elena
Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad
Tel. (outside the El Salvador): 011+503-2501-2999; within El Salvador: 2501-2999
Fax: (503) 2278-6020
E-mail: AdoptSanSal@state.gov
Internet: sv.usembassy.gov

El Salvador’s Adoption Authority
Oficina Para Adopciones
Coordinador OPA
Procuraduría General de la República
9ª. Calle Poniente y 13 Ave. Norte, Torre PGR,
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador
Tel: (503) 2231-9418 - 2231-9424 or 2231-9412
Email:adopcionespgr.gob@hotmail.com
Internet: pgr.gob.sv/ado.html

Embassy of El Salvador
1400 16th Street, Suite 100, N.W.
Washington, D.C, 20036
Tel: (202) 595-7500
Fax: (202) 232 3763
Email: correo@elsalvador.org

*El Salvador also has consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Elizabeth (NJ), Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Santa Ana (CA), Woodbridge (VA), Duluth (GA), Miami, New York, Long Island (NY), Nogales (AZ), San Francisco, and Washington, DC.  Contact information for these consulates can be found at the web site listed above.

Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State  
CA/OCS/CI  
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Tel:  1-888-407-4747
Email:  AdoptionUSCA@state.gov    
Internet:  adoption.state.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures:
National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel:  1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
Internet: uscis.gov

For questions about filing a Form I-600A or I-600 petition:
National Benefits Center
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)
Email:  NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov

Reciprocity Schedule

Select a visa category below to find the visa issuance fee, number of entries, and validity period for visas issued to applicants from this country*/area of authority.

Explanation of Terms

Visa Classification: The type of nonimmigrant visa you are applying for.

Fee: The reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, you must pay. This fee is in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee).

Number of Entries: The number of times you may seek entry into the United States with that visa. "M" means multiple times. If there is a number, such as "One", you may apply for entry one time with that visa.

Validity Period: This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued.

Visa Classifications
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
Visa
Classification
Fee Number
of Entries
Validity
Period
A-1 None Multiple 60 Months
A-2 None Multiple 60 Months
A-3 1 None Multiple 24 Months
B-1 None Multiple 120 Months
B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
B-1/B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
C-1 None Multiple 60 Months
C-1/D None Multiple 60 Months
C-2 None Multiple 12 Months
C-3 None Multiple 60 Months
CW-1 11 None Multiple 12 Months
CW-2 11 None Multiple 12 Months
D None Multiple 60 Months
E-1 2 No Treaty N/A N/A
E-2 2 No Treaty N/A N/A
E-2C 12 None Multiple 24 Months
F-1 None Multiple 60 Months
F-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-1 None Multiple 60 Months
G-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-3 None One 12 Months
G-4 None Multiple 60 Months
G-5 1 None Multiple 24 Months
H-1B None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-1C None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2A None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2B None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2R None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-4 None Multiple 60 Months 3
I None Multiple 60 Months
J-1 4 None Multiple 60 Months
J-2 4 None Multiple 60 Months
K-1 None One 6 Months
K-2 None One 6 Months
K-3 None Multiple 24 Months
K-4 None Multiple 24 Months
L-1 None Multiple 60 Months
L-2 None Multiple 60 Months
M-1 None Multiple 60 Months
M-2 None Multiple 60 Months
N-8 None Multiple 60 Months
N-9 None Multiple 60 Months
NATO 1-7 N/A N/A N/A
O-1 None Multiple 60 Months 3
O-2 None Multiple 60 Months 3
O-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-1 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-2 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-4 None Multiple 60 Months 3
Q-1 6 None Multiple 15 Months 3
R-1 None Multiple 60 Months
R-2 None Multiple 60 Months
S-5 7 None One 1 Month
S-6 7 None One 1 Month
S-7 7 None One 1 Month
T-1 9 N/A N/A N/A
T-2 None One 6 Months
T-3 None One 6 Months
T-4 None One 6 Months
T-5 None One 6 Months
T-6 None One 6 Months
TD 5 N/A N/A N/A
U-1 None Multiple 48 Months
U-2 None Multiple 48 Months
U-3 None Multiple 48 Months
U-4 None Multiple 48 Months
U-5 None Multiple 48 Months
V-1 None Multiple 120 Months
V-2 None Multiple 120 Months 8
V-3 None Multiple 120 Months 8
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Country Specific Footnotes

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

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Visa Category Footnotes
  1. The validity of A-3, G-5, and NATO 7 visas may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the person who is employing the applicant. The "employer" would have one of the following visa classifications:

    • A-1
    • A-2
    • G-1 through G-4
    • NATO 1 through NATO 6

  2. An E-1 and E-2 visa may be issued only to a principal alien who is a national of a country having a treaty, or its equivalent, with the United States. E-1 and E-2 visas may not be issued to a principal alien if he/she is a stateless resident. The spouse and children of an E-1 or E-2 principal alien are accorded derivative E-1 or E-2 status following the reciprocity schedule, including any reciprocity fees, of the principle alien’s country of nationality.  

    Example: John Doe is a national of the country of Z that has an E-1/E-2 treaty with the U.S. His wife and child are nationals of the country of Y which has no treaty with the U.S. The wife and child would, therefore, be entitled to derivative status and receive the same reciprocity as Mr. Doe, the principal visa holder.  

  3. The validity of H-1 through H-3, O-1 and O-2, P-1 through P-3, and Q visas may not exceed the period of validity of the approved petition or the number of months shown, whichever is less.

    Under 8 CFR §214.2, H-2A and H-2B petitions may generally only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as participating countries. The current list of eligible countries is available on USCIS's website for both H-2A and H-2B visas. Nationals of countries not on this list may be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A or H2-B petition in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security if specifically named on the petition.  

    Derivative H-4, L-2, O-3, and P-4 visas, issued to accompanying or following-to-join spouses and children, may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the principal alien.

  4. There is no reciprocity fee for the issuance of a J visa if the alien is a United States Government grantee or a participant in an exchange program sponsored by the United States Government.

    Also, there is no reciprocity fee for visa issuance to an accompanying or following-to-join spouse or child (J-2) of an exchange visitor grantee or participant.

    In addition, an applicant is eligible for an exemption from the MRV fee if he or she is participating in a State Department, USAID, or other federally funded educational and cultural exchange program (program serial numbers G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-7).

    However, all other applicants with U.S. Government sponsorships, including other J-visa applicants, are subject to the MRV processing fee.

  5. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian and Mexican nationals coming to engage in certain types of professional employment in the United States may be admitted in a special nonimmigrant category known as the "trade NAFTA" or "TN" category. Their dependents (spouse and children) accompanying or following to join them may be admitted in the "trade dependent" or "TD" category whether or not they possess Canadian or Mexican nationality. Except as noted below, the number of entries, fees and validity for non-Canadian or non-Mexican family members of a TN status holder seeking TD visas should be based on the reciprocity schedule of the TN principal alien.

    Canadian Nationals

    Since Canadian nationals generally are exempt from visa requirement, a Canadian "TN' or "TD" alien does not require a visa to enter the United States. However, the non-Canadian national dependent of a Canadian "TN", unless otherwise exempt from the visa requirement, must obtain a "TD" visa before attempting to enter the United States. The standard reciprocity fee and validity period for all non-Canadian "TD"s is no fee, issued for multiple entries for a period of 36 months, or for the duration of the principal alien's visa and/or authorized period of stay, whichever is less. See 'NOTE' under Canadian reciprocity schedule regarding applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality.

    Mexican Nationals

    Mexican nationals are not visa-exempt. Therefore, all Mexican "TN"s and both Mexican and non-Mexican national "TD"s accompanying or following to join them who are not otherwise exempt from the visa requirement (e.g., the Canadian spouse of a Mexican national "TN") must obtain nonimmigrant visas.

    Applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality, who have a permanent resident or refugee status in Canada/Mexico, may not be accorded Canadian/Mexican reciprocity, even when applying in Canada/Mexico. The reciprocity fee and period for "TD" applicants from Libya is $10.00 for one entry over a period of 3 months. The Iranian and Iraqi "TD" is no fee with one entry over a period of 3 months.

  6. Q-2 (principal) and Q-3 (dependent) visa categories are in existence as a result of the 'Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998'. However, because the Department anticipates that virtually all applicants for this special program will be either Irish or U.K. nationals, the Q-2 and Q-3 categories have been placed only in the reciprocity schedules for those two countries. Q-2 and Q-3 visas are available only at the Embassy in Dublin and the Consulate General in Belfast.

