El Salvador - Nationality and citizenship

The Salvadoran State is connected to the individual, in the exercise of its sovereignty, when it grants those that make up its people a status, whether legal or political; legal, when converted to nationals, and political as soon as they are confirmed as citizens.

El Salvador has ratified a series of instruments of International Law, primarily in matters related to human rights. One of them is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in its Article 15 paragraph 1 asserts “everyone has the right to a nationality, and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” In turn, this principle is confirmed by the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 16: “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”

The American Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man establishes in its Article XVII the right to recognition of juridical personality and civil rights: “Every person has the right to be recognised everywhere as a person having rights and obligations, and to enjoy the basic civil rights.” Thereafter, in Article XIX, the Right to Nationality, it is stipulated “Every person has the right to the nationality to which he is entitled by law and to change it, if he so wishes, for the nationality of any other country that is willing to grant it to him.” Similarly, the American Convention on Human Rights establishes in its Article 20, “Every person has the right to a nationality… [which cannot] be arbitrarily deprived”.

In that regard, the 1983 Constitution of the Republic of El Salvador emphasises in its preamble “the respect to a human person’s dignity, in the building of a more just society...” With this humanistic base, Article 1 establishes that “El Salvador recognises the human person as the origin and purpose of the State’s activity...” This means that the SalvadoranState constitutionally establishes the main parameter, i.e. the human person, for the realisation of all of its activities without distinguishing between nationals and foreigners; supported by Article 3 of the same text, “[a]ll persons are equal before the law (regulation of public law and order). For the enjoyment of civil rights cannot establish restrictions based on differences of nationality, race, sex, or religion...”

In this regard Article 90 establishes that Salvadorans by birth are:

  • Those born in the territory of El Salvador;
  • The children of a Salvadoran father or mother, born abroad;
  • Those originating from the other states that constitute the Federal Republic of Central America, that having domicile in El Salvador, express before competent authorities their will to be Salvadorans, without the requirement of relinquishing their nationality of origin.

Although there is only one nationality in El Salvador, different treatment is given to nationals by origin and nationals by naturalisation. An example of this is that there are certain public offices which only Salvadorans by birth can occupy, such as Representative (Art. 126 Cn), President (Art. 151 Cn), or Magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice (Art. 176 Cn).

Naturalisation is doctrinally considered to be the right of a foreigner and thereby a benefit granted by public authority through a representative entity of the Executive branch that, in the case of El Salvador, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, through the General Office of Migration and Immigration.

Article 92 of the Constitution establishes that the category of Salvadorans by naturalisation may be acquired by:

  • The Spanish and Spanish Americans of origin that have resided in the country for one year;
  • Foreigners of any origin that have resided in the country for five years;
  • Those that due to notable services provided to the Republic obtain that category through the legislative branch;
  • The male foreigner married to a female Salvadoran or a female foreigner married to a male Salvadoran that accredits two years of residency in the country, before or after the marriage ceremony.


Citizens are all Salvadorans older than 18 years of age. The political rights of a citizen are: to exercise suffrage; to associate to constitute political parties according to law and be admitted to those already constituted; and to run for public office, in compliance with the requirements determined by the Constitution and secondary laws.

The citizen’s political duties are to exercise suffrage; to comply and oversee that the Constitution of the Republic is enforced; and to serve the State pursuant to law. The exercise of suffrage entails, in addition, the right to vote in a direct popular referendum. 

Suspension of citizenship rights: they are suspended due to formal imprisonment; derangement; judicial interdiction; refusal to perform, without justified cause, an office of popular election; in this latter case, the suspension will last the entire term that the refused office would have been performed.

Loss of citizen rights: when a notoriously flawed behaviour is proven, for example: those condemned for crimes; those that buy or sell votes in elections; those that subscribe acts, proclamations or adherence to promote or support the re-election or continuation of the term of the President of the Republic, or use direct means destined for that purpose; the officers, authorities, and their agents that inhibit the freedom of suffrage.

In these cases, citizenship rights are recovered by express rehabilitation declared by the competent authority.