The various options outlined previously for Residency and Retirement in Belize have their pluses and minuses. The main advantages and disadvantages are for you the potential visitor, immigrant or prospective expat to weigh. This country can be a great place to retire or live in but it may not be for everyone. Take a look at our article Top Ten Reasons To Live Or Retire In Belize. We now outline some of the pros and cons of achieving residency in Belize.
Pros: No commitment, no financial requirement, flexibility, little red tape.
Cons: No tax advantages, no official status, inconvenience of having to renew periodically, monthly fee of US$25. to $50. per person to extend, possibility rules may change, can’t work for pay in the country. If you work on the sly, you are an easy target for extortion, by the authorities. A jealous fellow expat will also be happy to turn you in.
Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program
Pros: Quick approval, application through the Belize Tourism Board rather than Immigration Department, some residency rights (except voting), tax-free entry of household effects, car, boat and airplane, only have to live in country for one month a year.
Cons: Must deposit US$24,000 a year in a local bank, somewhat costly application process, can’t work for pay in Belize, must be 45 or over, still have to pay tourist exit taxes when leaving the country.
Does not earn points if you want to achieve permanent residency later. Most retirement experts dismiss the Belize Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program as a convoluted money-making scheme for the government and bureaucrats. Other countries such as Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua offer offer much better terms. But there is a work around.
Forget about financial privacy. The government requires that all Qualified Retired Persons submit a yearly bank statement showing compliance with the financial requirements of the program. Most retirement experts regard this as intrusive. Reports are that the program is increasingly being used to facilitate select Belizean-Americans to return to Belize. These individuals, having pre-existing nationality, are able to work making the program very attractive for them, but not for the expats the QRP was was originally designed for.
Some canny immigrants use the QRP primarily as a way of moving their household effects, vehicles and boats into the country tax-free, including several years worth of expensive linens, clothes and spare parts. Then after a reasonable time, they abandon their QRP status and apply for permanent residency.
Pros: Full residency rights (except voting in national elections – but you can vote in municipal elections), can work, open to anyone regardless of age, one-time tax-free entry of household effects.
Cons: Year-long residency before applying, more red tape, costly application process, and some people are turned down for minor details; you can bring in household goods but NOT a car, boat or airplane free of duty.
In addition to these programs, full citizenship in Belize is a possibility for those living here over a certain period. To acquire citizenship, applicants must have been a resident or have permanent residency status for a minimum of five years. Applicants for citizenship need to provide essentially the same supporting documentation as those applying for permanent residency. Applicants also must demonstrate a knowledge of Belizean history. Since most of Belizean history was written by the occupying British over a the past two centuries, reading a couple of books with test answers will suffice.
Living As An Expat in Belize
If you’re looking for a place to live or to retire that’s just like back home, only better; for a United States or a Canada on the cheap; for Florida with ruins, reefs and rum, you may get a rude awakening when you move here. Because Belize isn’t just like the U.S. or Canada. It does have world-class rum at economical prices, awe-inspiring ruins, hot women and music, the beautiful Caribbean sea and much more.
But the rules are different. The people who make and enforce the rules are different. Sometimes there are no rules. Sometimes there is a set of rules for you, and a different one for everyone else. Just about every expat resident of Belize has some story to tell about problems he or she faced in adjusting to life in Belize – or, in not adjusting. Let’s look at some of the differences, and what they mean to you as a potential resident or retiree.
First, Belize is a country with a population hardly bigger than a small city in the U.S. Even including recent illegal and uncounted immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the population of the entire country is only about 400,000.
Most expats seeking retirement or residency are middle-class North Americans, from a society still run by white middle-class North Americans. Belize, on the other hand, is a truly multi-cultural society, with Latinos, Creoles, Mestizos, Maya, Garifuna, Asians, and what in the rest of Latin America would be called Gringos, living together in complex and changing relationships. Living together in probably more harmony than anyone has a right to expect.
In several areas, Creoles (African descent) dominate – especially in the bureaucracy and security services; increasingly, in other areas Latino Belizeans and immigrants dominate. One thing is for certain, though: In this mix, North Americans and Europeans have very limited power. Money talks in Belize, of course, as it does everywhere. Most of Belize’s tourism industry is owned by foreign interests. But much of its industry, banking and agriculture is controlled by multinational companies or by a few wealthy, well-connected Belizean families.
In Belize, culture shock is sometimes masked by the surface familiarity. Most Belizeans speak English, albeit a different English. They watch American television. They drive big American or Japanese cars. They even accept U.S. currency. But, underneath the surface sameness, Belize is different, a collection of differences. Cases in point: The ancient Mayan view of time, cyclical and recurring, and even the Mayan view today, are grossly different from the linear way urban North Americans view time.
The emerging Latino majority in Belize has social, religious and political views that are quite different from the views of the average North American, or, even of the typical Belizean Creole. In many cases, family connections and relationships are more important here than they are in the U.S. or Canada. Time is less important. Not wanting to disappoint, locals may say “maybe” when “no” would be more accurate. Otherwise honest men may take money under the table for getting things moving. Values North Americans take for granted, such as “work hard and get ahead,” do not apply in Belize in the same way. Physical labor, especially agricultural work and service work, because of the heritage of slavery and colonialism, is viewed as demeaning among the Creole ethnic group, reason why they gravitate to and permeate the government bureaucracy.
– Source Lan Sluder
Another Way For Full Residency and Citizenship in Belize
Like most countries, full and practically Free Citizenship is available to those who marry a national. While this of course is not possible for those already married, for the single person this can be an attractive option.
To get married in Belize, an expat must obtain a marriage license from the Ministry of the Attorney General. This is a relatively simple process and costs but U.S. $25.00 The country has many eligible women (and men) who may be interested in marrying an expat in hopes of a better life. After one year of marriage, the expat can apply for Citizenship Via Marriage. If there is an issue from the marriage (child) the process is further cemented.