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Dear Fans...

Hello Dear Fans,

Just want to update everyone, let you know that I am still in El Salvador and still making things work! The situation for me has gotten much better through sacrifice and hard work.  The person who I struggled so much to move to El Salvador with has separated from me (my decision) and I have been leading a solo life for about a year here.

El Salvador is a marvelous country and if you are willing to adapt your life style, lower some expectations and struggle a little at first it's worth it for anyone who has a real reason to move here (deportation, family issues, love, etc. etc.).

I am still open to questions and I still read the kind comments everyone leaves!  I plan to update the blog as I have interesting content, I just did such a good job at the basics when I started that little is left to cover for the moment and I prefer to cover life and not daily events here.

Also just want to mention anyone in El Salvador... if you live in the city or near Santa Tecla please let us know, we opened a coffee shop called "HappyCoffee" in Santa Tecla which offers amazing artesan style coffee, we roast it and grind it ourselves in front of the customers.  Any support would be appreciated, always happy to see friendly faces in there, we have run into a few guests from this blog, so thank you!

Purchasing & Registering Vehicle in El Salvador

If you have decided to move to, or live in El Salvador for an extended period of time then you may find it necessary to purchase a vehicle.  Once you come to El Salvador, you are entitled to drive with a US passport and your USA licenses for the first 3 months of your presence.  You can drive anyone elses vehicle as long as they give you the "tarjeta de circulacion" which is the equivalente of the registry.  Insurance is option and almost never used here, therefore not in concern.

If you decide to purchase your own vehicle, you will first need to obtain a NIT which is basically a tax ID number.  You can do this without residency with just your passport, I have a previous post you can read on this process.  Once you obtain the NIT, you will find the vehicle you wish to buy.  The seller should provide you with a copy of his identification, the current "tarjeta de circulacion".  With these two pieces of information, it is a wise idea to goto Setracen (think DMV) and have them review the License Plate Number to ensure the vehicle is not stolen, reported as being used in a chrime or have pending traffic violations.

Traffic violations go against the cars license plate not the license, if a car has a large amount of traffic tickets and you buy the car, you become responsable for them and until you pay them, the car cannot be registered. Hence why it is a VERY GOOD idea to check first, despite what anyone else tells you.  Setracen also has a way to check for open traffic tickets on their website at no charge anytime, however, this will not help to report other problems such as a stolen car report.

Once you get the clear from Setracen, you need to hire a lawer to draw up the paperwork, basically a sales contract.  They will use the ID and original "tarjeta de circulacion" which you have copies of, to produce a sales document with your name and NIT as the beneficiary.

Once finished, you will exchange money with the seller, preferrably in front of the lawyer/notary and you will both sign the paperwork.  The buyer has to provide you the original "tarjeta de circulacion" as it now belongs to you.  The car is now yours, you now need to goto Setracen and get it transferred to your name.  Optionally, you can wait until the expiration date of the current "tarjeta de circulacion" and then renew it , but I would suggest going immediatly to prevent issues.

You need to take the paperwork, "tarjeta de circulacion", passport and NIT to Setracen.  You will fill out a sheet of paperwork, you must fill it out entirely before you get your number called, they will not help you and they will make you exit and get a new number if you do not.  It is all in spanish, there is no english help available, bring a translator if needed. You will have to explain to the security that it is your translator as if you speak spanish nobody else can accompany you, space inside is insanely limited.  Plan 2-3 hours as it takes a while.

You fill out the paperwork, it gets stamped, a recipt is generated for the cost, usually 25-40 USD depending on the type of the vehicle.  You walk away from the teller Window and then goto the bank to pay the cost, there is a bank right inside Setracen right next to the teller Window.  When you leave the teller Window initially, they give you a new number, you need to pay quickly, then take the proof of payment and goto the far left end of Setracen, "Entrega de tarjetas".  There you wait until your number is called, you goto the window and present the proof of payment, your new "tarjeta de circulacion" is given to you with your name on it.

It will be valid one year and expire on your birthday month.

If you stay in El Salvador longer than 3 months and get an extension to your tourist visa, you can continue to drive with USA passport + valid USA license.  Once you obtain residency you must get a salvadorean license or else you will be fined if caught driving.  More to come on that process in the future.

