To be, or not to be,
a Resident that is the question.
Assuming you have fallen in love with life in Honduras. The beautiful and diverse land, the cocktails on the beach, the very low cost of living, spending hours and hours working with government officials, the entertainment, and above all the fun people who live here. There are some things to consider when you spend a lot of time here.
This is a general guide made from many years of experience. However, I cannot emphasize enough that it is necessary to engage a lawyer, by recommendation of prior clients, way before you want to start the process. I am not responsible for people who believe the stuff they read on the internet!
General Entry to Honduras
Honduras immigration, at least on Roatan, has been pushing residency in the last few years. If you have a lot of stamps entering and leaving Honduras immigration officers may sometimes give you a hard time and tell you to get residency. Though they will let you through. If you land in San Pedro they don't seem to care at all and will normally give you your 90 days and just whisk you on your way.
The standard is to give everyone 90 days and then you can extend it a further 30 days by going to the immigration office in Coxen Hole which is one of the more efficient offices of Honduran governance. However now and then there is someone at the airport with a power complex who will give you a hard time and only stamp you for 30 days. It's rare but it does happen. Don't worry you can still stay the full 120 days but it just means multiple visits to immigration. Make sure you go to immigration in Coxen Hole in the Plaza del Mar building, not four days before your visa runs out but not too late otherwise your fines will start accruing.
If you don't have a return ticket on entry, something that never used to be allowed. Be very very careful. Check with the airlines etc. The airlines have the right to stop you from boarding and the Honduerean immigration has the right to deny you entry. So some airlines won't let you go without a return ticket. Two ways around this I have used is to buy a separate fully refundable return ticket or buy a bus ticket online from Ceiba to Guatemala City and tell them I am backpacking. The second one can be a little more difficult if you get an obnoxious ticket agent or immigration officer but I have used it. All this is very rare but it is good to be aware of these possibilities.
On arrival in Roatan (this is not necessary for San Pedro Sula) I ask them very politely for 90 days and tell them I must return home in 70 days for a (insert important thing here). Know the date. They give it out in months so normally 90 days is an easy calculation. As I said normally the immigration officers are helpful and efficient but being upbeat, sweet, and extremely respectful always helps. I cannot emphasize that last word enough. Be respectful in Honduras the surest way to get nothing done or worse is to be disrespectful to the official you are dealing with. I don't care if they ask you to stand on one leg while taking your fingerprints. Do it with a smile and a nod of thanks.
"But I want to stay a full year," you say and you are not a resident. Well, it is not that hard to do anyway. Either you leave twice at the end of your visa and take a four-day vacation somewhere outside the C-4. The CA-4 group is made up of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador and they permit free travel between them all. This means they spread your 90 days between these four countries. You cannot renew your tourist status in Honduras by visiting another CA-4 country. Fly free, go on vacation somewhere else, and visit family and friends. Then when you return your next visa starts again.
The second way seems weird to us from first-world countries. Just stay a year and don't leave. Most countries in the world take great exception to you staying a minute past your visa deadline and some will even ban you from returning for years for an honest mistake. Honduras is not one of those countries. They have a set fine structure and seem quite happy to just collect the fine and then let you return a short time later. I have known people to overstay for many many years pay the fine and then return 2 weeks later. Maybe they see it as a source of revenue.
The fine is set based on the standard working wage in Honduras and is about 6,000 Lempira ($250USD) for the first 6 months. One day passed the 6 months and you pay the next 6 months, and then goes up another 6,000 for every 6 months after that. Figures are estimates and are based on information available in July 2022. It is a reasonably easy process. If you have overstayed you must go to immigration days before you fly out to get the fine paid. Once they have decided how much you owe they give you a form to take to a bank to pay it and when you return with the receipt your passport will be stamped.
Since this process is so simple and at the moment without any impediment to your further travels back to Honduras it is a worthwhile question to ask yourself do you need residency? There are some advantages to receiving it but there are also some costs and restrictions.