  7. No S visa may be issued without first obtaining the Department's authorization.

  8. V-2 and V-3 status is limited to persons who have not yet attained their 21st birthday. Accordingly, the period of validity of a V-2 or V-3 visa must be limited to expire on or before the applicant's twenty-first birthday.

  9. Posts may not issue a T-1 visa. A T-1 applicant must be physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or a U.S. port of entry, where he/she will apply for an adjustment of status to that of a T-1. The following dependents of a T-1 visa holder, however, may be issued a T visa at a U.S. consular office abroad:

    • T-2 (spouse)
    • T-3 (child)
    • T-4 (parent)
  10. The validity of NATO-5 visas may not exceed the period of validity of the employment contract or 12 months, whichever is less.

  11. The validity of CW-1 and CW-2 visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (12 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

  12. The validity of E-2C visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (24 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

 

 

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General Documents

Please check back for update.

Birth, Death, Burial Certificates

Birth Certificates

Available

Fees:  The fee varies depending on the region but the price range is from USD $3 to 5.

Document Name:  Birth Certificate (Partida de Nacimiento)

Issuing Authority: Family Registry (Registro del Estado Familiar) of the city or village where the birth took place.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Round seal of the City Hall to which the Registry belongs with the shield of El Salvador.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Usually issued by the Head of the Family State Registry  (Jefe del Registro del Estado Familiar) or a delegate

Registration Criteria:  The applicant should submit his/her full name, date of birth, and names of parents to the appropriate Civil Registry. Requests should be addressed to the Head of the Family State Registry of the city or village

Procedure for Obtaining: Verbal or written request should be addressed to the "Jefe del Registro del Estado Familiar” (name of city or village).

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available

Alternate Documents: There are no alternate documents

Exceptions:  None

Comments:  In El Salvador, Birth Certificates are annotated with every change in marital status. These annotations DO NOT replace the certificate of the registry that originated them.


Death Certificates

 

Available

Fees:  The fee varies depending on the region but the price range is from USD $3 to 5.

Document Name:  Death Certificate (Partida de Defunción)

Issuing Authority: Civil Registry (Family Registry) of the city or village where the death occurred or where the deceased lived.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Usually issued by the head of the family state registry  (Jefe del Registro del Estado Familiar) or a delegate

Registration Criteria:  Full names of persons involved and date of event must be included in request.

Procedure for Obtaining:  Through a verbal or written request to the Civil Registry where the Death was registered.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available

Alternate Documents: Extracts from civil records may be typed on stamped paper (papel sellado) or may consist of photocopies of registry books. Either type of extract should be signed by Civil Registry official (Jefe Del Registro del Estado Familiar) and should bear the rubber stamp seal of that office.

Exceptions:  None

Comments:  None

Marriage, Divorce Certificates

Marriage Certificates
 

Available

Fees: The fee varies depending on the region but the price range is from USD $3 to 5.

Document Name: Marriage Certificate (Partida De Matrimonio)

Issuing Authority:  Civil Registry (Family Registry) of the city or village where the marriage took place.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Round seal of the City Hall to which the Registry belongs with the shield of El Salvador.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Usually issued by the head of the family state registry (Jefe Del Registro del Estado Familiar) or a delegate.

Registration Criteria:  Full names of persons involved and date of event must be included in request.

Procedure for Obtaining:  Through a verbal or written request to the Civil Registry where the Marriage occurred.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available

Alternate Documents:  There are no alternate documents

Exceptions: None

Comments: Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in El Salvador. Religious weddings are not considered legal in El Salvador; therefore, church marriage certificates should not be accepted. Also, El Salvador has two different marriage documents. An "ACTA MATRIMONIAL" is the equivalent of a marriage license and does not constitute marriage.

 

Divorce Certificates
 

Available

Fees: The fee varies depending on the region but the price range is from USD $3 to 5.

Document Name: Divorce Certificate (Partida de Divorcio)

Issuing Authority: Civil Registry (Family Registry) of the city or village where the marriage was registered.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Round seal of the City Hall to which the Registry belongs with the shield of El Salvador.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Usually issued by the head of the family state registry  (Jefe del Registro del Estado Familiar) or a delegate

Registration Criteria:  Full names of persons involved and date of event must be included in request.

Procedure for Obtaining:  Through a verbal or written request to the Civil Registry where the marriage occurred.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available

Alternate Documents: Extracts from civil records may be typed on stamped paper (papel sellado) or may consist of photocopies of registry books. Either type of extract should be signed by Civil Registry official (Jefe Del Registro del Estado Familiar) and should bear the rubber stamp seal of that office.

Exceptions: None

Comments:  The divorce certificates are registered through the notification from the court that decreed the divorce. They also send notifications to the Civil Registry where the birth certificate was registered so it can be annotated with the divorce. 

Adoption Certificates

Available

Comments: In El Salvador, after an Adoption has occurred a new birth certificate is registered with the name of the new parents without adding anything that shows that the birth certificate was originated through an adoption process.  The old birth certificate is cancelled and can only be requested with a court order.  

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Identity Card

Available

Document Name: The National ID card of El Salvador is called DUI (Documento Único de Identidad)

Issuing Authority: National registry of natural persons (Registro Nacional de las Personas Naturales)

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: National Registrar of Persons  (Registrador Nacional de Personas Naturales)

Procedure for Obtaining: Applicant must apply in person to one of the Bureaus of the National Registry of Natural persons. If it is the first time, they must bring their birth certificate.

Police, Court, Prison Records

Police Certificates

Available

Fees:  USD $3.50

Document Name: Police Certificate (Solvencia de la Policía Nacional Civil)

Issuing Authority: National Civilian Police's (PNC) Department of Certifications (Departamento de Solvencias).  

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The certificate includes a photo of the subject and the signature of the Chief of the Department of Certifications.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:  Jefe de la Unidad de Registro y Antecedentes Policiales

Registration Criteria: There is no registration criteria.

Procedure for Obtaining:  The applicant must apply in person at the PNC's Departamento de Solvencias. The applicant must bring his/her original Documento Unico de Identidad (DUI) and a photocopy of the DUI. The applicant must be 18 years or older in order to receive a police certificate.

Certified Copies Available:  No.  The U.S. Embassy does not accept certified copies of this document.

Alternate Documents: There are no alternate documents

Exceptions: None

Comments: It is important to note that individuals cannot currently obtain records of their criminal histories from the Department of Certifications. Visa applicants with prior arrests in El Salvador are responsible for returning to the police department where they were detained or the court where their trial was held in order to obtain arrest and court records that are required for their visa interview.

 

Court Records
 

Unavailable

 

Prison Records
 

Available

Fees: USD $3.00

Document Name:  Certificate of Criminal Records (Constancia de Antecedentes Penales  o Certificado de Antecedentes Penales)

Issuing Authority: General Directorate of Criminal Records (Dirección General de Centros Penales)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Round seal of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security to which the Registry belongs with the shield of El Salvador.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:   Head of Arms Registration Branch (Encargado de Sucursal de Registro de Armas).

Registration Criteria: N/A

Procedure for Obtaining:  Through a verbal or written request to the nearest branch office.  

Certified Copies Available: No.  The U.S. Embassy does not accept certified copies of this document.

Alternate Documents: N/A

Exceptions: N/A

Comments: This document is valid for a period of 90 days after its issue.

Military Records

Available: In El Salvador, Military records are not requested because the military service is not mandatory.

Fees:  There are no fees

Document Name:  Discharge certificate

Issuing Authority: Personnel office of the general staff of the appropriate service.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:  There are no special seals, color or format.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: There is no specific issuing authority personnel title.

Registration Criteria: There is no registration criteria

Procedure for Obtaining:  There are no procedures for obtaining.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are not available.

Alternate Documents: There are no alternate documents

Exceptions: None

Comments:  Military Service is not mandatory in El Salvador. While records are available by contacting the personnel officer of the general staff of the appropriate military service, they are NOT required for immigrant visa processing

Passports & Other Travel Documents

Types Available:  Diplomatic, Regular

Fees:

  • Diplomatic-N/A
  • Regular: USD $25.00

Document Name:  

  • Diplomatic Passport
  • Regular-Pasaporte

Issuing Government Authority:

  • Diplomatic-Foreign Ministry
  • Regular- General Directorate of Migration and Foreign (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjeria, DGME)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:

  • Diplomatic: The documents have black cover.
  • Regular: The documents have dark blue covers with the image of Central America at the font.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:

  • Diplomatic: Dirección General de Protocolo y Ordenes Del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores.
  • Regular: Migration Bureau

Registration Criteria:

  • Diplomatic: There is no registration criteria.
  • Regular:  There is no registration criteria.

