Customs Considerations When Exporting to Guatemala

Mufaddal K.

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Manufacturers looking to export their products abroad need to consider various factors when evaluating export markets.  One of those factors is the customs clearance infrastructure and processes within a given country.  This article presents an overview of the time and cost it takes for a local partner to clear imported products through customs in Guatemala.  This overview, along with a regional comparison, should help you better qualify Guatemala as an export market for your products.



Country Overview


Guatemala is located within the Latin America & Caribbean region.  It has a population of roughly 17 million people as of 2018.  52% of the population lives in urban areas.  The World Bank categorizes it as a lower middle income country with a GDP per capita (PPP) of USD$8200 per person.



Regional Comparison


The "World Bank's Doing Business project" publishes an evaluation of countries based on their efficiency of cross border trade.  When assessing import efficiency within a country it primarily reviews four factors:


1.  The time for border compliance (imports):  Compliance time associated with the country's customs regulations, inspections and handling that takes place at its port or border.  Assumes a US$50,000 imported shipment of auto parts weighing 15 tons for calculation purposes.


2.  The cost of border compliance (imports):  Compliance cost associated with the country's customs regulations, inspections and handling that takes place at its port or border.  Assumes a US$50,000 imported shipment of auto parts weighing 15 tons for calculation purposes.


3.  The time for document compliance (imports):  The time for obtaining documents, preparing documents, processing documents, presenting documents and submitting documents.  Assumes a US$50,000 imported shipment of auto parts weighing 15 tons for calculation purposes.


4.  The cost of document compliance (imports):  The cost for obtaining documents, preparing documents, processing documents, presenting documents and submitting documents.  Assumes a US$50,000 imported shipment of auto parts weighing 15 tons for calculation purposes.



When evaluating border compliance time and cost amongst major regional economies, Guatemala ranks 10th regionally in terms of border compliance time and 7th regionally in terms of border compliance cost.  A US$50,000 imported shipment of auto parts would take 72 hours to clear border customs and cost roughly US$405.


Country Border Compliance Time (Hours) Border Compliance Cost (USD)
Cuba 0 $0
El Salvador 36 $128
Chile 54 $290
Bolivia 114 $315
Uruguay 6 $375
Nicaragua 72 $400
Guatemala 72 $405
Costa Rica 80 $420
Mexico 44 $450
Honduras 96 $483
Panama 24 $490
Colombia 112 $545
Dominican Republic 24 $579
Peru 72 $583
Jamaica 80 $906
Brazil 63 $970
Argentina 60 $1200


When evaluating document compliance time and cost amongst major regional economies, Guatemala ranks 8th regionally in terms of document compliance time and 16th regionally in terms of document compliance cost.  A US$50,000 imported shipment of auto parts would take 32 hours in Guatemala to have documents prepared & cleared and would cost roughly US$140.


Country Document Compliance Time (Hours) Document Compliance Cost (USD)
Cuba 1 $0
Bolivia 72 $30
Dominican Republic 14 $40
Chile 36 $50
Panama 6 $50
Colombia 64 $50
El Salvador 13 $67
Honduras 72 $70
Costa Rica 26 $75
Peru 72 $80
Nicaragua 16 $86
Jamaica 56 $90
Mexico 18 $100
Brazil 48 $107
Argentina 192 $120
Guatemala 32 $140
Uruguay 72 $285


Detail for Border Compliance Time and Cost


Border compliance time and cost are calculated as a function of three driving factors: the time/cost related to working with customs authorities, the time/cost related to working with other agencies and finally border handling time/cost.  The border compliance time and cost for Guatemala are primarily driven by border handling.


Guatemala City Overview:


Detail Type    Time (Hours)    Cost (USD)   
Working with Custom Authorities 72 $200
Working with Other Agencies 0 $0
Border Handling 72 $205


Detail of Document Compliance Time and Cost


Document compliance time and cost is a function of the various documents required by the country when importing goods.  For Guatemala, the documents required when importing goods from abroad include Customs Import Declaration, Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Bill of Lading, Certificate of Origin, Terminal Handling Receipts, SOLAS certificate.



Transportation Costs


Another factor that influences import trade efficiency is transportation costs.  For shipments bound to Guatemala City, the port where goods would most likely land would be Santo Tomás de Castilla port.  When calculating transportation cost for the US$50,000 auto parts shipment, the World Bank calculates that the shipment that would land at Santo Tomás de Castilla port would need to be transported 298 km with an average travel time of 8 hours.  This brings the delivery transportation cost for the shipment to roughly US$750.



Infrastructure Digitization


Greater use of technology within the customs clearance process helps improve efficiency and lower time and cost associated with customs clearance.  Today many countries use digital systems to streamline the customs clearance process.  Many of these customs systems are known as EDI or Electronic Data Interchange systems.  More recently however, there has been a push to develop even more integrated customs clearance systems known as SW or single window systems.  These systems provide greater integration within a given country and between multiple countries when managing customs clearance.



Guatemala does have an EDI system known as Superintendencia de Administración Tributaria (SAT) SAQB´E system.  It also has an SW system in progress known as Ventanilla Ágil de Importación (VAI).  More information about this new system can be found at https://vai.gt/.