Highlights of Belize’s Retired
Persons Incentive Act
The Qualified Retired Persons Incentive
Act passed by the Belize legislature in 1999 is now in force and being
implemented by the Belize Tourism Board. The program, which resembles
the formerly popular but now defunct pensionado program in Costa Rica,
is designed to attract more retirees to Belize. As of late 2000,
according to Gina Escalante of the Belize Tourist Board, more than 200
people have applied for the program, and about 100 have been so far
been approved. Interest in the program is high, Escalante says,
with thousands of people visiting the program’s Web site monthly and
hundreds of them calling or e-mailing for information.
For those who can show the required monthly
income from investments or pensions, this program offers benefits of official
residency and tax-free entry of the retiree's household goods and a car,
boat and even an airplane. This program eliminates some of the bureaucratic
delays built into other programs. The BTB guarantees action on an
application in no more than three months, but we have heard of qualified
retirees getting approval for this program in only two to three weeks.
Key features of the Act include:
• Open to anyone age 45 or older
who is a citizen of the U.S., the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland, Canada or Belize; a person who qualifies can include his or her
dependents in the program, including children under 18 (up to age 23 if
enrolled in college).
• Applications for the program must be
made to the Belize Tourism Board and include the following:
Copy of birth certificate for applicant
and each dependent.
Marriage certificate (if applicant is
also applying for a spouse).
Notarized copy of complete passport of
applicant and all dependents.
Copy of police record from last place
of residence (completed within one month of application).
You should request this from the police department where you last lived.
Sometimes there is a small processing charge of US$10 or so.
Copy of medical exam including AIDS testing.
Inexpensive medical exams are available in Chetumal, Mexico, and
also in Belize, or you can have one done by your physician back
An official statement from a bank or financial
institution certifying that the applicant is the recipient of a pension
or annuity (including U.S. Social Security) of a minimum of US$1,000 per
month or that the applicant's investments will generate a minimum of US$2,000
per month. The two types of income can be combined -- for example
US$500 from a pension and US$1000 from investments, but all income must
be in the same applicant’s name. A husband and wife each with a US$500
pension cannot combine that to qualify as having a US$1,000 monthly pension
income. Within a month of approval of residency status, the
first deposit of at least US$1,000, if qualifying on the basis of pension,
or US$2,000, if qualifying on the basis of investments, must be made.
It can be deposited in any bank operating in Belize, either annually in
a lump sum or monthly. There is no restriction as to type of account,
savings or checking, but it must be a Belize dollar, not U.S. dollar, account.
The funds are available for living expenses of the retiree.
Four front and four side-view photos of
applicant and each dependent.
• Funds from pension or investments must
be deposited monthly in a bank in Belize.
• Persons applying for residency are subject
to a background check by the Belize Ministry of National Security.
• Persons residing in Belize under the
program cannot work for pay in Belize.
• Persons retiring in Belize under the
program are exempt from the payment of all Belize taxes on all income or
receipts from a source outside of Belize whether that income is generated
from work performed or from an investment.
• Persons retiring in Belize under the
program qualify for duty and tax exemptions not exceeding US $15,000 on
new and used personal and household effects. A list of all items with corresponding
values that will be imported must be submitted with the application.
In addition, a personal vehicle, which must not be more than three years
old, a boat used for recreational purposes and a light aircraft -- any
of these or all three -- can be imported duty free under the law or can
be purchased in Belize. Duty-free import of these items can be done
in stages but must be completed within one year of moving to Belize.
• Fees for the program total US$705 per
application (individual, couple or family.) These consist of a non-refundable
application fee of US$100 payable to the Belize Tourism Board submitted
with the application; a program fee of US$500 payable to the Belize
Tourism Board upon acceptance into the program; on first entering
the country after approval, a fee of US$100 must be paid to the Immigration
Department; a BZE $10 stamp (US$5) must be attached to each application
that is submitted to the Belize Tourism Board for processing.
For information on the program, contact:
Belize Tourist Board
Central Bank Building, Level 2
P.O. Box 325
Belize City, Belize
Tel: 501-2-31913 or 800-624-0686
The BTB has a Web site covering the program
at www.belizeretirement.org. An application form for this program
is available on-line at www.belizeretirement.org/applicationform.htm