If your intent is for instance just to spend half the year here to avoid the winter cold of far-flung countries then paying a $250 fine for a few extra months may not matter to you. If you intend to travel from Honduras frequently (inside the 120 days) then there is no need for it either.
Why not just get residency anyway? Well you do not need to be a resident to buy property here. Residency costs approximately $2,000 per person to apply. There is some variation on that depending on the kind of application, family members, etc. and a business application will cost more because of the necessity of forming a Honduran company. It also requires you to hunt down some documents which can be a pain to acquire depending on where you live. So think it through and of cause consult a lawyer. The laws, costs, and requirements change often, especially in Honduras.
The Benefits of residency
Honduras does not charge tax on money earned out of Honduras. Therefore if you have investments in other countries or are employed by a company there you will not be taxed on that income. Yay for Honduras that makes it a wonderful country for digital nomads and retirees alike.
When you get your residency if you apply correctly (lawyer!) you can get some substantial tax benefits on bringing goods into the country. Honduras taxes many items like cars and white goods with large taxes. So you can get a one-time exemption on moving your household goods here and also bring down a vehicle without paying import duties every few years.
As a resident, there are no concerns about entering the country, and residents and nationals get through immigration far faster.
Easy to get a bank account, as most banks won't allow it without residency.
You can apply for a driver's license. See disadvantages!
It is costly at about $3,000 or more if it is a first-time business application. The lawyer I used costs $1,500 for her fees plus all government fees which is usually less than $2,500 in total. It lasts only one year for the first 5 years. Each year you need to renew before the expiry date if you miss the date you will receive a fine just like any other person who overstays. Renewals are cheap something like $100. After five years you have to apply again though this puts you in "Immagrado" status and now you only have to renew every 5 years. Delightful.
It is a pain to acquire all the documents needed. Especially some of the foreign police reports. Every country is different in how to get these and if you move around a lot they can be difficult to get. Also, all foreign documents must be apostilled and if necessary translated. Apostilled is the international "notary" system in the USA you will have to take any documents to your state capital and/or send them to the Hondurean embassy. In Canada, they have to go to the embassy. The application must be done in 6 months when all the documents are no longer considered valid and will be required again. Get a good lawyer.
You are supposed to get a Hondurean Drivers license once a resident. This is insane in the first 5 years as the process can take several days you also have to speak/read Spanish to be sure of passing. There have been on the island English tests which by treaty there should be but I seem to miss hearing about them. You will need a hondurean police report. Trying to get a police report can take days, then you may have a written and an actual driving test. I use the word may often in my guides as so much depends on the day, the official you are dealing with, the political party in the government, and which way the wind is blowing. This is what makes the effort just not worth it in my opinion they will only give you the license valid until your residency expires. It is an awful lot of work to eventually get a license that will run out in a few months. It is why most residents still have their foreign Driver's licenses and just pretend to be tourists and checkpoints. At least once you are an "Immagrado" that changes.
You are a resident which means that you have to be living in the country the majority of the year. If you are not you can lose your status. So if you don't stay here at least 6 months a year, maybe more then you could lose your status.
Hondurans and residents are given discounts when they reach the ripe old age of 60 which I am told is the new 30s! It doesn't feel like it. "Tercera edad" as it is known or for the language challenged the "third age" gives you some benefits. The life expectancy of Hondurans is an average of 75 years, the USA Is only 78 most of Europe is over 80. So you have 15 years of amazing discounts to look forward to while in Honduras. Well, that is if the business complies with the law. The following is copied from various websites and should only be seen as a guide if someone can point me to the official government list I would be most grateful.
Recreation and entertainment activities: 50% discount
Consultations with a specialist doctor, 30%.
Restaurants food only 20%.
Services such as cable television service.
Accommodation (hotels etc) from Monday to Friday 30%. Saturday and Sundays 20%.
25% is mandatory in consultations with a general practitioner, purchase of medicines and surgical material, as well as in funeral homes, coffins and burial plots.
Transportation, consumption in restaurants and cafeterias, 25%
Public services also 25% for invoices up to 1,000 lempiras as a limit.