Procedure for Obtaining:  

  • Diplomatic: There are no procedures for obtaining.
  • Regular: The applicant must apply in person at the Migration Bureau. The applicant must bring his/her original Documento Unico de Identidad (DUI) and a photocopy of the DUI.

Alternate Documents:

  • Diplomatic: There are no alternate documents
  • Regular: There are no alternate documents

Exceptions:

  • Diplomatic: None
  • Regular: None

Comments:

  • Diplomatic: There is no registration criteria.
  • Regular: The applicant must apply in person at the Migration Bureau. The applicant must bring his/her original Documento Unico de Identidad (DUI) and a photocopy of the DUI.

Other Documents Available:  

  • Diplomatic: There are no other documents available.
  • Regular: There are no other documents available.
Other Records

Not applicable.

Visa Issuing Posts

San Salvador, El Salvador (Embassy)

APO AA 34023-3114

Visa Services

All visa categories for all of El Salvador.

Foreign Consular Office Contact Information

Washington, DC (202) 595-7500 (202) 337-4032

Atlanta, GA (770) 591-4140 (770) 591-4160

Boston, MA (617) 567-8338 (617) 567-8686

Brentwood, Long Island, NY (631) 273-1355 (631) 273-2256 (631) 273-2430

Chicago, IL (312) 332-1393 (312) 578-5390 (312) 332-4446

Dallas, TX (214) 637-1500 (214) 637-1501 (214) 637-1511 (214) 637-1106

Elizabeth, NJ (908) 820-0766 (908) 820-0866

Kansas City, MO (816) 941-6648

Las Vegas, NV (702) 437-5337 (702) 437-5339 (702) 437-5340 (702) 437-5336

Los Angeles, CA (213) 383-8364 (213) 383-5776 (213) 383-8580

Miami, FL (305) 592-6978 (305) 592-6981

New York, NY (212) 889-3608 (212) 679-2835

San Francisco, CA (415) 771-8524 (415) 771-8530 (415) 771-8531 (415) 771-8522

Seattle, WA (206) 971-7950

Tampa, FL (727) 460-3937

Woodbridge, VA (703) 490-4300 extensions 114 and 110(703) 490-4463

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy San Salvador
Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur,
Urbanizacion Santa Elena,
Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telephone
+(503) 2501-2628
Emergency
+(503) 2278-5522
Fax
+(503) 2278-5522
El Salvador Country Map

Learn about your destination
Additional Information for Reciprocity

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

Country Information

El Salvador
Republic of El Salvador
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Embassy Messages
Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

Passport must be valid at time of entry

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

No requirement.

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

No, a visa is not required. But you must purchase a tourist card for 10 USD upon arrival. If your U.S. passport shows you were born in El Salvador, you do not need the tourist card.

VACCINATIONS:

None

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

Currency in excess of USD$10,000 must be declared

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

Currency in excess of USD$10,000 must be declared

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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy San Salvador

Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur,
Urbanizacion Santa Elena,
Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telephone: +(503) 2501-2628
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(503) 2501-2999
Fax: +(503) 2278-5522
ACSSanSal@state.gov

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Destination Description

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on El Salvador for information on U.S. - El Salvador Relations.

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Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

You need a passport and either a Salvadoran visa or a one-entry tourist card to enter El Salvador. 

  • You may obtain a tourist card when you arrive at the airport or seaport from immigration officials for a $10 fee. The card is valid for 90 days. 
  • If you plan to remain in El Salvador for more than 90 days, you must apply in advance for a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C. or from one of 17 Salvadoran consulates in the United States.

In June 2006, El Salvador entered into the “Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement” with Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Under that agreement, U.S. citizens who legally enter any of those four countries may travel freely among the other three countries for up to 90 days. If you wish to remain in the CA-4 region longer, you must request a one-time extension from local immigration authorities in the country where you are present. If you are “expelled” from one of the four countries, you are expelled from the entire CA-4 region. 

Minors: A U.S. citizen minor present in El Salvador for more than 180 days is considered a resident of El Salvador. To depart El Salvador, a minor resident needs written consent from any parent not traveling. The process to obtain parental travel consent that is accepted by Salvadoran Immigration can be lengthy. Plan ahead if you intend to have your minor child travel without both parents.

HIV/AIDS Restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any specific HIV/AIDS entry restrictions or regulations for visitors or for foreign residents of El Salvador. Antiretroviral medication with a prescription can be imported for personal use and for the duration of stay. 

Dual Nationality and International Parental Child Abduction: Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. 

Customs: For information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

Volunteers, Mission Groups, and Non-Profits: Groups bringing donated supplies, equipment, and medicine may experience difficulties with customs. To avoid potential problems, clear all donated material with the appropriate office before arriving in El Salvador.

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Safety and Security

The crime threat level in El Salvador is critical and the Travel Warning warns U.S. citizens of the high rates of crime and violence. See below for additional information on crime.

Dial 911 for emergency assistance in El Salvador.

Protests: Demonstrations, sit-ins, and protests may occur at any time or place, but are most frequent in and around the capital San Salvador. Avoid demonstrations. Even peaceful demonstrations may turn violent. Follow local news media reports or contact the U.S. Embassy for up-to-date information. 

Swimming: Strong undertows and currents make swimming at El Salvador's Pacific Coast beaches extremely dangerous even for experienced swimmers. Since 2008, 16 U.S. citizens have drowned while swimming in Salvadoran waters. Lifeguards are not always present at beaches and lakes. In addition, El Salvador’s search and rescue capabilities are limited, and access to medical resources in these areas is inadequate.

Crime: El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world and crimes such as extortion, assault and robbery are common. Since January 2010, 41 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador. During the same time period, 525 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen, while others were victims of violent crimes.

Typical crimes in El Salvador include extortion, mugging, highway assault, home invasion, and car theft. Assaults against police officers are on the rise. Shootouts between rival criminal gangs and between police and criminal gangs are common. Home invasions and/or burglaries of residences during broad daylight occur in affluent residential neighborhoods in San Salvador. Some of these home invasions are committed by individuals posing as deliverymen or as police officers. 

Exercise caution at all times and practice good personal security procedures throughout your stay.  

  • Always travel in groups. 
  • Avoid remote or isolated locations.
  • Avoid displaying or carrying valuables in public places.
  • Do not leave passports and other important documents in private vehicles. 
  • U.S. Embassy personnel are advised not to walk, run, or cycle in the unguarded streets and parks of El Salvador, even in groups. Exercise only in gyms and fitness centers. Do not travel on public transportation, especially buses. Use only radio-dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.
  • Be vigilant while visiting banks or using ATMs. 
  • Remain vigilant even in well-known restaurants, hotels, and retailers within San Salvador. 
  • Credit card cloning and similar fraud is common. Do not let your credit card out of your sight. 

Armed holdups of vehicles traveling on El Salvador's roads are common.

  • Drive with your doors locked and windows raised. 
  • Avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark and on unpaved roads at all times because of criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. 
  • Be aware that criminals may follow travelers from the El Salvador International Airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. 
  • Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars, or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable to crime.

Armed robberies of climbers and hikers in El Salvador’s national parks are common. We strongly recommends that you engage the services of a local guide certified by the national or local tourist authority when hiking in back-country areas and within the national parks. In 2000, the National Civilian Police (PNC) established a special tourist police force (POLITUR) to provide security and assistance to tourists. It has officers located in 19 tourist destinations.

A majority of serious crimes in El Salvador are never solved; only 7 of the 41 murders of U.S. citizens since January 2010 have resulted in convictions. The Government of El Salvador lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases and to deter violent crime.  

El Salvador, a country of roughly six million people, has thousands of known gang members from several gangs including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street (M18). Gang members engage in violence or use deadly force if resisted. These “maras” concentrate on extortion, violent street crime, car-jacking, narcotics and arms trafficking, and murder for hire. Extortion is a very serious and common crime in El Salvador. U.S. citizens who visit El Salvador for extended periods are at higher risk for extortion demands.

Do not purchase counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are counterfeit goods illegal in the United States -- if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.

Victims of Crime: If you or someone you know becomes a victim of crime, report it to the local police by calling 911 and to the U.S. Embassy. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
We can:

  • help you find appropriate medical care
  • guide you on how to report a crime to police
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
  • provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical
  • support in cases of destitution
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

To stay connected:

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Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: While in El Salvador, you are subject to local law. Your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest. Remember your activities are limited by the type of visa you have. If you violate Salvadoran laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in El Salvador are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. 

Some offenses committed overseas can be prosecuted in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see the Department of State  website and the Department of Justice website on crimes against minors abroad.   

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately.

