Have you ever considered the idea of living in Belize? Depending on your circumstances, there are specific processes that you need to follow. Your best bet is to spend some time learning all you can about the country and possibly making a trip there to see the areas that interest you the most.
Once you do make the decision to move to Belize, there are a couple of options that are worth considering. Here are some tips that will help you decide which approach would work best.
Your First Entry into Belize: The Benefits of a Tourist Card
If you happen to be a citizen in one of the nations considered to be part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), it’s possible to secure a tourist card without applying for a visa. That means if you are currently a citizen of the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Guatemala, Canada or any other nation that’s part of CARICOM, you may apply for and receive a tourist card.
Why is this such a great approach? The tourist card allows you to travel throughout Belize and enjoy everything the country has to offer. The card can be renewed on a monthly basis for at least up to six months. After that, you technically need some other means of remaining in the country. Even so, this often provides all the time you need to ensure that Belize is the place you want to call home.
What can you do with the tourist card? You can travel anywhere you like in the country. It’s possible to buy or rent property. One factor to consider is that you are not allowed to obtain employment while in the country as a tourist. You will also need to provide confirmation that you have a sufficient amount of income to remain in the nation.
You Like What You See: Considering the Qualified Retirement Program
If you are sure that Belize is where you want to live and you happen to be over the age of 45, looking into the Qualified Retirement Program (QRP) is a good idea. Sometimes called the Retirement Residency Program or the Qualified Retirement Persons Program, the QRP was created in 1999 specifically to motivate retired persons to move to Belize.
Here are some of the things you should know about the program:
- Along with the age requirement for you, it’s possible for your dependents to enter and reside in the country under certain conditions. A spouse of any age and any children who are under the age of 18 may participate in this program. If you have a child who is currently attending university, he or she may also enter under this program as long as the student is under the age of 23.
- You must have a verifiable source of income. Currently, that source must amount to a minimum of $2,000 USD per month. This is important since the provisions of the QRP do not allow participants to seek employment and receive pay within the country. Your income may be from a pension fund, disbursements from other types of retirement accounts, or dividends from investments.
You may also have a job that’s based outside the country and allows you to telecommute. Remember that you will need to provide documentation that confirms your income amount and that it meets the minimum required.
- There is some confusion as to what happens if you decide to seek permanent residency after participating in the QRP. Some sources indicate that the months or years you are in the country under this program do not count toward the minimum amount of time you must live in Belize before your application for permanent residency will be considered.
Others claim that there are ways to work around this, including the collection of statements and references from local citizens like clergy, legal counsel, and others who are recognized citizens.
- Like holding a tourist card, participation in the QRP allows you to move freely around the country. This provides additional opportunities to find a community that’s ideal for you and to settle in for the long-term.
- The program provides incentives that make it easy to import furnishings and other belongings. At any time during the first year of your acceptance into the QRP, you may bring all of your personal effects and household items into the country without having to pay any import taxes or duties.
There are also breaks on taxes and duties related to qualified vehicles, aircraft, and marine vessels. Before assuming any of those means of transportation are included in the program’s incentives, check with the immigration authorities and make sure your vehicles meet the basic requirements established in the current guidelines.
- Keep in mind that the processing of your application may take some time. In the interim, you may seek other legal means of remaining in the country. A lawyer can help you explore what options would work best in your case as well as providing suggestions and legal support during the application procedure.
What About Permanent Residency?
Another alternative to consider is applying for permanent residency. To be considered for this option, you must live in Belize for a period of one full year. During that time, you may only be out of the country for two consecutive weeks. Should you exceed that limit, the process of counting your time in the nation starts over.
Along with this requirement, you will need to go through several basic steps. The first is filling out the formal request for permanent residency. It’s often recommended that you seek legal help to ensure that every question on the form is filled out accurately and in full. You will also need to submit to and pass an HIV test.
Your background check must confirm that there are no records of criminal convictions; a police certificate verifying that you do not have this type of record will be sufficient. You will also need statements from two current residents who have known you for at least one year. Those residents may be local clergy, a Justice of the Peace, the head of a government entity, or a registered medical professional. If your attorney has known you for over one year, that legal counsel may also submit a statement.
If your dream is to live in Belize, it can become a reality. Explore the options for visiting the country and seeking some type of long-term or permanent residency. Remember that seeking out legal help allows you to understand the fees and other costs associated with each residency option. Along the way, you get to enjoy all that your new home has to offer.
Here is an amazing article on Belize and a must-read if you’re thinking about making Belize your new home: Why Belize is the Perfect Country to Move To
About The Author
Luigi Wewege is the Senior Vice President, and Head of Private Banking of Belize based Caye International Bank, a FinTech School Instructor and the published author of The Digital Banking Revolution – now in its third edition. You can follow his posts on trends shaping the banking and financial services industry on Twitter: @luigiwewege
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