For years, the standard procedure was to trade in Samsonite suitcases for plastic tubs and to fill them up with medicine and check them as baggage. Then upon arrival to Aurora International airport in Guatemala City, the tubs were offloaded onto an awaiting vehicle and then to whatever town where a medical outreach was scheduled, buuut not anymore!!! In 2010, a “reform” of a an imported medications act dated back in the year 2000 went into effect in all Central American Airports and shortly thereafter started being enforced by customs officials. We learned this first hand in El Salvador a few years back while serving alongside a medical missions team in San Miguel when all the medicine for a week’s worth of outreaches was confiscated at the airport. Since then, we’ve learned the procedure in Guatemala and have successfully received medical teams with large quantities of medicine on multiple occasions. This week we helped serve a group who got six bags of medications confiscated at the Guatemalan airport on Sunday October 5, 2014. After multiple trips to the health department, airport etc and much prayer, the bags were released to the team four days later!! This experience triggered the idea for me to post the procedure on our blog to try and keep as many future medical teams as possible from running into the same problem. Below are the necessary steps that are needed for smooth sailing in the airport with large amounts of medicine:
- Make a detailed list of all meds (Invoice recommended) with lot numbers, expiration dates and cost. Please do not try to slide any extra meds in that aren’t on your list, as it’s not worth the risk of getting the whole lot confiscated. This includes all OTC (over the counter) medications, they still need to be on the list with their correct expiry dates.
One month before your arrival date, at the very latest, send the list via email to your contact in Guatemala who will be filing the proper paperwork with the board of health on your behalf. It must be filed under a legal Guatemalan association’s name with notarized copies of both the association’s constitution and the legal document naming of the legal representative. They will need to take these forms; Form 1 – Form 2 , completely filled out signed and stamped with the complete list of meds to the Ventanilla de Servicios in Zone 9 of Guatemala City. The complete address is: 5a Avenida 13-27 Zona 9. There is a Q15 payment to the bank at the same location and after submitting the paperwork, it’s normally ready in 1 to 2 business days. If you need help with this, please let us know it would be our pleasure to serve you and your team.
- We do not recommend using large plastic tubs because they create too much attention. Therefore, we suggest that you use large duffel bags or just regular soft side suitcases. When your contact scans and emails you the authorization forms, print a copy and place it in the very top of your bags containing the meds.
- A few four before your flight arrives, your contact should carry the original authorization stamp to the airport and request permission to enter the airport and personally place it in the hands of the SAT clerk on duty.
- *NOTE* If the value of medicine that your bringing in as a donation exceeds $5,000.00, it’s possible that you’ll get charged a tax. This has never happened to our groups, but we would rather you be prepared in event that it does.