Prison and detention center conditions in El Salvador are harsh and dangerous. Overcrowding constitutes a serious threat to prisoners’ health and lives. In many facilities, provisions for sanitation, potable water, ventilation, temperature control, and lighting are inadequate or nonexistent. 

Guns: You must have a locally obtained license to possess or carry a firearm in El Salvador. Convictions for possessing an unlicensed firearm can carry a prison sentence of three to five years. The Embassy cannot intervene on your behalf.

Disaster Preparedness: Preparation for natural disasters is essential in El Salvador, which has six active volcanoes, and a rainy season that produces severe flooding and mudslides. 

Find information about natural disaster preparedness on the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website. Find information in Spanish about earthquakes (sismos) and other natural disasters in El Salvador on the Government of El Salvador’s web page. Learn more on our Natural Disasters webpage.

Women Traveler Information: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.

LGBTI Rights: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in El Salvador. There is, however, widespread discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, access to health care, and identity documents. Public officials, including the police, have reportedly engaged in violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons. For more detailed information about LGBTI rights in El Salvador, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) travel, please read our LGBTI Travel Information page.

Accessibility: Salvadoran law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. However, the government does not allocate sufficient resources to enforce these prohibitions effectively. There are few access ramps or provisions for the mobility of persons with sight and hearing disabilities.

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Health

Private and public hospitals do not meet U.S. commonly-accepted standards. The Embassy recommends that private hospitals be used only for emergency care to stabilize a condition prior to returning to the United States for definitive evaluation and treatment. Private hospitals and physicians expect up-front payment (cash or, for hospitals, credit card). They do not bill U.S. insurance companies.

The Department of State does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with the government of El Salvador to ensure the medication is legal in El Salvador.  Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

The following diseases are prevalent:

Vaccinations: All routinely recommended immunizations for the U.S. should be up to date. 

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in El Salvador. For further information, please consult the CDC’s information on Tuberculosis.

You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the following websites:

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Travel and Transportation

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
Major highways in El Salvador are among the best in Central America, but road conditions throughout El Salvador are not up to U.S. standards. Even within the city of San Salvador, it is common to see missing manhole covers and large objects in the roadway marking the danger. 

Avoid driving during nighttime hours or periods of low visibility. Mini-buses, regular buses, and taxis are poorly maintained. Drivers are frequently unlicensed and generally do not adhere to traffic rules and regulations. 

Traffic Laws: Drive defensively as traffic laws are not enforced. Passing on blind corners or cutting across several lanes of traffic is commonplace. Two lane traffic circles are common and are especially dangerous to navigate.

If you are in an accident, call the police and do not leave the scene. The law requires all parties involved in a vehicle accident to stay at the scene until the police respond. Hit and run accidents are common. Salvadoran law requires that the driver of a vehicle that injures or kills another person must be arrested and detained until a judge can determine responsibility.

You may drive with a U.S. driver’s license for up to 30 days. After that time, you must obtain a Salvadoran license.

Public Transportation: Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of El Salvador’s national tourist office and the national authority responsible for road safety. Further information on traffic and road conditions is available in Spanish from Automovil Club de El Salvador (ACES).

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of El Salvador’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of El Salvador’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Hague Convention Participation
Party to the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
U.S. Treaty Partner under the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
What You Can Do
Learn how to respond to abductions FROM the US
Learn how to respond to abductions TO the US
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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy San Salvador

Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur,
Urbanizacion Santa Elena,
Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telephone: +(503) 2501-2628
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(503) 2501-2999
Fax: +(503) 2278-5522
ACSSanSal@state.gov

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General Information

El Salvador and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since June 1, 2007.

For information concerning travel to El Salvador, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for El Salvador. 

The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA).  The report is located here.

 

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Hague Abduction Convention

The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention.  In this capacity, the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including El Salvador.  Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority.

Contact information:

U.S. Department of State 
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's
CA/OCS/CI 
SA-17, 9th Floor 
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Telephone:  1-888-407-4747
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
Website:  travel.state.gov

The El Salvadoran Central Authority for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Procuradur's General de la Republica (PGR).  PGR is responsible for carrying out El Salvador's obligations under the Convention and processing Hague Abduction Convention applications.

They can be reached at:

Procuradur's a General de la Republica
Novena Calle Poniente, Torre PGR Centro de Gobierno,  San Salvador
Telephone (switchboard):  +(503) 2231-9346
Website

To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in El Salvador, the left-behind parent must submit a Hague application to the El Salvadoran Central Authority (ECA), either directly to the ECA, or through the U.S. Central Authority (USCA).  The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the PGR, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes. 

There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the United States or El Salvador central authorities.  After the case is filed and accepted with the ECA, the ECA assigns an attorney to represent the Hague Convention application during the Hague judicial process in El Salvador, at no cost.  It is important to note that the attorney does not represent either parent's interests; rather, the attorney represents the Hague Convention application.  However, the parent(s) may be responsible for additional costs, including but not limited to airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.

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Return

A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, El Salvador.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Visitation/Access

A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in El Salvador.  The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Retaining an Attorney

Retaining a private attorney is not required in order to submit Hague Convention applications to a court in El Salvador. The ECA assigns an attorney to represent the Hague Abduction Convention application; the attorney also provides information to the court. While not required, a parent may choose to hire a private attorney to represent his/her interests in the case. If a parent retains a private attorney, the attorney should contact the ECA as soon as possible after the filing of the Hague Abduction Convention application. 

The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador posts list of attorneys including those who specialize in family law.

This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney. The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the persons or firms included in this list. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.

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Mediation

The ECA offers mediation at no cost to either party in Hague abduction cases before they enter the judicial stage.  At the beginning of the judicial stage, the family judge may also seek to mediate a pre-trial solution. Additionally, interested parties may contact the Attorney General's office or municipal authorities in El Salvador to seek their assistance in mediating a pre-trial solution. These various types of pre-trial mediation have resulted in resolutions to cases, including several returns of children to the United States since 2009.

Exercising Custody Rights

While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country.  It is important for parents to understand that, although a left behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located.   For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney when planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent.  Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:

  • Endanger your child and others;
  • Prejudice any future judicial efforts; and
  • Could result in your arrest and imprisonment.

To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney.  

For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney. 

Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.

For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.

Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information

DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. 

 

Hague Convention Participation
Hague Adoption Convention Country?
Yes
Are Intercountry Adoptions between this country and the United States possible?
Is this country a U.S. Hague Partner?
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Hague Convention Information

El Salvador is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Hague countries is done in accordance with the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations, as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of the government of El Salvador. 

In order for an adoption application for an adopted child to meet the Convention requirements, a U.S. consular officer must review the case file and issue an “Article 5 Letter” to the Salvadoran Central Authority beforean adoption is completed. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents are cautioned to carefully follow in order the steps outlined in the “How to Adopt” Section below.

The process for international adoptions in El Salvador can be lengthy and complicated for prospective adoptive parents. The Salvadoran authorities responsible for administering adoptions are still working on effectively transitioning to the Hague process and significant delays in the process are common and should be expected.

It is important to note that U.S. citizens temporarily resident in El Salvador who are considering petitioning for their adoptive child as an immediate relative may be expected to reside in El Salvador for a minimum of three years. This includes the one year of residency mandated by Salvadoran law to adopt domestically, plus the required two years of physical and legal custody of the child in order to file an I-130 petition. If you plan to pursue a local adoption and then file the I-130, please contact the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador as soon as possible for more information. Please note that although the competent authority responsible for placing children in foster care may grant you permission to reside with and care for your prospective adoptive child, this may not constitute legal custody; taking the child outside of El Salvador during the adoption process is generally not permitted.

Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Read about Transition Cases.

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS

To bring an adopted child to the United States from El Salvador, you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines who can adopt under U.S. immigration law. 

Additionally, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee under U.S. law in order to immigrate to the United States on an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.

