2009-03-30

Freer travel in Central America

El Salvador’s foreign minister, Marisol Argueta de Barillas announced that her country had joined the CA-4 group of nations, which allows free travel between El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

El Salvador’s foreign minister, Marisol Argueta de Barillas announced that her country had joined the CA-4 group of nations, which allows free travel between El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

Julieta G. Pelcastre

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – El Salvador’s foreign minister Marisol Argueta de Barillas announced that, starting in April, foreigners with visas for the United States, Canada, and the “Schengen countries” will be able to travel freely in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

The 1985 Schengen Agreement was a milestone in the history of the European Union. Aimed at removing internal border controls in the EU, it has been signed by 27 countries, including Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, France, and the Netherlands.

Barillas told La Prensa Gráfica that the concession was meant to promote tourism and benefit international companies with business interests or investments in the region. “This measure”, she said, “will benefit people who want to travel to the CA-4 countries by allowing them to enter without a visa and to travel freely …for the time authorised by the immigration officer at the point of entry to the region”.

CA-4 is a border control agreement, which El Salvador signed in 2006. It allows citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras to travel freely within the four countries without a visa. Costa Rica has also expressed interest in joining, so CA-4 would then become CA-5. “We would have no problem with that if it were to happen,” Argueta de Barillas told Diario Colatino.

The plan for a single Central American visa allowing free movement throughout the CA-4 countries was put forward by Argueta de Barillas in January and approved on 19 March in Guatemala. According to Diario Colatino, El Salvador’s Director General of immigration Rafael Alvarez, said that the CA-4 nations had agreed that the single Central American visa would take the form of a sticker placed in passports.

The countries have established 15 security measures, backed up with special equipment, to ensure that visas are genuine and to detect anomalies. Before the system comes into effect, immigration officers will be given special training so that they can verify the validity of visas from the USA, Canada, and the Schengen countries.

All foreign embassies, consulates and airlines operating in the area, and the International Air Transport Association, will be informed of the new plan.

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