Hospitals and private clinics apply 20%
Departures from airports and most forms of travel offer discounts.
Mortgage loans get a discount of 2%
Lastly, you get to go to the front of the lines in banks and many other places. An absolutely wonderful way to annoy other people.
Note well though that these discounts are more respected on the mainland than on Roatan. They may be law but when you are in a restaurant arguing over the bill it is not pleasant nor the experience that you were hoping for. Many businesses are owned by ex-pats and they are often unfamiliar with the law or ignore it. Airbnb's etc are often billed outside the Hondurean economy so completely ignore it. However, as the discounts can be substantial such as hotel bills it can be worth trying to stick up for your rights. If they refuse to give you your discount you can go through the painful business of filing a police report "Denuncia" and they will be fined. Fines start around 3,000 Lps but repeat offenders lose their business license.
Parents beware! You know have to obey all Hondurean laws. This may seem like a stupid thing to say as of course you do but it can bring up some real issues. If you are a parent a child is still a minor here until they are 21. So technically your fully evolved and independent 18-year-old adult child can enter Honduras on a foreign passport but if she is also still a resident here she cannot leave on her own without a letter notarized by a lawyer. She must have her parent's permission to travel. In reality, this doesn't happen often mainly because they don't enforce their own laws very well but it has and can happen.
The Basics methods of applying
There are five main ways that residency can be acquired for the normal individual.
Usually, as you would guess retirees who have a pension of at least $1,500 a month. Once the income has been demonstrated in the application you will have to continually show a monthly deposit into a Honduran bank to keep your residency. You are not allowed to work.
People who can prove they have a regular guaranteed income of above $2,500 a month. Obviously, because "Rentistas" spend a lot more than "Pensionados?" Income can be from anything that is not employment-based. That income can come from stocks, pensions, trust funds, properties, interest, etc. Continued deposits into a Hondurean bank account are required to keep your residency. You are not allowed to work.
If you have a direct relationship with a Hondurean Citizen then you can apply this way and it is the cheapest and easiest to obtain. That relationship can be through marriage, your parents, or your children.
If you invest $50,000 USD into a business in Honduras then you qualify. Your home could be your business if you rent it out some of the time.
"Permiso de Permanencia de País como de Empresario de Extranjero"
This allows you to create a new business and then become a resident by being the owner of the business. As with all of these, use a lawyer for this one.
You do not need to apply for residency from outside of Honduras but you must consult with a lawyer BEFORE leaving your country as there may be documents you need from your country which you must acquire in person. So don't waste money by having to return home for a scrap of paper and do it the right way.
The documents you will need of course depend on which application you are making but here is a list of some of the documents that you may need. Of course, everything you need to know is available on the government website. Sarcasm. http://inm.gob.hn/residencias.html
Most documents will need to be apostilled and possibly translated which your lawyer will explain to you.
Your visa needs to be in good standing so not passed the date you were supposed to leave and of course, your passport needs to be many a long way from expiring.
You need to prove you are not a criminal now or in the past. This usually means you have to get a police/Federal report from the last place you lived. This can be extremely difficult depending on the location. Some places want you to prove you lived in their county, state, department, country, etc. I found it very hard as I was moving from country to country and no one wanted to issue me one. If you have been in Honduras a long time you may also need one insured from here.
If family members are included either as part of the application, as dependants, or as the means of application. You will have to supply proof of that status. Birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.
Medical reports that you are in good health can usually be done locally but may be done abroad.
Proof of income for "Pensionado" and "Rentistas" will be necessary.
Investment or Business applicants may have to supply a business plan as well as proof of funds or that funds have been spent.
If you want to bring in tax-free goods make sure you make sure the lawyer is aware of this BEFORE you apply.
Lastly the normal odds and ends of any government application. Photos, application forms. Lots of money etc.
If you have taken one thing from this guide let it be this get yourself a good lawyer. I went through 3 and several thousand dollars before I found a good one. That was many years ago though and now there many good ones. My advice ask around (even me). If people say the residency took more than 3 to 6 months that is not good. Excepting COVID of course it can be done in three.