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Who Can Adopt

In addition to the U.S. requirements, El Salvador obliges prospective adoptive parents to meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from El Salvador:

  • Residency: Under Article 176 of the Salvadoran Family Code, adoptive parents who reside in El Salvador and who wish to adopt a child not related to them must reside with the child in El Salvador for at least one year prior to the finalization of the adoption. To satisfy this requirement, the adoptive parent(s) must be appointed the foster parent(s) or guardian(s) of the child, subject to approval by the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA), and prior to the start of the one-year co-residency period. Prospective adoptive parents who claim a residence other than El Salvador are exempt from the one-year cohabitation requirement. 
  • Age of Adopting Parents: Prospective adoptive parents must be at least 15 years older than the child.
  • Marriage: Single individuals may adopt in El Salvador if they are at least 25 years old and at least 15 years older than the child to be adopted. Married couples must both be over the age of 25, unless the marriage is at least five years old, in which case the requirement applies only to one spouse. The Salvadoran family code provides that only legally married couples may adopt as a couple in El Salvador; same-sex marriages are not recognized under Salvadoran law. 
  • Income: Prospective adoptive parents must demonstrate that they are financially, morally, mentally, and physically able to provide for the adopted child. 
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Who Can Be Adopted

Because El Salvador is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from El Salvador must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of El Salvador have determined that placement of the child within El Salvador has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests. In addition to El Salvador’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee under U.S. law to be eligible for an immigrant visa that will allow you to bring him or her to the United States.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS:

  • Relinquishment: Salvadoran law states that a child less than 18 years of age may be eligible for international adoption if the child is abandoned or orphaned and a family court determines that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Salvadoran law also permits the adoption of a child more than 18 who is under the care of a parent or relative if a court determines the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
  • Abandonment: According to Salvadoran family code, a child is abandoned if the biological parents are no longer providing care for their child. This definition is very broad and can include parents that are incarcerated or who left their children in the care of other family members. In most cases, however, the parental rights are still intact and the legal relinquishment or revocation of parental rights does not occur until after the child has been matched with a family for adoption. This is one of the lengthiest and most complex steps in the Salvadoran adoption process. Prospective adoptive parents should not assume that the legal relinquishment of parental rights has occurred prior to being matched with a child.
  • Age of Adoptive Child: Although Salvadoran law permits adoptions of children over the age of 18 in certain cases, prospective adoptive parents should bear in mind that foreign adoptions of children over 16 years of age are not valid for immigration purposes for the United States, except for specific cases of sibling adoptions. 
  • Sibling Adoptions: The Salvadoran Central Authority makes an effort to keep biological siblings together whenever possible. If the children are abandoned in different municipalities, however, biological siblings may be adopted by different families without the Central Authority’s knowledge.
  • Special Needs or Medical Conditions: The adoption of children with special needs is a top priority for the Salvadoran Central Authority. Prospective adoptive parents must pass a suitability review to ensure they are able to care for a child with special needs.
  • Waiting Period or Foster Care: Foreign adoptive parents must formally adopt Salvadoran children in El Salvador, in accordance with Salvadoran laws and procedures, before taking the children out of the country to live. Prospective adoptive parents who reside in El Salvador and who wish to adopt a child who is not related to them must first be appointed the foster parent or guardian of the child, and be prepared to reside with the child in El Salvador for at least one year prior to the finalization of the adoption.
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How to Adopt

WARNING: El Salvador is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in El Salvador before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter” in the case.  Read on for more information.

Salvadoran Adoption Authority 

El Salvador has officially designated two entities as its Central Adoption Authority: the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR or Public Defender’s Office) and the Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia (ISNA or Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents). The Oficina Para Adopciones(Office of Adoptions, or OPA) is the office within the PGR that coordinates and oversees adoptions in El Salvador. Other Salvadoran governmental bodies are also involved in the adoption process. These include the Family Courts, the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONNA) and the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA). 

Note: If any of the following occurred prior to April 1, 2008 (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force with respect to the United States), the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption: 1) you filed a Form I-600A identifying El Salvador as the country where you intended to adopt; 2) you filed a Form I-600; or, 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s visa application could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions.  For more information, read about Transition Cases. Similarly, if the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force in El Salvador after April 1, 2008, and you have an approved, unexpired Form I-600A or filed a Form I-600 before the entry into force date in El Salvador, your adoption may be considered a transition case. Please contact adoptionusca@state.gov with the details of the case if this situation applies to you. 

The Process

Because El Salvador is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from El Salvador must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements. Adoptions completed out of order may not confer immigration benefits on the adopted child (i.e. it is possible the child would not qualify for an immigrant visa if adopted out of order).

  1. Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider
  2. Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt
  3. Be matched with a child by authorities in El Salvador
  4. Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption
  5. Adopt the child in El Salvador
  6. Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home
  1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider

    The recommended first step in adopting a child from El Salvador is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide services to U.S. citizens in Convention cases. Only accredited or approved adoption services providers may provide adoption services between the United States and El Salvador. The U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider will act as the primary provider in your case. The primary adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services in the case are done in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. laws and regulations. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.

    In addition, the adoption service provider must also be authorized by El Salvador’s designated Central Authority for Adoptions, OPA. Prospective adoptive parents interested in adopting from El Salvador should contact OPA for up-to-date information prior to initiating a new adoption process. The following U.S. Hague-accredited adoption service providers have been authorized to provide services in El Salvador: The Open Door Adoption Agency, America World Adoptions, All Blessings/Kentucky Adoption Services, Villa Hope, Inc., Christian Adoption Services, Inc., Adoption Hope International, Inc., Madison Adoption Associates, and Illien Adoptions International, Inc. Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services.

  2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt

    After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt by the responsible U.S. government agency, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by submitting Form I-800A.  Read more about Eligibility Requirements.

    Once USCIS determines that you are eligible and suited to adopt by approving the Form I-800A, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the adoption authority in El Salvador as part of your adoption dossier. El Salvador’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under El Salvador’s law. 

  3. Be Matched with a Child by in El Salvador

    If both the United States and El Salvador determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the central authority for Convention adoptions has determined that a child is available for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the central authority for Convention adoptions in El Salvador may provide you with a referral for a child. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of a specific child in El Salvador. The adoption authority in El Salvador will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs and provide a permanent home for a particular child. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the adoption authority in El Salvador. Learn more about this critical decision.

    The Supreme Court of El Salvador prohibits granting of guardianships to prospective adoptive parents for the purpose of allowing children to leave El Salvador for subsequent adoption abroad. ISNA investigates the circumstances of an orphaned or neglected child’s family and seeks to find a close relative who may be willing to care for the child. Once satisfied that intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interest, ISNA determines which prospective adoptive parents are suitable matches for the child. OPA is responsible for coordinating with ISNA when a child is matched with prospective adoptive parents. 

  4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption

    After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States (Form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child meets the definition of a Convention Adoptee and will be eligible to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant. 

    After provisional approval of Form I-800, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from El Salvador. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities. 

    WARNING: The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the Salvadoran Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from El Salvador where all Convention requirements are met and the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform the Salvadoran’s Central Authority that the parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that all indications are that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.

    Do not attempt to adopt or obtain custody of a child in El Salvador before a U.S. consular officer issues the Article 5 Letter in any adoption case.

    Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.

  5. Adopt a Child in El Salvador

    Remember: Before you adopt a child in El Salvador, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption in El Salvador.

    The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in El Salvador generally includes the following:

    • Role of Adoption Authority: OPA will review the adoption documents to ensure they are complete. Due to the complexity of the Salvadoran adoption process, the authority may not inform prospective adoptive parents in a timely manner that their case has missing, incomplete, or incorrect documentation. This can cause additional delays. The U.S. Embassy recommends calling, emailing or visiting OPA on a regular basis during the process.
    • Role of the Court: The Salvadoran family court will issue a final adoption decree that adoptive parents will need to obtain the child’s new birth certificate and passport with the child’s new surname. The time to obtain new civil documents varies in different parts of the country and can take anywhere from 24 hours to two weeks depending on the judge. The court is also responsible for the legal relinquishment or revocation of parental rights; and in some cases, this does not occur until after the child has been matched with a family for adoption. This is one of the lengthiest and most complex steps in the Salvadoran adoption process.
    • Role of the Adoption Agencies: The adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that home studies are completed and for assisting prospective adoptive parents with providing required documentation to the Salvadoran government, including the family court judges. The adoption service provider should also regularly communicate with the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section to ensure consistency with the Hague process.
    • Time Frame: Salvadoran adoption procedures can take 18 to 36 months to complete, but have often taken much longer. This does not include the time necessary for the U.S. Embassy to complete its own investigation, as required by immigration regulations. Because adoption fraud in El Salvador has taken a variety of forms, an investigation of each adoption is necessary to ensure that the child is an orphan, as defined by U.S. immigration law, and that the birth mother is aware that the child is being adopted irrevocably and will be taken from the country. Investigation times vary depending on the complexity of each case.
    • Adoption Application: Filing an adoption application can be done by visiting OPA in San Salvador or by sending a legal representative to submit your documentation. The prospective adoptive parents should be prepared to travel to El Salvador regularly as personal appearances will be required throughout the adoption process. 
    • Adoption Fees: The Salvadoran Central Authority currently does not charge any fees for their administrative services. Prospective adoptive parents may choose to retain a Salvadoran attorney to assist with an adoption and will be charged for those services by the attorney. We advise prospective adoptive parents to discuss options with their adoption service provider.

