More and more individuals worldwide are moving outside the borders of their home countries. In a 2016 report by the US State Department, they estimated that nearly 9 million U.S. citizens live abroad, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) estimates that nearly 3 million Canadians live overseas. Belize has become an increasingly popular destination for North Americans looking to move to a tropical destination. Keep reading to find out the four different options for becoming a resident of Belize.
Upon entry into Belize, tourists are given a 30-day visa to stay in the country.* If you choose to stay in Belize after the 30 day period, you are required to apply for an extension at the Immigration Department, which will cost you $25 USD per month for the first 6 months. After 6 months, the fee to extend your visa is $50 USD. It is very important that you renew your visa on time to avoid any complications. When extending your visa, you may be asked for proof of funds to sustain yourself while in Belize, your purpose for staying, etc.
*Citizens of certain countries are required to obtain a visa prior to entering Belize. These countries can be found on the Belize Department of Immigration and Nationality Services website: http://ins.gov.bz/
If your goal is to work in Belize, whether for yourself or for a Belizean company, you will need to apply for a work permit. Work permits are good for one year. Most service jobs including server, bartenders, tour guides, are only available to Belizeans, so do not expect to obtain a work permit for these types of jobs. To apply for a work permit, you need to apply through the Labour Department in person and submit a number of supporting documents including job qualifications, job description, corporate documents for the company you will be working for (or starting if self-employed), among other relevant documents. The requirements change frequently, and many people find it easier to use the services of an attorney or expediter to facilitate the application process. The application process for a work permit can take several months to complete and during this time you are not permitted to work for a Belizean company.
Qualified Retired Person (QRP) Program
The Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program is a program operated by the Belize Tourism Board and is geared towards attracting retirees to Belize. The QRP program is available to individuals over 45 years of age, along with their spouses and children under 18, who intend to spend at least 30 consecutive days in Belize. To qualify for the QRP program, applicants must provide proof of a monthly pension of $2,000 USD monthly or $24,000 annually from outside of Belize, which must be deposited into a Belizean bank. It important to note that you may not work or generate income in Belize under the QRP program. To apply for the QRP there is a $150 US application fee due at the time of application. Once approved, there is a $1,000 US program fee for the primary applicant, and $750 US per dependent, as well as a $200 US program card fee. You must renew your QRP status every year, which currently costs $25 US.
In addition to allowing the applicant to stay in the country for extended periods of time, the QRP program allows offers tax exemption on income generated outside of Belize, as well as import duty exemption on personal effects including a motor vehicle, boat or light aircraft.
If permanent residency is your goal, it is important to note that time spent in Belize under the QRP program does not count for Permanent Residency or Nationality.
For the full list of requirements and application fees, you can visit the Belize Tourism Board’s website: belizetourismboard.org
For those not yet eligible to apply for the QRP program, the permanent residency option is the best route. To qualify for permanent residency, you must have lived in the country for 1 full year, and during this time you cannot leave for more than 14 consecutive days. In order to apply, you must submit your application materials in person to the Immigration Department in the capital city of Belmopan. Fees to apply for permanent residency range between $250 US and $5,000 depending on your country of citizenship. Once your permanent residency application is approved, you have the ability to work in Belize without a work permit and can travel freely in and out of Belize. The application process can be tedious and may take several months to a year to be approved. It is possible to hire an expediter (attorney, Justice of the Peace, etc) to assist in the process, which many find helpful due to the complex immigration laws. After five years as a permanent resident of Belize, you are eligible to apply for Belizean citizenship.