More information about Guatemala is available on the Guatemala Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Guatemala in 1849 following Guatemala’s independence from Spain on September 15, 1821, and the later dissolution of a federation of Central American states.
U.S. policy objectives in Guatemala include:
- Protecting U.S. citizens and the homeland, dismantling transnational criminal organizations and gangs, and increasing citizen security in Guatemala.
- Engaging Guatemalan government institutions and civil society to fight corruption; increase openness and transparency; support the rule of law, human rights, and civil society; and strengthen the effectiveness of government agencies to improve Guatemalan confidence in institutions.
- Addressing root causes of irregular migration, creating hope for Guatemalans at home by boosting broad-based economic opportunity, increasing equal access to basic services, and engaging the government and the private sector to increase investment in communities and reduce poverty.
- Combatting transnational criminal organizations and reducing violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, to enhance citizen security in Guatemala and the region.
- Improving economic security and equality for Guatemalans and export and investment opportunities for U.S. firms.
Corruption, inequality, and high levels of violence and insecurity in Guatemala contribute to high levels of poverty, elevated crime rates, and some of the lowest social development indicators in Latin America. Forty-three percent of Guatemala’s population identifies as Indigenous, and Indigenous groups and individuals still suffer the historic and continued effects of institutionalized social exclusion. In addition, Guatemala has the youngest population in Latin America (median age of 22) and a majority of youth struggle to obtain sufficient education, training, and job opportunities.
This context drives irregular migration to the United States. Most migrants are young and Indigenous people seeking a steady income. Guatemalans report lack of economic opportunity as the main driver behind their intention to migrate, with insecurity and family separation as secondary reasons.
Guatemala faces formidable challenges: weak governance, endemic corruption, pervasive poverty, food insecurity, severe violence, citizen insecurity, shrinking space for civil society, lack of respect for human rights, and inequitable access to economic opportunities and social services. These challenges drive irregular migration as well as forced displacement and contribute to the expansion of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs).
U.S. Migration Policy Towards Guatemala and the Region
The U.S. Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration and the U.S. Collaborative Migration Management Strategy are the Biden Administration’s principal frameworks guiding U.S. diplomatic efforts and foreign assistance in Guatemala and across Central America. These strategies support Guatemala in addressing the challenges the country faces as both a source of northward migration and transit country for migrants from the region and the world.
The Root Causes Strategy focuses on a coordinated, place-based approach to address the underlying causes that push Central Americans, including many Guatemalans, to migrate. This strategy lays out a framework to use the policy, resources, and diplomacy of the United States, and to leverage the expertise and resources of a broad group of public and private stakeholders, to build hope for citizens in Guatemala that the life they desire can be found at home. The strategy is organized under five pillars:
- Pillar I: Addressing economic insecurity and inequality;
- Pillar II: Combating corruption, strengthening democratic governance, and advancing the rule of law;
- Pillar III: Promoting respect for human rights, labor rights, and a free press;
- Pillar IV: Countering and preventing violence, extortion, and other crimes perpetrated by criminal gangs, trafficking networks, and other organized criminal organizations; and
- Pillar V: Combating sexual, gender-based, and domestic violence.
The Collaborative Migration Management Strategy (CMMS) works together with the Root Causes Strategy and is the first U.S. whole-of-government effort focused on reducing irregular migration to the U.S. border by promoting safe, orderly, and humane migration; improving access to protection for those fleeing persecution and torture; and strengthening migration cooperation and responsibility sharing throughout North and Central America. The CMMS aims to enhance international and national protection of migrants within Guatemala; promote temporary labor programs; strengthen lawful pathways for those who choose to migrate or are forcibly displaced from their homes in North and Central America; foster humane border management practices; and reduce irregular migration.
The CMMS includes eight distinct lines of action to strengthen collaborative migration management across North and Central America, including within Guatemala:
- Stabilize populations with acute needs;
- Expand access to international protection;
- Expand access to protection in countries of origin;
- Expand third-country labor migration programs with worker protections;
- Assist and reintegrate returned persons;
- Foster secure and humane management of borders;
- Strengthen regional public messaging on migration; and
- Expand access to lawful pathways for protection and opportunity in the United States.