      In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.  

      Some of the fees specifically associated with adopting from El Salvador include:

      • Salvadoran Attorney's Fee – Typically $3,000-$10,000
      • Medical Exam for the Child – Costs generally may run between $250-$600 (includes vaccinations for all children; includes x-rays for children between 14-16)
      • U.S. Immigrant Visa - $230
      • Salvadoran passport fee - $25
      • Photos for U.S. Immigrant Visa - $5 (for two photos)
      • Hotel stay for one night, two adults at the Hilton Princess, Sheraton Presidente, or Marriott Courtyard Hotel (please confirm prices if you book a room) - $130-170

      The State Department discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted. "Donations" or "expediting" fees, which may be requested from prospective adoptive parents, have the appearance of "buying" a child and put all future adoptions in El Salvador at risk.

    • Documents Required: Each of the U.S. documents listed here must be either authenticated at a Salvadoran Embassy, or a Salvadoran Consulate, or apostilled by the competent authority of the adopting parents’ country (see below). U.S. documents listed below must also be translated into Spanish by an individual appointed for that purpose by a Salvadoran notary public.
      • Certified birth certificate for the adopting parents
      • Certified marriage certificate, if applicable
      • Police clearance from the adopting parents’ municipality
      • Financial statements
      • Home study certification
      • Health certificate for the adopting parents
      • Certification stating that the adopting parents meet the legal requirements of their home State to adopt and that the State will monitor the welfare of the child after adoption
      • Statement regarding who will care for the adopted child in the absence of the adoptive parents due to illness, disability or death
      • Certified copies of the adopting parents’ passports
      • Certified copies of birth and health certificates for any other biological or adopted children in the family
      • Photographs of the exterior and interior of the adopting parents’ home
      • Photocopy of the identity card and certified birth certificate of the Salvadoran attorney
      • Health certificate for the child to be adopted
      • Photographs of the adopting parents, adopted child, and attorney
      • Power of attorney for a specified Salvadoran attorney to represent the adopting parents, which must be executed before a Salvadoran notary public or by Salvadoran Consul at a Salvadoran Embassy or Consulate. This power of attorney must specifically authorize the attorney to perform all necessary steps in the adoption process from beginning to end before the Public Defender’s Office (PGR) and the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA). 

      The designated Salvadoran lawyer must present two files of all the documentation (one with originals, and the other with certified copies). If the files exceed two hundred pages, both files must be divided in halves with a closing and opening statement from the notary attached to the divided files. The Salvadoran attorney must comply with the requirements stipulated in Article 42 of the Salvadoran Family Code of Proceedings.

      Note: Additional documents may be requested.

      • Authentication of Documents: The United States and El Salvador are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention. U.S. public documents may be authenticated with Apostilles by the appropriate U.S. Competent Authority
  6. Obtain an Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring Your Child Home

    Now that your adoption is complete, there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:

    Birth Certificate

    If you have finalized the adoption in El Salvador, you will firstneed to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport. 

    Once the court issues a final adoption decree, municipal authorities will cancel the original birth certificate and issue a new birth certificate naming the adoptive parents as the child’s parents and showing the change to the child’s name. The new birth certificate becomes part of the record kept at the Alcaldia (City Hall).

    How to obtain a new birth certificate for the child in El Salvador

    Birth certificates are issued by the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) of the city or village where the adoption was finalized. Requests should be addressed to "Alcaldia Municipal de Registro Civil (name of city or village)”. The average cost of registering a child and obtaining a birth certificate is $6.

    Salvadoran Passport

    Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from El Salvador.

    How to obtain a Passport for the child in El Salvador

    Passports are issued by the Department of Migration (Direccion General de Migracion y Extranjeria - DGME).  Adoptive parents can apply for their child’s passport by submitting the final adoption decree and newly issued birth certificate at the DGME office closest to where the adoption was finalized. The cost for this service is $25.  For office locations, please visit http://www.migracion.gob.sv/

    U.S. Immigrant Visa

    After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to finalize your application for a U.S. visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador. After the adoption is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Declaration of Grant of Custody, final approval of the child’s I-800 petition, and to obtain your child’s visa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the consular officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination.

    Note: Prior to making an immigrant visa appointment, adoptive parents must submit their completed packet for review by the U.S. Embassy. Upon receipt of the packet, the U.S. Embassy will provide a list of panel physicians who will conduct the necessary medical exam of the child or children in question. The Embassy will contact the adoptive parent(s) to schedule an interview date after receiving the medical results from the panel physician.      

    Since each case is different, it is possible that the Embassy will request additional documents after a preliminary review of the application and documents submitted by the prospective adoptive parent(s). For processing the child’s immigrant visa application, the following original documents are necessary:

    • Child’s original birth certificate with the name of the biological mother
    • Child’s new birth certificate with the child’s new name and name of adoptive parents
    • Final court decree of adoption and supporting documents
    • Decree from OPA
    • Decree from the PGR
    • Decree from ISNA
    • Article 23 Letter (issued by OPA)
    • Certified document in writing by all known parents irrevocably and unconditionally releasing the child for adoption and emigration
    • Power of attorney designating the Salvadoran lawyer to represent the adoptive parents
    • Form  I-800
    • Form DS-260 Part I and Part II
    • Medical Exam Form DS-157
    • Child’s Salvadoran passport with the adoptive parents’ last name
    • Two front face photos, 2”x2”, against a white background
    • Adoptive parents’ most recent income tax forms
    • Visa fee: $404

    CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT

    For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

    For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship. 

    *Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting. 

    Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

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Traveling Abroad

Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.

Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.

Obtaining a Visa to Travel to El Salvador
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are afixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for El Salvador see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.

Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.

Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to enroll with the Department of State. Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in El Salvador, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.

Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

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After Adoption

Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements

El Salvador requires post-adoption reports. The Oficina Para Adopciones is required by law to follow up on the adoptee’s situation through the Central Authority or accredited body every four months for a period of three years after the adoption is finalized. We strongly urge you to comply with El Salvador’s post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to that country’s history of positive experiences with American parents.

Post-Adoption Resources

Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services. 

Here are some places to start your support group search:

Note:  Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents. 

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Contact Information

U.S. Embassy in El Salvador
Final Boulevard y Urb. Santa Elena
Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad
Tel. (outside the El Salvador): 011+503-2501-2999; within El Salvador: 2501-2999
Fax: (503) 2278-6020
E-mail: AdoptSanSal@state.gov
Internet: sv.usembassy.gov

El Salvador’s Adoption Authority
Oficina Para Adopciones
Coordinador OPA
Procuraduría General de la República
9ª. Calle Poniente y 13 Ave. Norte, Torre PGR,
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador
Tel: (503) 2231-9418 - 2231-9424 or 2231-9412
Email:adopcionespgr.gob@hotmail.com
Internet: pgr.gob.sv/ado.html

Embassy of El Salvador
1400 16th Street, Suite 100, N.W.
Washington, D.C, 20036
Tel: (202) 595-7500
Fax: (202) 232 3763
Email: correo@elsalvador.org

*El Salvador also has consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Elizabeth (NJ), Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Santa Ana (CA), Woodbridge (VA), Duluth (GA), Miami, New York, Long Island (NY), Nogales (AZ), San Francisco, and Washington, DC.  Contact information for these consulates can be found at the web site listed above.

Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State  
CA/OCS/CI  
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Tel:  1-888-407-4747
Email:  AdoptionUSCA@state.gov    
Internet:  adoption.state.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures:
National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel:  1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
Internet: uscis.gov

For questions about filing a Form I-600A or I-600 petition:
National Benefits Center
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)
Email:  NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov

Reciprocity Schedule

Select a visa category below to find the visa issuance fee, number of entries, and validity period for visas issued to applicants from this country*/area of authority.

Explanation of Terms

Visa Classification: The type of nonimmigrant visa you are applying for.

Fee: The reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, you must pay. This fee is in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee).

Number of Entries: The number of times you may seek entry into the United States with that visa. "M" means multiple times. If there is a number, such as "One", you may apply for entry one time with that visa.

Validity Period: This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued.