Back Again!

Hello Readers,

Sorry for the insane haitus.  It has been a hectic year! House moves, new business ventures, etc.  I am back though with a wealth of new experiences, including importing product, registering businesses, purchasing vehiculs and finally obtaining permanent residency!

I have some outstanding blog posts come and I will always be glad to network with anyone or answer emails, feel free to comment , email and follow the blog! We are back in business!

Thanks readers!

Feliz Navidad!

Hello Readers,

This blog is not forgotten or abandoned.  It has been a while since an update was posted but this is due to life getting in the way!

I continue to answer emails on a daily basis and help those with questions!

Feel free to email me as needed if you have any questions or comments.

New posts will come as I find new topics, I am open to suggestions alike!

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Lost or Stolen Passport

If you are an American Citizen living or traveling in El Salvador and you should have your passport lost or stolen there is not much useful information on the Internet.

This should help:

You will need a copy of your passport and a photo ID from the USA (such as a state drivers license).  If you do not have a photo ID then you will need a copy of your original birth certificate.  The embassy will not help you get that so my recommendation is to use Vitalcheck (www.vitalcheck.com) to order it and then have a family member in the USA ship it here express (3-5 business days) with USPS / Fedex (about 50-70 dollars).

If you do not have a copy of your passport (big mistake), you will need to at least have the passport number and even then, it may be more complicated.

So now, you have a copy of your passport and one of the needed documents... how do you proceed?

Lost


If your passport was lost, skip this and go to the part that says "Dealing with the Embassy" below.

Stolen


You must go to the nearest police booth for the PNC (El Salvador Police force).  You have to report the passport stolen.  You cannot request a replacement from the Embassy if you do not do this step.  You will need to bring a Spanish speaking friend if you do not speak Spanish.  You will explain what happened, they will give you a signed + stamped police report.

Dealing with the Embassy


You can print the replacement forms online.  You need to print and fill out form DS-11 which is an application.

http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/ds11/ds11_842.html

And also the Lost/Stolen passport form.

http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/ds64/ds64_845.html

DO NOT SIGN ANY OF THE FORMS.  YOU HAVE TO DO THIS IN FRONT OF THE EMBASSY INDIVIDUAL WHO ASKS YOU TO.


You can take your own 2x2 photo against a white background.  Make sure head and shoulders show.  Print it on photo paper and bring it.  Or get a passport photo taken anywhere else for $5.00

Now, gather all the paperwork.  If you do not have a way to print these forms you can go to the Embassy between 8:15 AM and 11:30 AM and ask for them.  You will go to Window 4.  They speak English.  They will give you those forms and send you home to fill them out.

Making an Appointment


Now that you have all the forms, you have to make an appointment on their website (only way).

http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov/american-citizens/appointment.html

Choose Passport - Other services.

You can pick the day and time slot.  You will show up to the US Embassy.

It is located in Santa Elena at the end of the Boulevard Santa Elena.  Anybody in the country can tell you how to get to the gigantic USA Embassy.

You will enter the visitors entrance (not the entrance where all the people are waiting on Visa's).

Bring $135 dollars in cash or a CREDIT (NO DEBIT!) card to pay the fees.  There are no ATM's inside the Embassy. 


At the first security checkpoint expect to empty pockets and take your belt off - you can leave your shoes on.  Present the appointment paper and also a form of ID.

You will be sent out the security checkpoint, walk straight back to a brown sign and turn left.  Keep left until the second set of doors.  You will walk in - repeat security procedure - and the guard will send you to the doors on the left.  Walk through and head straight to Window 4 and present your appointment paper.  You will get a number "A-xxxx".  You will be attended by number.  Remember, you have to be there between 8:15 AM and 11:30 AM those are the hours.  Your appointment will give specific time.

You will get called to Window 1 or 2.  Explain the situation briefly.  The agent will take the papers - and give you the ticket for $135 to pay.  Return to window 1 to pay it.  You will be told to sit down - you'll be called.

When you are called, walk back to the Window that calls you.  They will ask how it got lost or stolen - explain.

