Crimes and Misdemeanors in Migratory Matters in Central America

There are several crimes and administrative offenses that may be incurred in immigration matters. Within the Central American region, these offenses are punished in different ways, depending on the seriousness of the case. The regulating and sanctioning entity in the countries of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras is the Directorate of Migration and Alien Affairs, and in Guatemala, the entity in charge is the Guatemalan Institute of Migration. It is through these entities and the legislation in force that the sanction applicable to each of the offenses and crimes incurred by foreigners or nationals will be determined.

Among the most common misdemeanors and crimes committed by foreigners and contracting companies, we can list the following:

  1. Irregular entry or stay: it consists of clandestine entry into the country or without complying with the rules that regulate their entry/admission, or remaining in the country after the authorized period of stay has expired. The penalty for incurring in this offense will depend on the legislation of each country. It can be $3 per day up to the deportation or expulsion of the foreigner in case the stay exceeds 90-180 days.
  2. Failure to report personal information: this is when foreigners residing in a country do not comply with the obligation to inform the immigration authority of the change of address, marital status, and characteristics inherent to their immigration status. The sanction for incurring in this offense is pecuniary in each of the countries, being Honduras the country that sanctions with a high amount of approximately $224, followed by El Salvador with up to a minimum monthly salary, Nicaragua with a fine of approximately $30, Costa Rica with an amount of 80-100 days and Guatemala with a fine of approximately $257.
  3. Falsification of documents: the attempt to enter or leave the country with false or adulterated documents and providing false information to the immigration authorities are considered serious offenses, therefore, they are punishable with deportation or expulsion of the foreigner.
  4. Illegal hiring of foreigners: consists of the hiring of foreigners without authorization to work issued by the corresponding immigration authority. The penalties are mostly applied to legal entities that carry out this type of hiring. They are pecuniary sanctions in all countries, except for Guatemala, which is sanctioned with six to eight years of imprisonment.
  5. Failure to register in the hotel sector: all owners, administrators, managers, or persons in charge of hotels will be sanctioned with a monetary fine for lodging foreigners without documentation. Some countries apply fines ranging from $28.74 to three minimum wages.

It is important to emphasize that these are not the only offenses that foreigners residing in any of the countries of the Central American region may incur, but they are the most common and the most serious.  Foreigners residing or in the process of applying for special residence permits or residences, and contracting companies must comply with the current regulations of each country in the Central American region on immigration matters to avoid incurring financial penalties or deportation from the country.