U.S. Assistance to Guatemala
The U.S. government works in partnership with the Government of Guatemala, the private sector, civil society, international partners, and communities to create and connect Guatemalans to opportunities that enable them to achieve prosperous, secure, and dignified lives at home. This work spans multiple U.S. government agencies and promotes citizen security and justice, anti-corruption and governance, human rights and labor rights, economic growth, health and nutrition, education, food security and humanitarian assistance, agriculture, and the environment.
Bilateral, regional, and humanitarian assistance through the Department of State and USAID averaged $231.3 million per year (FY 2020-2022). In FY 2022, State and USAID provided more than $60 million in humanitarian assistance to improve livelihoods, improve food security, and support urgent humanitarian and protection needs of refugees, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable populations.
The Department of State also provides foreign assistance to international organizations to implement the Safe Mobility Offices (SMO or Movilidad Segura) initiative in Guatemala, which is designed to expand access to lawful pathways to the United States and other countries, and provide refugees and migrants an alternative to the smugglers looking to take advantage of them. The SMO initiative builds on strong cooperation between the United States and Guatemala, and with other countries in the region to manage the historic irregular migration challenge within the framework of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. It also builds upon other regional mechanisms such as the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS), the Regional Conference on Migration in North and Central America, the South American Conference on Migration, and the Quito Process. The SMO initiative complements existing services available for refugees and migrants in partner countries, including Guatemala.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States is Guatemala’s largest trading partner accounting for nearly 35 percent of Guatemala’s trade. Both nations enjoy a growing trade relationship, which became even stronger after the implementation of the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) in 2007. As of January 1, 2015, most U.S. consumer and industrial goods enter Guatemala duty free (for goods that meet the country-of-origin requirements).
In general, CAFTA-DR has benefitted all parties. Intra-regional trade among Central American countries and the Dominican Republic increased from $27.2 billion in 2020 to more than $38.7 billion in 2021. U.S. goods exports to Central America and the Dominican Republic have reached $48.31 million in 2022 (this figure was $16.89 million in 2005). Nevertheless, CAFTA-DR has been unable to solve some of the region’s most serious problems – including insecurity and corruption.
U.S. merchandise exports to Guatemala were $10.21 billion in 2022, an increase of $2.14 billion or 23 percent over 2021. Leading U.S. exports to Guatemala include mineral fuel oil, machinery, electric machinery, plastics, and cereals (corn, wheat, and rice).
U.S. imports from Guatemala totaled $5.31 billion in 2022, an increase of $640 million or 12.8 percent over 2021. U.S. imports include apparel; edible fruits, melons, and nuts; coffee; edible vegetables, roots, and tubers; sugars and confectioneries of sugar.
Guatemala’s economy is the largest in Central America, with a GDP in 2022 of $95 billion. The macroeconomic situation in the country remains solid and includes a stable exchange rate and a low public debt. Guatemala’s economic growth was 4.1 percent in 2022 and is forecast to grow by 3.5 percent through 2024.
U.S. products and services enjoy strong brand recognition in Guatemala, and U.S. companies have a good reputation in the Guatemalan marketplace. It is estimated that approximately 200 U.S. firms have a presence in the market.
A key component of Guatemala’s economy is remittances from over two million migrants, most of whom have settled in the United States. In 2022, Guatemala set a record with remittances totaling $18.04 billion, $2.74 billion higher than in 2021. Remittances represent over 19 percent of the country’s GDP.
Guatemala’s Membership in International Organizations
Guatemala and the United States belong to many of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Guatemala generally supports U.S. positions in multilateral fora.
Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
Guatemala maintains an embassy in the United States at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008 (tel. 202-745-4953) and 23 consulates in cities throughout the United States.
More information about Guatemala is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
CIA World Factbook Guatemala Page
USAID Guatemala Page
History of U.S. Relations With Guatemala
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Millennium Challenge Corporation: Guatemala