The most common immigration questions I get from those wanting to visit, retire, live, or work in Belize are answered below.
Tourist entry permits, which are good for 30 days, are granted to everyone with a valid passport and visa when they enter the country of Belize. Tourists arriving from the US, Canada, and United Kingdom are only required to have a valid passport. Should you decide to stay beyond the 30 days, and who could blame you, you can apply to renew your permit at any Immigration Department in Belize as long as you do so before the expiration date.
Residency can be established in Belize by staying in the country for a year and paying the applicable fees of $25/mo USD for the first 6 months and $50/mo USD for the following 6 months. After your first year, you can apply for permanent residency in Belize. This requires that you not be outside the county of Belize for more than 14 days total for the year. If that occurs, generally the authorities will simply extend your in-country residency time by the amount of time you were out of Belize to compensate. If you find yourself in this situation it is advisable to visit the main immigration office for Belize which is located in Belmopan. An AIDS test, criminal background check, and 2 local references are generally required as well.
The Qualified Retirement Program or QRP was designed by the Belize Government to attract retirees. The primary qualifications state that you must be 45 years of age or older and be able to show that you have a monthly income in USD of $2,000/mo. Any person who qualifies may include your dependents including, spouses and children under the age of 18. As long as your children are enrolled in a University, it can also include dependent children up to the age of 23. Benefits of the Qualified Retirement Program in Belize include the ability to import your personal effects and approved means of transportation free from all import duties and taxes. This can include a boat, car, and even light aircraft if they are used for personal use. Additionally, a Qualified Retired Person in Belize shall be exempt from payment of all taxes on all income derived from sources outside of the country. As a QRP you are not allowed to seek employment in Belize, however you are encouraged to volunteer and make business investments. You are required to renew your retiree status every year and must spend an equivalent of 1 month in Belize each year to maintain your QRP status. Note: If you should apply for a Work Permit and/ or Permanent Residency your Qualified Retirement Status will be revoked and payment will be required for all Duty Free Items you imported into Belize.
Working in Belize is permitted by foreigners in certain circumstances. For all the exact details, it is advisable that you contact the Ministry of Labor. Belize generally welcomes those working in highly-skilled professions that will not take employment opportunities away from Belizean Nationals. Belize also encourages those wanting to start a new business especially if it will offer training and employment opportunities to Belizeans. If you are neither a citizen nor a permanent resident of Belize, you must apply for a work permit. Good for one year, a work permit will entitle you to work for yourself or any employer in Belize as long as it meets certain criteria.
Acquiring Belizean Citizenship is relatively easy as long as you are patient. The normal waiting period is 5 years of permanent residency, however if you marry a Belizean citizen you can apply after only one year. While the United States does not encourage dual citizenship, it is not prohibited and does not require that you renounce your U.S. citizenship unless you join the military in Belize or take a high government office position. Applications for citizenship in Belize are usually processed within 6 months but at times may take up to a year. Having all your documents in order prior to application and checking with the immigration department in Belmopan frequently generally shortens the process. When you achieve citizenship, any child of yours under the age of 18 is automatically entitled to become a Belizean citizen as well. You will need to submit an application for citizenship via descent to the immigration department. Once they receive their certificate of nationality, you can apply for a Belizean passport.