Belize is for expats with a thirst for adventure—those who have the courage and boldness to start a new life on their terms! If you are ready to blow up your comfort zones, explore the world with curiosity, humility, and an open mind and heart, then Belize may be just what you have been looking for.
In this in-depth conversation with Curtis and Cindy Evans, expats from California, learn how relocating to Belize is possible if you are daring enough to try it by yourself. Draw out the explorer inside you, set your intentions, be mindful, and get prepared for anything and everything.
We hope that by releasing the expectations of place, you’re able to take the journey within, slow down, engage more fully, open up for unplanned exploration, and recalibrate your inner expat. Check out relocating to Belize and be surprised by what you can do.
Charlotte Tweed: Thank you for inviting us into your home, Curtis and Cindy, to share your experience in relocating to Belize. The residency process you went through is interesting because you did everything yourself.
Cindy Evans: Correct.
Charlotte Tweed: I would like to hear details about what you did because that would be very daunting for people to go through the paperwork and the time involved.
Cindy Evans: Well, number one, I’m retired. I don’t have anything else to do, right? The other thing here is—and Curtis and I discussed this at length—I think one of the worst things that expats can do is be an expat because the worst advice we’ve ever received was from expats. Because their thoughts, and their dialogues, and their experience level is within the expat community. We have been very fortunate to have Belizean friends. We made friends early with Belizeans.
We went to meet one of the facilitators and he wanted $10,000. I’m sitting there going, “But a little guy from Guatemala who wants his residency can’t do that. If he cannot do that, I cannot do that. Everything is in English, and if it’s not, I’ll figure it out.” But that was my thought pattern on a lot of things. I have a bank account. I have a lot of things that expats don’t have because the expat community limits or says, “Don’t do it.”
The process wasn’t difficult at all. The difficulty was patience. The immigration website lets you print out the form. It gives you a list of all the documents you need. You go in and talk to Ms. Lopez at the immigration office. And she says, “No, you need this,” or “You need this,” or “You need this.” Then, you go and you get what she asked for. Finally, you present the package. It wasn’t that difficult. The only thing we were missing from the list was something from Social Security to say that we had never gone on Belizean Social Security. That’s not on the immigration list.
But Ms. Lopez told us, “See that building over there? You go over there, you get it, and come back in two weeks when you get the paperwork,” and you’re done. It wasn’t difficult if you just read the documents, and you followed what the documents wanted. We’re very forthcoming. I gave them every document, scanned every bank statement, anything they wanted, we presented them the paperwork. Now, it was easy too because we had purchased the property. I had a bank account. These things are a little more documentable for them, but it wasn’t difficult to go through the process.
The difficulty was the blind spots that come up once you present your paperwork, you must wait. I would go to immigration and they would say, “It could be a year. You just have to be patient.” Curtis was eager to work, so he’s wondering, “When is it? When is it? When is it?” People are saying on Facebook, two years, nine months. All over the place. I finally checked on Facebook and found the number for Belmopan immigration. The immigration office in San Pedro didn’t even have their number. I called Belmopan. The lady was helpful. She pulled up the file and said, “It’ll be three more weeks.”
I’d call her in two weeks. “Oh, yeah. Okay. You’ll be getting it in…” It’s lucky because she helped us out a couple of times where we got into a little bit of trouble with them losing paperwork and things like that. It turns out she was the supervisor of immigration. I did not know that at the time. But it wasn’t difficult. We’re living here forever. What does it matter if it takes eight months or 12 months?
To me, it didn’t matter. Curtis was anxious, “I want to work.” And I wouldn’t let him do anything. He wasn’t allowed to even go out with ECI because immigration could pull our application. You’re not even allowed to volunteer in this country without a permit. We wouldn’t go and do the trash pickup with community service because I was like, “No, we’re not doing anything to jeopardize immigration.”
It was not difficult. You need patience and understanding that it will occur, and it will happen in Belizean time. You can’t battle by saying, “We should be able to get this in six months.” “We should be able” is not a Belizean thought process. We got it shorter than I think a lot of people did, including people that paid facilitators.
Curtis Evans: We filed in December.
Cindy Evans: We got residency in July.
