Living And Working In Belize: What You Need To Know In Advance
After visiting Belize a few times, you’ve decided that you would like to make it your new home. Since you’re not quite ready to retire yet, that means you’ll need to obtain permission to work as well as live in the country. How will you go about getting everything in order?
Here are some of the basics that will help you get started.
Understanding Travel And Work Visas
You already know that it’s necessary to have a valid passport and a return ticket to visit Belize. You also know that you can renew your one-month visa for several months before having to leave the country. If you’re a citizen of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and a number of other countries, you won’t have to obtain a visa before entering the country. Your short-term visa can be processed when you arrive.
Obtaining a work visa is more detailed. If you plan on living in the country for an extended time, you will require one in order to earn a living. There are two different approaches to work visas that may apply.
One approach has to do with working for an employer who is willing to hire a foreigner who has established legal residency in Belize. You establish legal residency by renewing your travel visa for up to six consecutive months. In order to be considered, you must be in the country legally, have all permits and visas that are available to you up to this point, and ensure your information with the Immigration Department is up to date.
Your prospective employer must submit documents to the Belize Labour Department. These documents include:
- An application submitted on your behalf
- 3 recent passport photos
- A copy of your passport
- Confirmation that you are qualified for the job
There must also be evidence that the employer made a reasonable effort to fill the vacant position with a citizen of Belize. Assuming the Labour officer looks over the information and determines that the employer did make a reasonable effort and that you’re qualified for the position, there’s a good chance of being approved and receiving the work permit.
The second approach has to do with temporary self-employment. You will need to possess all the documents from the Immigration Department that would apply if you were attempting to work for a local employer. In addition, you will need proof of funds to tide you over while you launch this new venture. There must also be a reference submitted to the Labour Department by an agency or ministry related to your field of endeavor.
In some cases, the six-month requirement may be waived if you are planning on being self-employed. The rationale is that you’ve provided evidence that you can support yourself while the venture takes off. There’s also some expectation that you will employ nationals once the business grows to a certain level.
Remember there are other factors that come into play. You must be considered to be of sound character and free of any health issue that’s considered contagious or capable of interfering with your ability to earn a living.
Renewing Work Visa
Technically, you don’t renew work visas in the same way that you renew a travel visa for another month. A work visa is good for one calendar year. Before the current visa expires, it’s necessary to apply for a new replacement work visa. This may be done through your employer if you are working for a Belize national. If you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for making the proper applications within a timely manner.
Don’t assume that your visa will automatically be renewed. The Labour Department will look at the application as if you are applying for the first time. If anything has changed that indicates you no longer meet the basic requirements, there is a chance that the replacement visa will be denied.
Pursuing A Path To Permanent Residency
After you have legally resided in Belize for one year, it’s possible to seek permanent resident status. You will need to pledge funds that are sufficient for you to leave the country if the need arises. It’s also necessary to submit passport photographs that are endorsed with your signature on the back. Documents from your bank are necessary to ensure that you meet the minimum financial requirements for permanent residency.
You’ll also need to go through a background check. The goal is to determine if you have any serious legal issues involving law enforcement. Along with medical records that document the current state of your health, this will complete the essentials that are required by the Immigration Department.
Along with the documentation, you will need to provide an application fee. That amount varies based on your country of origin. In most cases, a rejection of your application results in a return of the fee. The one exception is for residents of China who seek permanent residency in Belize. Assuming the application is approved, you will then pay what’s known as a permanent resident fee and receive a Permanent Residency card. This card functions in much the same way as a green card in the United States.
Becoming A Citizen Of Belize
Should you decide to become a naturalized citizen of Belize, it’s necessary to retain permanent residency status for a period of five consecutive years. At that point, you may approach the Immigration Department and apply. In many cases, applications are processed within six months. There are instances in which the process could take a full year. During that time, you are able to maintain your status as a permanent resident.
The documentation that was required for permanent resident status will also apply to your petition for citizenship. There may be other documents that you will need to present, based on your country of origin. The most practical way to manage the process is to hire an immigration attorney who can oversee your application and ensure it complies with the Immigration Department’s current policies and procedures. It doesn’t hurt if you and your attorney remain available if the Department has any questions. You can also contact the Immigration Department from time to time and check on the status of your petition.
Other pathways to citizenship can apply in certain cases. For example, if you were to marry a Belize citizen while living in the country as a permanent resident, it may be possible to apply for citizenship before waiting five years. There will be an investigation to determine if the union was entered into without any intent to commit fraud. Assuming that the Immigration Department is convinced that the reason for the marriage was not to secure citizenship, you may find your petition is approved sooner rather than later.
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Achieving Your Goal
Like most nations, Belize has specific laws regarding residents and those seeking citizenship and the right to work within the country. If making Belize your home and becoming a citizen is what you want to do, make sure you follow those laws to the letter.
Living and working in Belize is a desire for many. While it may take some time, the goal you’ve set out to achieve will eventually come to pass.
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About The Author
Luigi Wewege is the Senior Vice President and Head of Private Banking of Caye International Bank, headquartered in Belize, Central America. Outside of the bank, he serves as an Instructor at the FinTech School in California, which provides online training courses on the latest technological and innovation developments within the financial services industry. Luigi is also the published author of The Digital Banking Revolution, available in audio, Kindle, and paperback formats throughout all major international online bookstores – now in its third edition.
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