El Salvador - Country Commercial Guide
Customs Regulations

Includes customs regulations and contact information for this country's customs office.

Last published date: 2020-09-30

The Central American Uniform Customs Code (CAUCA) , and its regulation known as RECAUCA, are the customs procedures framework in force in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica.  CAUCA IV modernizes regional customs by implementing uniform documents, allowing electronic transmission of customs information, and permitting electronic prepayment of charges, tariffs, and taxes.  CAUCA and RECAUCA are currently under review by the Central American customs authorities to simplify and modernize customs procedures. 

In July 2018, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved the country’s incorporation into the Customs Union established by Guatemala and Honduras in June 2017.  El Salvador is moving into the operational phase, which includes working to harmonize regulations and procedures, integrate border posts, establish interconnectivity between automated systems, and train customs officials on the new procedures. Although technical-level working groups continue to meet, the Bukele administration announced in January 2020 that it would prioritize bilateral trade facilitation with Guatemala. During implementation, El Salvador is expected to periodically revise its customs rules and procedures.   

El Salvador has an Electronic Payment System (P@GOES-DGA) which allows companies to make online payments of import tariffs and related taxes of a Merchandise Declaration. The system is available 24/7, representing a reduction in time, and costs to the private sector.  

The amount set forth in the commercial invoice is used to determine the tariff assessment.  If there is doubt about the accuracy of the stated price, Customs assesses its own value.  For valuation of used cars, Customs uses N.A.D.A., Edmund’s, and the Truck Blue Book.  Currently, El Salvador is implementing the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement.  However, El Salvador has not yet notified its customs valuation legislation to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and has not yet responded to the Checklist of Issues describing how El Salvador implements the Customs Valuation Agreement. 

In general, the following documents are required to import products into the country: (a) customs declaration; (b) invoice; (c) transportation documents; (d) certificate of origin; (e) licenses or permits; and (f) payment of duties and taxes (which can be done electronically). 

Every customs declaration should contain at least the following information: 

· The requested customs regime

· Specifics of the dispatcher or consignee

· Specifics of the applicant or representative

· Type of transportation

· Cargo manifest number

· Number of the corresponding transportation document

· Country or countries of origin of the goods, and country of destination

· Description of the goods, including gross weight in kilograms

· Tariff classification of the goods and their trade description

· Customs value of the goods

· Permits (when needed)

· The applicable duties and taxes

In May 2019, El Salvador adopted the DUCA (Declaracion Unica Centroamericana), a single online document to replace three physical customs forms, in conjunction with other members of the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat (SIECA).  SIECA manages the DUCA online platformSalvadoran Customs offers assistance with the DUCA process. 

In 2018, El Salvador approved amendments to the Customs Simplification Law to reduce the timeframes of customs procedures.  The reform halved the statutory time to clear goods through customs (from 48 to 24 hours), while taxpayers will have four days to pay duties and taxes.  In addition, the reform introduced a 24-hour deadline to conduct non-intrusive inspections. 

The commercial invoice should contain at least the following information: name and address of the seller; city and date; name and address of the buyer; description of the goods, including brand, model or style; quantity, unit, and total value of the goods; and terms of payments agreed with the seller.  The Customs Authority accepts invoices either in English or Spanish. 

The transportation documents should include: airway bill or bill of lading; name of the company; port of origin and destination; type, quantity, and description of product; weight; freight value; and number of the corresponding transportation document, as well as its date and place of issuance.

Goods originating in CAFTA-DR countries trans-shipped via other countries, especially via Panama, must meet certain requirements in order to receive CAFTA-DR benefits, as established in the Salvadoran Customs Operation Manual. Merchandise that has been in transit or transshipment through one or more countries, whether part of the Agreement or not, will require additional documentation that proves trans-shipment took place under Customs’ control. Customs will also require that Certificates of Origin be issued in the United States to receive CAFTA-DR preferences.

Under CAFTA-DR advanced rulings related to classification, value and origin of the goods can be requested. In El Salvador, Customs is the entity that provides these advanced rulings, which have to be requested before any exportation. A period of up to 90 days should be taken into consideration for these advanced rulings to be delivered by the authority.

Customs can be contacted at the address and telephone number below:

Dirección General de Aduanas, Ministerio de Hacienda

Pan-American Highway Km. 11.5, San Bartolo, Ilopango,

San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A.

Tel: (503) 2244-5000/2244-3000

Fax: (503) 2244-7201

Read more on Customs Administration and Trade Facilitation under CAFTA-DR