Charlotte Tweed: Well, that’s not too bad.
Cindy Evans: No.
Curtis Evans: It took seven months.
Cindy Evans: We had people that said, “How did you do that so quick?” We just followed the protocol. We know people who still don’t have titles to their properties using facilitators after two years. We had ours in three months because we used a Belizean person who does this.
Charlotte Tweed: Interesting.
Cindy Evans: It wasn’t difficult, but everyone we know said we shouldn’t do it that way. We shouldn’t do it the way we did.
Charlotte Tweed: Curtis mentioned in an earlier conversation something interesting that you did when you left California and before leaving the United States. Did you move to Nevada?
Cindy Evans: Vegas, yes. Or you could go to Florida, you could go to Wyoming. I wanted to go to a nontaxable state, so I never had to file taxes. California will haunt you until the day you die. If we left California, changed our mind, and came back five years later, California will say that you never left, and want back taxes for those five years. And they will. Also, if you’re living in a foreign country, they will go after you. They do it with basketball stars. They do it to a lot of people. California is very tax predatory. That’s when I said, “Okay. I’m not going to allow them that privilege for when I leave.” So yes, I moved to Vegas because Nevada has a six-week residency. Do you know about Nevada’s divorce laws?
Charlotte Tweed: No, I don’t know.
Cindy Evans: Yeah, it’s big. All women would go to Reno, and you can get residency in six weeks and file a divorce in six weeks. Where in California, you must wait six months to file there. In most of the states in the U.S., once you have residency, you must file for divorce there. It takes a year to get residency in California. Nevada, it’s six weeks. I was able to go for six weeks. We still have a forwarding mail address from Nevada.
Charlotte Tweed: Why do you keep that?
Cindy Evans: Because it’s difficult to have a totally foreign address. It doesn’t work. Even though the IRS knows we’re here. Credit card companies don’t want to have a foreign address or a foreign phone number. We have one phone that’s about 20 bucks in the U.S. because there are places we can’t list our foreign phone numbers.
Charlotte Tweed: Right. That’s a good point. Where do you have your mail service? How do you do that?
Cindy Evans: I did it in Nevada. It’s called IncParadise. They are cool because you have an actual address. It’s a physical address instead of PO boxes, like number 484; it’s an apartment. It comes up with UPS and all of them think it’s an apartment. However they’ve done it, it’s such that it doesn’t show up as an invalid or a PO box. It shows up as a private address. They’ll sort, scan, and send the mail; if you want them to.
They’ll trash it, too. It’s all done on the website. I just bought a cable for the vacuum cleaner, and I have another broker that I can send stuff through if it’s large enough, but this was just one little thing. I send it to IncParadise and they send it to me. You could set up whether you wanted weekly mail, you wanted monthly mail, whatever you want to do. We have eliminated most of the paper mails. The paper mail is primarily stuff that we know is trash. The IRS, Social Security—everybody knows we’re here.
Charlotte Tweed: What is the cost for that?
Cindy Evans: I think it’s $54 a year.
Charlotte Tweed: That’s not bad at all.
Cindy Evans: They have different plans. Originally it was $120, but we didn’t have any mail-out charges. They mailed out every week, except for the cost of the mail. Now, I changed it because we don’t get that much mail. I do it every two weeks. I may change it to a month now. I think it was $54 and then $5 each time they process the mail for you. You could pick out the date. You could pick out whatever you need.
They’ll do anything you want at IncParadise. In Vegas, as I said, I used to drive down there and pick up my mail when I was there. But yeah, they’ve been wonderful. I researched it, too. It was nice that they were there because it was easy to set up. I had looked in Florida. At one point, I thought of going to Florida instead of Nevada because it was closer to Miami. We chose Vegas so we could drive to California on the weekends and stuff like that. I wasn’t out there all by myself.
Charlotte Tweed: When you first came to check out Belize, you came by yourself?
Cindy Evans: I visited Belize through a group that set up a private tour for me. I said to them, “I want to go to Cozumel. I want you to drive me across the border to Chetumal. I want you to drive me to where Walmart is. I want you to drive me where the hospitals are. I want to go into Walmart and Home Depot in Mexico to see how that works and how it is to cross the border.” I did all those things before deciding because now we know we can take a boat over there and hire a car and do those types of things.