Visa Classifications
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
Visa
Classification
Fee Number
of Entries
Validity
Period
A-1 None Multiple 60 Months
A-2 None Multiple 60 Months
A-3 1 None Multiple 24 Months
B-1 None Multiple 120 Months
B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
B-1/B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
C-1 None Multiple 60 Months
C-1/D None Multiple 60 Months
C-2 None Multiple 12 Months
C-3 None Multiple 60 Months
CW-1 11 None Multiple 12 Months
CW-2 11 None Multiple 12 Months
D None Multiple 60 Months
E-1 2 No Treaty N/A N/A
E-2 2 No Treaty N/A N/A
E-2C 12 None Multiple 24 Months
F-1 None Multiple 60 Months
F-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-1 None Multiple 60 Months
G-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-3 None One 12 Months
G-4 None Multiple 60 Months
G-5 1 None Multiple 24 Months
H-1B None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-1C None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2A None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2B None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2R None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-4 None Multiple 60 Months 3
I None Multiple 60 Months
J-1 4 None Multiple 60 Months
J-2 4 None Multiple 60 Months
K-1 None One 6 Months
K-2 None One 6 Months
K-3 None Multiple 24 Months
K-4 None Multiple 24 Months
L-1 None Multiple 60 Months
L-2 None Multiple 60 Months
M-1 None Multiple 60 Months
M-2 None Multiple 60 Months
N-8 None Multiple 60 Months
N-9 None Multiple 60 Months
NATO 1-7 N/A N/A N/A
O-1 None Multiple 60 Months 3
O-2 None Multiple 60 Months 3
O-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-1 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-2 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-4 None Multiple 60 Months 3
Q-1 6 None Multiple 15 Months 3
R-1 None Multiple 60 Months
R-2 None Multiple 60 Months
S-5 7 None One 1 Month
S-6 7 None One 1 Month
S-7 7 None One 1 Month
T-1 9 N/A N/A N/A
T-2 None One 6 Months
T-3 None One 6 Months
T-4 None One 6 Months
T-5 None One 6 Months
T-6 None One 6 Months
TD 5 N/A N/A N/A
U-1 None Multiple 48 Months
U-2 None Multiple 48 Months
U-3 None Multiple 48 Months
U-4 None Multiple 48 Months
U-5 None Multiple 48 Months
V-1 None Multiple 120 Months
V-2 None Multiple 120 Months 8
V-3 None Multiple 120 Months 8
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Country Specific Footnotes

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

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Visa Category Footnotes
  1. The validity of A-3, G-5, and NATO 7 visas may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the person who is employing the applicant. The "employer" would have one of the following visa classifications:

    • A-1
    • A-2
    • G-1 through G-4
    • NATO 1 through NATO 6

  2. An E-1 and E-2 visa may be issued only to a principal alien who is a national of a country having a treaty, or its equivalent, with the United States. E-1 and E-2 visas may not be issued to a principal alien if he/she is a stateless resident. The spouse and children of an E-1 or E-2 principal alien are accorded derivative E-1 or E-2 status following the reciprocity schedule, including any reciprocity fees, of the principle alien’s country of nationality.  

    Example: John Doe is a national of the country of Z that has an E-1/E-2 treaty with the U.S. His wife and child are nationals of the country of Y which has no treaty with the U.S. The wife and child would, therefore, be entitled to derivative status and receive the same reciprocity as Mr. Doe, the principal visa holder.  

  3. The validity of H-1 through H-3, O-1 and O-2, P-1 through P-3, and Q visas may not exceed the period of validity of the approved petition or the number of months shown, whichever is less.

    Under 8 CFR §214.2, H-2A and H-2B petitions may generally only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as participating countries. The current list of eligible countries is available on USCIS's website for both H-2A and H-2B visas. Nationals of countries not on this list may be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A or H2-B petition in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security if specifically named on the petition.  

    Derivative H-4, L-2, O-3, and P-4 visas, issued to accompanying or following-to-join spouses and children, may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the principal alien.

  4. There is no reciprocity fee for the issuance of a J visa if the alien is a United States Government grantee or a participant in an exchange program sponsored by the United States Government.

    Also, there is no reciprocity fee for visa issuance to an accompanying or following-to-join spouse or child (J-2) of an exchange visitor grantee or participant.

    In addition, an applicant is eligible for an exemption from the MRV fee if he or she is participating in a State Department, USAID, or other federally funded educational and cultural exchange program (program serial numbers G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-7).

    However, all other applicants with U.S. Government sponsorships, including other J-visa applicants, are subject to the MRV processing fee.

  5. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian and Mexican nationals coming to engage in certain types of professional employment in the United States may be admitted in a special nonimmigrant category known as the "trade NAFTA" or "TN" category. Their dependents (spouse and children) accompanying or following to join them may be admitted in the "trade dependent" or "TD" category whether or not they possess Canadian or Mexican nationality. Except as noted below, the number of entries, fees and validity for non-Canadian or non-Mexican family members of a TN status holder seeking TD visas should be based on the reciprocity schedule of the TN principal alien.

    Canadian Nationals

    Since Canadian nationals generally are exempt from visa requirement, a Canadian "TN' or "TD" alien does not require a visa to enter the United States. However, the non-Canadian national dependent of a Canadian "TN", unless otherwise exempt from the visa requirement, must obtain a "TD" visa before attempting to enter the United States. The standard reciprocity fee and validity period for all non-Canadian "TD"s is no fee, issued for multiple entries for a period of 36 months, or for the duration of the principal alien's visa and/or authorized period of stay, whichever is less. See 'NOTE' under Canadian reciprocity schedule regarding applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality.

    Mexican Nationals

    Mexican nationals are not visa-exempt. Therefore, all Mexican "TN"s and both Mexican and non-Mexican national "TD"s accompanying or following to join them who are not otherwise exempt from the visa requirement (e.g., the Canadian spouse of a Mexican national "TN") must obtain nonimmigrant visas.

    Applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality, who have a permanent resident or refugee status in Canada/Mexico, may not be accorded Canadian/Mexican reciprocity, even when applying in Canada/Mexico. The reciprocity fee and period for "TD" applicants from Libya is $10.00 for one entry over a period of 3 months. The Iranian and Iraqi "TD" is no fee with one entry over a period of 3 months.

  6. Q-2 (principal) and Q-3 (dependent) visa categories are in existence as a result of the 'Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998'. However, because the Department anticipates that virtually all applicants for this special program will be either Irish or U.K. nationals, the Q-2 and Q-3 categories have been placed only in the reciprocity schedules for those two countries. Q-2 and Q-3 visas are available only at the Embassy in Dublin and the Consulate General in Belfast.

  7. No S visa may be issued without first obtaining the Department's authorization.

  8. V-2 and V-3 status is limited to persons who have not yet attained their 21st birthday. Accordingly, the period of validity of a V-2 or V-3 visa must be limited to expire on or before the applicant's twenty-first birthday.

  9. Posts may not issue a T-1 visa. A T-1 applicant must be physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or a U.S. port of entry, where he/she will apply for an adjustment of status to that of a T-1. The following dependents of a T-1 visa holder, however, may be issued a T visa at a U.S. consular office abroad:

    • T-2 (spouse)
    • T-3 (child)
    • T-4 (parent)
  10. The validity of NATO-5 visas may not exceed the period of validity of the employment contract or 12 months, whichever is less.

  11. The validity of CW-1 and CW-2 visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (12 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

  12. The validity of E-2C visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (24 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

 

 

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General Documents

Please check back for update.

Birth, Death, Burial Certificates

Birth Certificates

Available

Fees:  The fee varies depending on the region but the price range is from USD $3 to 5.

Document Name:  Birth Certificate (Partida de Nacimiento)

Issuing Authority: Family Registry (Registro del Estado Familiar) of the city or village where the birth took place.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Round seal of the City Hall to which the Registry belongs with the shield of El Salvador.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Usually issued by the Head of the Family State Registry  (Jefe del Registro del Estado Familiar) or a delegate

Registration Criteria:  The applicant should submit his/her full name, date of birth, and names of parents to the appropriate Civil Registry. Requests should be addressed to the Head of the Family State Registry of the city or village

Procedure for Obtaining: Verbal or written request should be addressed to the "Jefe del Registro del Estado Familiar” (name of city or village).

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available

Alternate Documents: There are no alternate documents

Exceptions:  None

Comments:  In El Salvador, Birth Certificates are annotated with every change in marital status. These annotations DO NOT replace the certificate of the registry that originated them.


Death Certificates

 

Available

Fees:  The fee varies depending on the region but the price range is from USD $3 to 5.

Document Name:  Death Certificate (Partida de Defunción)

Issuing Authority: Civil Registry (Family Registry) of the city or village where the death occurred or where the deceased lived.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Usually issued by the head of the family state registry  (Jefe del Registro del Estado Familiar) or a delegate

Registration Criteria:  Full names of persons involved and date of event must be included in request.

