By Lan Sluder - Editor
& Publisher, Belize First Magazine
the little English-speaking country on the Caribbean Coast of Central America,
is gearing up to welcome more retirees through a new law which gives tax
and residency breaks to qualified retirees age 45 and older. The Retired
Persons Incentive Act passed by the Belize legislature in early 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.
For those who
can show the required monthly income from investments or pensions, it offers
benefits of official residency and tax-free entry of the retiree's household
goods and a car, boat and even an airplane.
agents in Belize say initial response to the program appears generally
positive. "The RPIA seems to me to be a well conceived program. We have
seen quite a bit of interest in it and are assisting several clients to
get information and applications," said one real estate agent in San
Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
also notes that although a person in this program cannot work in Belize,
they can use the internet to generate income from outside the country,
something of great interest to many people.
a long-time real estate agent, surveyer and developer based in Consejo
Shores in Corozal District in Northern Belize, says he thinks the new program
is a solid beginning.
applications are being approved quickly, typically in less than three months.
He says he knows at least one couple who already have received their residency
under the program. Some retirees, however, question the amount of money
that retirees will have to deposit in a Belize bank -- up to US$2,000 or
BZE $4,000 a month.
I brought more than that amount in [to Belize] every month, I would not
want to obligate myself to it -- I think there are many retired couples
who come to Belize to live comfortably on less," said one U.S. expat who
has spent some of his retired life in Belize.
that not all prospective retirees will be comfortable with the paperwork
and background check, and those on a tight retirement budget may find the
application fees of more than US$700 to be more than they can easily afford.
Also, observers note that the transfer tax on Belize real estate -- for
non-Belizeans, 10% of the selling price typically paid by the buyer --
is not waived under the retirement residency program, whereas it is under
the economic citizenship program. The economic citizen program --
familiarly known as the buy-a-passport plan -- costs a minimum of US$25,000.
Tourism Board, rather than the Immigration and Nationality Department,
has charge of the program. This is generally viewed among business circles
in Belize as a good idea.
The BTB has
been prompt in sending information on the program to real estate agents
and others interested in it, although this reporter found the BTB slow
in responding to specific questions.
of the Act include:
Open to anyone
aged 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).
the program must be made to the Belize Tourism Board and include the following:Copy
of birth certificate for applicant and each dependent Marriage
applicant is also applying for a spouse) - Notarized copy of complete passport
of applicant and all dependentsCopy of police record from last place of
residence (completed within one month of application) Copy of medical exam
including AIDS testing - 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 - Four front and four side-view photos of applicant and each
Funds from pension
or investments must be deposited monthly in a bank in Belize.
for residency are subject to a background
check by the Belize
Ministry of National Security.
in Belize under the program cannot work for pay in Belize.
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.
in Belize under the program can 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.
A personal vehicle,
boat and light aircraft -- any of these or all three -- can be imported
duty free under the law, or such transport can be purchased in Belize.
Fees for the program
total US$705 including a non-refundable application fee of US$100 to be
submitted with the application, a BZE$10 stamp to be attached to the application,
a US$500 fee to the Belize Tourism Board when the application is accepted,
and a US$100 fee to the Immigration Department to issue a Qualified Retired
For further information
and an application for the program, contact Anthony Mahler at the Belize
Tourism Board -- e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reportedly the BTB is developing a Web site devoted to the program.
Tell Mr. Mahler that Lan Sluder of Belize First Magazine suggested
you contact him.
BOARD New Central
Bank Building, Level 2
P.O. Box 325