I made sure I had all my ducks in a row and understood where I was landing before we did. Because as I said, as far as Curtis and I were concerned, we were all in. We didn’t say, “Oh, let’s rent.” My thing was, “We’re not going to buy anything. We’re going to rent for six months,” and two months in, we were looking to buy. Three months in, we bought this home.
Charlotte Tweed: I think this house was meant to be for you two.
Cindy Evans: It was. It definitely was.
Charlotte Tweed: I’ve talked to other expats here and they mention how long and difficult it can be to get a bank account. What has your experience been?
Curtis Evans: Right up the road, not even a half a mile, we have people that we met there, that are friends from Canada, they own what’s called Moon. It’s a resort. They were having an issue getting a bank account.
Cindy Evans: I don’t know why. I immediately got Atlantic Bank, and a direct bank account, which most expats don’t have. I just got my friend to get one. He was told it would take nine months to get a bank account. I said, “What the hell? No, come with me,” and he got it in on the day we went into the bank. I told him, “You can’t listen to people here. You just cannot listen.”
Curtis Evans: Cindy’s in the bank with him and he says, “Someone said that it’s going to take nine months until we get a bank account.”
Cindy Evans: So, I told the manager, “This is what people say about you. Come on. Show him this isn’t true.”
Curtis Evans: The banker said, “No, I can do it right now.”
Cindy Evans: He said, if he had an electric bill to prove his address, it would’ve been open in the day. So, there you have it.
Cindy Evans: I have advice for you and your husband, though, because you are going to be moving somewhere.
Charlotte Tweed: Somewhere. We’re just not sure where yet.
Cindy Evans: How I approached it, and as I said, I’ve been everywhere. Work backwards. I do that with almost anything in my life. I work backwards. I see where I want to be, what the lifestyle is that I want. This is what will make me happy. I want this house or this kind of setup. I want the golf cart, or I want a car. I need a church; I need this or that. I need what I need to make my life the best I can be and where I won’t regret it. And work backwards from that.
Don’t go to a country and see if it fits you. Start the other way, because you’ll find that you can eliminate a lot of things right away that are a “No, that’s not going to work.” That’s not going to work for various reasons; political instability, dollar exchange, those type of things. But work backwards, and you’ll find that things start dropping off quickly because what will make you happy is not there. No, you’re not going to have a Walmart. And if that makes you happy, then you need to stay where you’re going to be.
My hairdresser is American and she’s been here for 23 years now. The first time I went to her, she said, “No, you’re going to be fine.” She said, “Most people get here and they’re complaining already about how they don’t have this. They don’t have that.” You must know what your core requirements are. And then work backwards.
I know people that have gotten here and go, “We didn’t think we couldn’t get Netflix.” Or “We didn’t know we couldn’t shop, or it would take a month to get things, or it would cost 50% more to get things here than back home,” and they are complaining, complaining, complaining. And your life will be that. It will be complaining. If you already know your core elements, it will be much easier. If these few things are met, my life is happy. Mine was this house. That’s what I wanted was that view. That view and Curtis and I knew we would be okay.
Words of wisdom, Cindy. What really matters to you? Close your eyes and imagine the life you want. Not just what you would like, but what you need. Write down your core values and work back, exactly like Cindy said. Do you need a place to practice your faith? How about your family? Is freedom what you seek? Decide on the lifestyle you want. Stay tuned for the next part of Curtis and Cindy’s interview Relocating to Belize: Lifestyle. Then, make your choice.
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Charlotte Tweed is an adventurous soul with a goal to take you on a journey where you don’t just visit—you live it. Graduating with a Travel and Tourism Honours diploma, Charlotte is channeling all her passion and skills into writing for Escape Artist. She began her expat journey on June 15, 2021, and will be chronicling her expat roadmap weekly in the Escape Artist newsletter. Reading, writing, and planning her and her husband’s next expat destination in the world are how she fills her days. As a recently published author, her mission is to transform your life with expat travel—one destination, one adventure, one story at a time.
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