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Establishing and Operating a Business in El Salvador

El Salvador is one of the most attractive countries in the region to establish and operate a business. In recent years, the Financial Times’ FDI Intelligence magazine has ranked El Salvador among the most cost-effective countries in the region.

How to set up a company in El Salvador?

As part of the actions, we are doing to improve the business climate. El Salvador has created a single channel for setting up companies and obtaining commercial registrations. These procedures are carried out via the web through the www.miempresa.gob.sv site, making El Salvador one of the 28 countries in the world that have a one-stop shop for business start-ups.

Procedures for formalizing an investment as a legal entity

The steps that can be done through this site are:

  • Company’s registration at the Registry of Commerce
  • Company and establishment license
  • Tax identification number (NIT)registration
  • Taxpayer registration number (NRC/VAT)
  • Serial numbers emission by the Ministry of Finance for: Invoices, tax credit receipts, credit note, debit note, export invoice, simplified sales invoice, settlement receipt, settling accounting document.
  • Company or establishment registration at Ministry of Labor
  • Employer registration number atISSS
  • Employer registration at the pension fund administrator (AFP)
  • Company’s registration at the Mayor’s Office (Santa Ana or San Salvador)


Requirements to Enter El Salvador

El Salvador is part of the Agreement for the Creation of a Single Central American Visa for Free Mobility of Foreigners among the Republics of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. The agreement defines, according to the country of origin of the visitor, the type of visa (or exemption) required to enter any of the Central American signatory countries.

Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cypress, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands (Holland), New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea (Republic of Korea), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Special Administrative Regions of the Popular Republic of China, Vatican City (Holy See).

Category A

Visa-Exempt with Payment of Tourist Card. Some visa-exempt countries may require a tourist card, which can be obtained at the border points of entrance to the country and has a cost of USD 10.00. Australia, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kuwait, Lithonia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Qatar, Saint Lucia, Salomon Islands, Singapore, Tuvalu,Vanuatu.

Category B

Requires Consular Visa. The consular visa is issued at the diplomatic or consular representations of El Salvador (26). The cost for one entrance is USD 30.00 and the cost of a multiple entrance consular visa is USD 60.00.

Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Granada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Malawi, Maldives, Mauricio, Mauritania, Micronesia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar (previously Burma), Namibia, Nauru, Niger, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Samoa, Senegal, Serbia (previously Yugoslav Federal Republic), Seychelles, Surinam, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Category C

Requires a Consulted Visa. It is awarded upon prior authorization by the Directorate-General for Migration and Foreign Nationals and is issued at the diplomatic or consular representations of El Salvador (27). It has a cost of USD 25.00.

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Cameroon, China, Chinese Taipei(28) , Congo, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea (Popular Democratic Republic of Korea), Oman, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam, Yemen.

Additionally, for any of the visa categories please consider the following:

  1. a) The maximum length of stay that can be given to a tourist is 90 days. If an extension is required, one can be requested per year.
  2. b) People arriving from Panama, South America or Africa must have received the yellow fever vaccine at least 15 days before their trip to El Salvador.

Operational Costs

Labor Costs El Salvador’s Labor Code regulates employerworker relations. Salvadoran legislation states that wages are determined freely but cannot be lower than the minimum wage established by the National Wage Council, revised at least every three years.

Foreign workers

According to El Salvador’s Labor Code, companies are required to form their staff with at least 90% of Salvadorans; however, in special circumstances, companies may be authorized by the Ministry of Labor to employ more than 10% of foreign workers. For this calculation, the Law considers Central Americans as Salvadorans, and additionally establishes that up to four foreign workers in management positions (directors, managers, administrators, and other managerial positions) will not count as part of the 10% calculation.

Foreign workers with regional management responsibilities at international companies will not be considered as part of the 10% limit.

Free Zones and Service Parks

El Salvador offers investors industrial land in free zones and service parks where companies can benefit from generous tax incentives and can access quality services to operate and export their products and services to foreign markets.


Information about the Salvadoran tax system relevant to setting up and operating a business in El Salvador is shown below. Additional information regarding tax payments is available on the website: www.tramites.gob.sv.

Income tax

A 30% tax rate is applied over taxable income. For legal entities with a taxable income less than or equal to USD 150,000.00, a reduced tax rate of 25% is applied.

Branch profits tax

Branches of foreign companies are subject to the same tax rates as Salvadoran companies.

Dividend Tax

Dividends paid or credited to shareholders (individuals or legal entities) are subject to a 5% income tax rate.

Taxon Transfer of Real Estate Property:

The transfer of real estate is subject to a tax rate of 3% applicable on amounts exceeding USD 28,571.43.

Value-added (IVA for its acronym in Spanish):

Services and goods are subject to a 13% value added tax. The following items are exempt from IVA: public health, home rentals, education, state titles, public water, public transportation, pension funds and Public Lottery.

Other Taxes

  1. Municipal taxes: Taxes are paid according to a table established by each municipality based on the company’s total assets. For example, in San Salvador rates are determined by the company´s activity (industrial, commercial, or other).
  2. Company and Establishment License: All industrial and commercial businesses are required to have an annual license to operate. This tax is paid based on the company’s total assets according to the following rates:
    • From USD 2,000.00 to USD 57,150.00 pays USD91.43
    • From USD 57,151.00 to USD 114,286.00 pays USD137.14
    • From USD 114,287.00 to USD 228,572.00 pays USD228.57
    • If assets exceed USD 228,572.00, USD 11.43 will be paid for every USD 100,000.00, up to a limit of USD 11,428.57.