You will get a receipt with a proof of payment and a date written (It is 2 weeks - 14 days).  You come back to pick up your passport on that date.

You get a full normal passport.

If you have travel plans sooner than 2 weeks they give you a temporary passport that servers only for a return trip to the USA.

Links:


General passport forms and resources: http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/forms_847.html
USA Embassay in El Salvador: http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov/
Regular contact: http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov/service.html
Emergency contact: http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov/citizen-services/emergency.html

Getting a NIT

You may have heard many different things about a NIT during your time in El Salvador.  A NIT is similar (in some ways) to a Social Security Card in the USA.

That is to say, the NIT is used for tax purposes.  You need a NIT to make large purchases in your name, run a business, import items (requires NIT de importador), etc.  Many people find the need for a NIT when importing items from customs, purchasing a car or property in El Salvador.

Anyone can get a NIT.  You do not need residency or citizenship in El Salvador.  To get a NIT all you need is your US Passport (or Passport/Passport Visa) from your country.  You will take your passport and visit the office to get a NIT.  The offices are located at "Las tres torres" in San Salvador.  This is the office I recommend.  There is also an office in HiperMall however they have weird hours and seem to have slow service (although people swear it is faster).

The office behind Las Tres Torres is a medium sized office.  Parking is available outside on the street.  They charge $1.00 to watch your car.  It is paid upon leaving.  You will enter the office alone.  If you do not speak Spanish well, you will need to wing it.  They are very particular about letting someone in with you -- even a translator due to limited space.  Once you go in there is a reception desk.  The lady will ask if this is your first time for a NIT (primera vez) or if you are renewing.  You will tell her first time, she will point you to the back of the building (in sight) on the right side.  There is a line and a window.  You will  be asked if this is your first time or renewal.  You will tell the lady first time (primera vez) and then pay, it is about $2-3 USD at this time.  You will then return to the front and to the left of the reception desk is an area that says copies (Fotocopias).

You walk to the photocopy desk and pay $0.20 cents and hand them your passport.  They will make a copy of your passport.  Directly in front of the desk you will then notice a line, you will join this line and wait.  Once you get to the front you will be called to one of many computer desks and you will hand the gentlemen your passport copy and colored paper slip.  He will fill out a sheet, ask you to sign and then you will stand up and return to the right of where the photocopy desk is located.  You will see other individuals standing there. This is where the NIT's are dispatched.

You will be called by first name.  Once your name is called you will walk to the desk.  You will be handed your actual NIT which you will sign the back of.  You will then turn around and return to the photocopy desk (right behind you) and pay about $0.60 cents to have the NIT laminated.  That is all.  You're done.

Enjoy your new NIT.  The total cost is about $4-$5 USD.  I recommend you bring change to make paying for the copy and lamination easier or bring one dollar bills.

The entire process takes 20 minutes on a crowded day, much less if it is not crowded.  Avoid going from 12-1 as you may catch them on lunch.  They open between 8-9 AM and stay open until 5 PM but don't expect much after 4PM.

Good luck!

Where's your Spirit?


It has been a long time in the making, however... they are finally here! That's right, Spirit now flies between the USA and El Salvador.  They are currently flying from several major airports.  They fly out of a lot including Washington Regan, Tampa Florida, Etc.  I am not posting the complete list because I am sure it will change.  You can find out more information here:


The launch went off without a hitch.  A friend of mine was on Flight 155 which was the first one to land here, last night @ 12:10AM Local time.  It came from Tampa, Florida.  There was a decent crowd and it was the last flight of the night.  It was basically full.

He said the service was great, they were very attentive and even with extra baggage... his cost was STILL hundreds cheaper than the best TACA or AA flight.  When they landed, there was a buffet and a huge amount of news crew in the airport to celebrate the new airline.

It was a great night and a great moment for El Salvador because it marks incredibly affordable airfare between El Salvador and the USA.  I didn't have much content for a blog post, but it deserved a mention.

If you are flying here, CONSIDER SPIRIT.  You can land a round trip (with baggage fees included) for under $300 from most destinations and under $200 from many.