Acquiring residency or retirement status in Belize is not as difficult as it may appear, and here we show you some of the options available to those who want to make Belize their second or permanent home.
Options for Visitors Wishing to Stay in Belize for Extended Periods
There are three ways for visitors that have been piqued by Belize and want to spend more time here can accomplish extended stays in The Jewel, as Belize is affectionately called. These are the Belize Tourist Card, The Qualified Retired Person Program, and Permanent Residency.
Belize Tourist Card
This visitor card is the easiest way to hang out in Belize for a while. There is no long-term commitment – just live and enjoy the experience day by day, or better stated, month by month. The procedure is relatively simple: You obtain a one month entry card on entering the country. After 30 days, you go to an immigration office and renew the tourist card monthly – also known as a visitor’s visa for U.S. $25 a month for up to six months. Thereafter it will cost you U.S. $50 a month. You can continue renewing your visitor’s visa almost indefinitely until you decide that it may be more economical to apply for permanent residency. If you fail to renew your visitor’s permit you are in violation of the law and can be deported. Normally if you have a good explanation and are on friendly terms with the immigration department you will be let off with a lecture. Being in the country with an expired visa can make you a target of corrupt officials, disgruntled workers or jealous neighbors – not at all recommended.
Nationals of the Caribbean Community – CARICOM – Canada, Mexico, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and the U.S.A. obtain a tourist card without having to apply in advance for a tourist visa. Citizens of other countries need to apply in advance for a tourist visa. Download Belize Visa Application Form (PDF File). You can also check out the Belize Tourism Board web site, www.travelbelize.org for updates as the requirements are often moving targets according to the whims of local bureaucrats. Once you have your tourist card (this is often merely a stamp in your passport that states the date that you are allowed to be in country), you can go wherever you want in Belize. You can buy or rent property, move around throughout the country without hindrance, but you are not allowed to work. The immigration law in Belize requires that when you renew your visitor permit, you need to show proof of sufficient funds to stay in Belize. This is normally U.S. $60 a day.
Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program
The Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act passed by the Belize House of Representatives in 1999 and is operated by the Belize Tourism Board. The QRP program is aimed at attracting retirees to Belize. In the first few years of the program it attracted considerable interest and several applications.
However, the Belize QRP appears to have fallen into neglect. Many individuals who applied and were approved relate a lengthy and cumbersome approval process handled by rank amateurs. The benefits are not all what is advertised even though the Belize Tourism Board spends lots of tax payer’s money promoting the program, but apparently failing to deliver a quality product.
The Belize Tourism Board declines to disclose publicly how many applications it has received and how many have been approved.
One well-known foreign travel author has hypothesized that there are at most a few hundred participants in the program. Local sources say just under one thousand retirees have been netted so far. Whatever the case, interest in the program has waned because of the income requirement, and the inability to work for pay in Belize.
The Belize QRP is for sure nowhere near the better retiree programs offered in other countries such as Panama, Mexico and Costa Rica. We DO NOT endorse the Belize QRP as the best option for retirement in Belize.
For the prospective retiree that can show proof of the required monthly income the QRP program offers approved residency and tax-free entry of the retiree’s household goods and motor vehicle. Other items that can be imported duty free include marine vessels and small aircraft. For the well-heeled retirees who may want to import high-value items to Belize, this is one angle that may be attractive as excessive import duties are a real fact of life in Belize.
Individuals age 45 or more qualify for the the program. The QRP benefits the spouse and children under the age of 18 or older if attending university. If you are interested in the Belize Qualified Retired Person program you can get more information and apply through the Belize Qualified Retired Person Application Form (PDF file). Caveat: Time spent in Belize as a QRP does not count towards time you need to be in Belize to acquire Permanent Residency or Nationality. This is regarded as one of the singular defects of the QRP.
Belize Permanent Resident
Applications for Belize Permanent Residence are made to the Belize Immigration Department in the City Of Belmopan after you have resided continuously in Belize for one year. You may not leave Belize for a period of 14 consecutive days during this time or your application may be rejected.
You need to fill out the required Permanent Residency Application form, take an HIV test, submit a recent police certificate of no criminal convictions, and provide two recommendations from individuals who have known you for at least one year. These individuals are usually ministers of religion, registered medical practitioners, attorneys at law, Head of a Government Department or Justice of the Peace.
There are several expediters – usually attorneys-at-law, retired immigration officers, Justices Of The Peace and other functionaries who can assist and guide you through this process. But the applicant needs to appear in person to submit his or her application. Once your permanent residency has been approved you can seek employment or work for yourself just like any Belizean – there is no need for a work permit. You can move freely within Belize, and travel in and out of Belize without any restrictions. Best of all, the clock starts running and after 5 years you can apply for full citizenship. It is economical to apply for permanent residency.
Application fees for Permanent Residency vary by nationality, ranging from U.S. $250 to $5,000. For U.S. nationals, the fee is US$1,000 per person. For information and application form, contact: Immigration and Nationality Department Ministry of National Security and Immigration, Belmopan City, Belize, Central America; Tel.: 501-222-4620; fax: 501-222-4056. Time for approval of a permanent residency application varies. Some find that the process goes fairly quickly, taking only a few months. Others say it takes up to a year, or longer, for approval.
INFORMATION COURTESY BELIZE.COM LTD….. (Retrieved from their website at www.belize.com)