Procedure for Obtaining:  Through a verbal or written request to the Civil Registry where the Death was registered.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available

Alternate Documents: Extracts from civil records may be typed on stamped paper (papel sellado) or may consist of photocopies of registry books. Either type of extract should be signed by Civil Registry official (Jefe Del Registro del Estado Familiar) and should bear the rubber stamp seal of that office.

Exceptions:  None

Comments:  None

Marriage, Divorce Certificates

Marriage Certificates
 

Available

Fees: The fee varies depending on the region but the price range is from USD $3 to 5.

Document Name: Marriage Certificate (Partida De Matrimonio)

Issuing Authority:  Civil Registry (Family Registry) of the city or village where the marriage took place.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Round seal of the City Hall to which the Registry belongs with the shield of El Salvador.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Usually issued by the head of the family state registry (Jefe Del Registro del Estado Familiar) or a delegate.

Registration Criteria:  Full names of persons involved and date of event must be included in request.

Procedure for Obtaining:  Through a verbal or written request to the Civil Registry where the Marriage occurred.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available

Alternate Documents:  There are no alternate documents

Exceptions: None

Comments: Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in El Salvador. Religious weddings are not considered legal in El Salvador; therefore, church marriage certificates should not be accepted. Also, El Salvador has two different marriage documents. An "ACTA MATRIMONIAL" is the equivalent of a marriage license and does not constitute marriage.

 

Divorce Certificates
 

Available

Fees: The fee varies depending on the region but the price range is from USD $3 to 5.

Document Name: Divorce Certificate (Partida de Divorcio)

Issuing Authority: Civil Registry (Family Registry) of the city or village where the marriage was registered.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Round seal of the City Hall to which the Registry belongs with the shield of El Salvador.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Usually issued by the head of the family state registry  (Jefe del Registro del Estado Familiar) or a delegate

Registration Criteria:  Full names of persons involved and date of event must be included in request.

Procedure for Obtaining:  Through a verbal or written request to the Civil Registry where the marriage occurred.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available

Alternate Documents: Extracts from civil records may be typed on stamped paper (papel sellado) or may consist of photocopies of registry books. Either type of extract should be signed by Civil Registry official (Jefe Del Registro del Estado Familiar) and should bear the rubber stamp seal of that office.

Exceptions: None

Comments:  The divorce certificates are registered through the notification from the court that decreed the divorce. They also send notifications to the Civil Registry where the birth certificate was registered so it can be annotated with the divorce. 

Adoption Certificates

Available

Comments: In El Salvador, after an Adoption has occurred a new birth certificate is registered with the name of the new parents without adding anything that shows that the birth certificate was originated through an adoption process.  The old birth certificate is cancelled and can only be requested with a court order.  

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Identity Card

Available

Document Name: The National ID card of El Salvador is called DUI (Documento Único de Identidad)

Issuing Authority: National registry of natural persons (Registro Nacional de las Personas Naturales)

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: National Registrar of Persons  (Registrador Nacional de Personas Naturales)

Procedure for Obtaining: Applicant must apply in person to one of the Bureaus of the National Registry of Natural persons. If it is the first time, they must bring their birth certificate.

Police, Court, Prison Records

Police Certificates

Available

Fees:  USD $3.50

Document Name: Police Certificate (Solvencia de la Policía Nacional Civil)

Issuing Authority: National Civilian Police's (PNC) Department of Certifications (Departamento de Solvencias).  

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The certificate includes a photo of the subject and the signature of the Chief of the Department of Certifications.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:  Jefe de la Unidad de Registro y Antecedentes Policiales

Registration Criteria: There is no registration criteria.

Procedure for Obtaining:  The applicant must apply in person at the PNC's Departamento de Solvencias. The applicant must bring his/her original Documento Unico de Identidad (DUI) and a photocopy of the DUI. The applicant must be 18 years or older in order to receive a police certificate.

Certified Copies Available:  No.  The U.S. Embassy does not accept certified copies of this document.

Alternate Documents: There are no alternate documents

Exceptions: None

Comments: It is important to note that individuals cannot currently obtain records of their criminal histories from the Department of Certifications. Visa applicants with prior arrests in El Salvador are responsible for returning to the police department where they were detained or the court where their trial was held in order to obtain arrest and court records that are required for their visa interview.

 

Court Records
 

Unavailable

 

Prison Records
 

Available

Fees: USD $3.00

Document Name:  Certificate of Criminal Records (Constancia de Antecedentes Penales  o Certificado de Antecedentes Penales)

Issuing Authority: General Directorate of Criminal Records (Dirección General de Centros Penales)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Round seal of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security to which the Registry belongs with the shield of El Salvador.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:   Head of Arms Registration Branch (Encargado de Sucursal de Registro de Armas).

Registration Criteria: N/A

Procedure for Obtaining:  Through a verbal or written request to the nearest branch office.  

Certified Copies Available: No.  The U.S. Embassy does not accept certified copies of this document.

Alternate Documents: N/A

Exceptions: N/A

Comments: This document is valid for a period of 90 days after its issue.

Military Records

Available: In El Salvador, Military records are not requested because the military service is not mandatory.

Fees:  There are no fees

Document Name:  Discharge certificate

Issuing Authority: Personnel office of the general staff of the appropriate service.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:  There are no special seals, color or format.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: There is no specific issuing authority personnel title.

Registration Criteria: There is no registration criteria

Procedure for Obtaining:  There are no procedures for obtaining.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are not available.

Alternate Documents: There are no alternate documents

Exceptions: None

Comments:  Military Service is not mandatory in El Salvador. While records are available by contacting the personnel officer of the general staff of the appropriate military service, they are NOT required for immigrant visa processing

Passports & Other Travel Documents

Types Available:  Diplomatic, Regular

Fees:

  • Diplomatic-N/A
  • Regular: USD $25.00

Document Name:  

  • Diplomatic Passport
  • Regular-Pasaporte

Issuing Government Authority:

  • Diplomatic-Foreign Ministry
  • Regular- General Directorate of Migration and Foreign (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjeria, DGME)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:

  • Diplomatic: The documents have black cover.
  • Regular: The documents have dark blue covers with the image of Central America at the font.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:

  • Diplomatic: Dirección General de Protocolo y Ordenes Del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores.
  • Regular: Migration Bureau

Registration Criteria:

  • Diplomatic: There is no registration criteria.
  • Regular:  There is no registration criteria.

Procedure for Obtaining:  

  • Diplomatic: There are no procedures for obtaining.
  • Regular: The applicant must apply in person at the Migration Bureau. The applicant must bring his/her original Documento Unico de Identidad (DUI) and a photocopy of the DUI.

Alternate Documents:

  • Diplomatic: There are no alternate documents
  • Regular: There are no alternate documents

Exceptions:

  • Diplomatic: None
  • Regular: None

Comments:

  • Diplomatic: There is no registration criteria.
  • Regular: The applicant must apply in person at the Migration Bureau. The applicant must bring his/her original Documento Unico de Identidad (DUI) and a photocopy of the DUI.

Other Documents Available:  

  • Diplomatic: There are no other documents available.
  • Regular: There are no other documents available.
Other Records

Not applicable.

Visa Issuing Posts

San Salvador, El Salvador (Embassy)

APO AA 34023-3114

Visa Services

All visa categories for all of El Salvador.

Foreign Consular Office Contact Information

Washington, DC (202) 595-7500 (202) 337-4032

Atlanta, GA (770) 591-4140 (770) 591-4160

Boston, MA (617) 567-8338 (617) 567-8686

Brentwood, Long Island, NY (631) 273-1355 (631) 273-2256 (631) 273-2430

Chicago, IL (312) 332-1393 (312) 578-5390 (312) 332-4446

Dallas, TX (214) 637-1500 (214) 637-1501 (214) 637-1511 (214) 637-1106

Elizabeth, NJ (908) 820-0766 (908) 820-0866

Kansas City, MO (816) 941-6648

Las Vegas, NV (702) 437-5337 (702) 437-5339 (702) 437-5340 (702) 437-5336

Los Angeles, CA (213) 383-8364 (213) 383-5776 (213) 383-8580

Miami, FL (305) 592-6978 (305) 592-6981

New York, NY (212) 889-3608 (212) 679-2835

San Francisco, CA (415) 771-8524 (415) 771-8530 (415) 771-8531 (415) 771-8522

Seattle, WA (206) 971-7950

Tampa, FL (727) 460-3937

Woodbridge, VA (703) 490-4300 extensions 114 and 110(703) 490-4463

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy San Salvador
Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur,
Urbanizacion Santa Elena,
Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telephone
+(503) 2501-2628
Emergency
+(503) 2278-5522
Fax
+(503) 2278-5522
El Salvador Country Map

Learn about your destination
Additional Information for Reciprocity

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.