Belize is quickly becoming a popular expat destination, thanks to the promise of a higher quality of life for a lower cost of living. If you’re seeking information on whether or not a relocation abroad would be a good idea, you’re probably seeing plenty of information out there that’s geared toward retirees. But, what about those who are still raising families? Some common questions you might have would include asking where are the best schools? How does the visa process work when you are bringing over a whole family? Which are the safest areas for the kids to explore and make friends? While we can’t possibly answer every single question you might have, we can help with some of the basics.
Moving the Whole Family – Visas
Fortunately, if you are coming from North America, you will not need a tourist visa to get into the country. You can spend up to one month there before needing to apply for a visa renewal for $25 USD. This will allow for another month’s stay, and will need to be renewed each month during the time you’re applying for permanent residency.
A popular option if you are over the age of 45 is the Qualified Retirement Program, in which individuals over 45 can bring their dependents over with them and everyone can get residency. Other perks include tax exemption on income and duty-free importation of personal belongings.
In order to move the whole family, each dependent will need to supply the Belizean Immigration Office with application forms, police records, passport copies, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and proof of income.
The Belizean school system is based on British curriculums. Primary school is free, but secondary school (high school) costs about $400 USD per year. Most schools are tied to a religion, and the Catholic schools have been noted by many expats as being particularly good. You’ll find that in Belize, the children are required to wear uniforms, so those and books will also be charged to parents.
Because of an influx of demand from expatriate immigrants in Belize, the country is offering more international schools as well. These schools provide an option for those who are worried about a tough transition from their country of origin, but who also don’t wish to be homeschooled. These schools teach curriculums based on those of the U.S., UK, France, Canada, or Australia/New Zealand. Different languages are typically taught, and you can usually find schools teaching their classes in any of the following languages: English, French, Spanish, German, or Japanese.
While the international school options are a bit pricier, they offer a standard of excellence that can’t be beat. Some of the most popular ones for expat families are as follows: Belize High School in Belize City, Caye Caulker Ocean Academy, QSI International School of Belize in Belmopan, and San Pedro High School on Ambergris Caye.
San Pedro, Placencia, and San Ignacio are the cities with the largest expat locations and are known for being among the safest areas for families. They are, however, a bit more expensive than other areas as a result. Those who wish to keep a tighter budget head to Corozal on the mainland, which is known for having a lower cost of living. Each of these areas have different things to offer as far as activities and events.
San Pedro is located on the island of Ambergris Caye, and it offers gyms, yoga, and wine bars where the expats gather to relax and enjoy the island life. Family activities include snorkeling as well as tours to the mainland to view the Mayan ruins and go cave tubing and zip lining.
Placencia is a peninsula on the Caribbean coast, known for its palm trees and beaches. Here, you can visit the Placencia Lagoon, where manatees and saltwater crocodiles dwell. There are also diving spots for the Belize Barrier Reef and a nearby community famous for its drumming and dance.
San Ignacio is located on the banks of a river near the Cahal Pech Mayan ruins. This location is great for history buffs, offering museums and Mayan plazas and temples for viewing. There is also a nearby rainforest, called Medicine Rainforest, which showcases medicinal herbs native to the area.
Corozal Town is just inside of Belize’s border with Mexico. It’s a quiet town on the Bay of Corozal, where the children can go swim and never be too far from home. Corozal is often described as a rustic Caribbean paradise.
No matter which of these popular, safe areas you choose, you can rest assured knowing that Belize real estate is more than affordable. You can settle your family in Belize for about half of the living cost you’re likely used to, and you can make more room in your budget for adventures and memories.