El Salvador - Country Commercial Guide
Import Requirements and Documentation

Includes import documentation and other requirements for both the U.S. exporter and foreign importer.

Last published date: 2022-12-29

To import products into El Salvador, the Customs General Directorate (DGA) requires a commercial invoice, bill of lading, and import license (when applicable). Customs offers a “The Tariff Online Query on its website, where companies can learn the import tariff, whether import permits are required if there are import restrictions for a product, and which specific government agency is responsible for permit issuance.

All imports of fresh food, agricultural commodities, and live animals must have a sanitary certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Public Health. Basic grains must have import licenses from the Ministry of Agriculture, while dairy products require import licenses from the Ministry of Public Health. Pharmaceutical, medical equipment, medical devices, natural, nutritional supplements, dental, cosmetics, and hygiene products must be registered at the National Directorate of Medicines (Direccion Nacional de Medicamentos–DNM). Food products require a Certificate of Free Sale showing approval by health authorities for public sale. In March 2022, the Ministry of Health approved a regulation allowing U.S. exporters to send a Certificate of Free Sale or an Export Certificate as part of the requirements to register the product in El Salvador. There is no standard regulation allowing entry of U.S.-approved products. Some U.S. processed foods approved in the United States were rejected after analysis in El Salvador, barring their sale. In some cases, the U.S. government has been able to obtain access for U.S. products rejected by the Ministry of Public Health on a case-by-case basis. In addition, USDA negotiated an exemption from the Certificate of Free Sale for U.S. meat and meat products and, instead, have local sanitary authorities from the Ministries of Health and Agriculture accept the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) 9060-5 Export Certificate. Additional information can be found on USDA’s website under El Salvador’s Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards and Export Certificate Attaché reports.

In March 2022, El Salvador passed a transitory regulation for one year to diminish the impact of inflation on a list of food products that compose the local basic consumption basket. Under this regulation, products included in the list had their import tariffs temporarily removed, giving way for an expedited product registration process accepting foreign export certificates without plant-by-plant inspection. In June 2022, El Salvador added beef to the list due to the steep increase in local prices and removed the tariff from countries with no free trade agreement with El Salvador. Currently, El Salvador imports approximately 92% of its beef consumption from Nicaragua and the other 8% from the U.S., both enjoy free trade access to the local market.

Also, in March 2022, the Ministry of Health approved a regulation that authorizes the importation and commercialization of pre-packaged food and beverage products with a provisional permit of 3 months while completing product registration.

In January 2019, the mport and Export Transaction Center (CIEX), located at the Central Reserve Bank (BCR,) launched the single importation window for food and beverage products; the addition of other products has been gradual. The single importation window has been connected to the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Treasury, Customs, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Defense, and the National Medicine Directorate.