In recent years, Belize has become an increasingly popular destination for adults who are still interested in working and generating income. If you're looking for a job in Belize, there are a few important aspects you'll want to consider, and a couple industries that may provide the employment you're looking for.
For the greater part of Belize's history, people made a living harvesting lumber for use around the world. As time passed, the people of Belize began to take advantage of the area's natural wealth and grew fruit, cocoa and sugar cane, and harvested seafood. Today, as tourism to the country grows, most Belizeans work in the agriculture or service industries. Generally speaking, Belizeans tend to enjoy the simpler things in life and don't take work as seriously as some cultures from the developed world. However, Belizeans are serious about protecting local jobs, so finding work can sometimes be challenging for foreigners.
Many people moving to Belize choose to start their own business or find a job in the tourism sector, but for those looking for other types of work, Belize's minimum wage is between BZD $3.00 and BZD$3.30 depending on the indsutry, and if you are a student. Average salaries are around BZD$8,500 a year, and income over BZD$19,600 a year is taxed at a flat rate of 25 percent, paid monthly. Belize has an unemployment rate of about 11 percent and more than one third of the population lives below the poverty line. Unfortunately, highly-skilled Belizeans often leave the country to pursue a career in the United States, leaving the country short of skilled technical personel. While this exodus has caused challenges for the country, it can mean job openings for technically trained workers.
Working conditions in Belize aren't up to the standards of developed countries, especially for undocumented workers. The Belizean government's resources are limited, so enforcement of human rights and labor laws are often limited to urban areas or more accessible rural areas. As such, working conditions in the remote parts of the country can be questionable. The situation is improving; as wages increase, unemployment and poverty decline and workers' rights are more frequently respected throughout the country.
An average Belizean work week is 45 hours or six days a week, with paid overtime. Employees are entitled to two weeks of paid vacation annually. If an employee has worked 60 days in the past 12 months, they are allowed 16 days of sick leave. Pregnant women are also entitled to 30 days of sick leave for pregnancy-related illnesses.
Notice for termination varies depending on employment length. For the first six months of employment, employees are entitled to three days notice. From six months to a year of employment, one week notice is required and after a year of employment, two weeks notice is required.
Belizeans can — and do — organize unions, which comprise around 10 percent of the workforce. Unions in Belize have the right to strike without notice, unless they provide an essential service in which case 21 days notice is required. Discrimination based on union affiliation is illegal, though it has been known to happen.
Finding Local Work
The government, while friendly to foreign investment, is careful to protect local jobs. Foreigners seen to be taking a job away from a Belizean aren't generally embraced, so gaining employment can sometimes be challenging, time-consuming and expensive. For starters, Qualified Retired Persons can't work for pay in Belize. In order to legally work in Belize, you must either be a legal resident or have a work permit. Permits come in two varieties, a Temporary Employment Permit and a Self-Employment Permit.
To obtain a Temporary Employment Permit, application packages are to be submitted to the Immigration Department. Documents like your passport, three signed passport photos, a valid tourist visa, USD$10 in stamps and a completed application form will be required. Your employer will also need to provide proof that you are the only person qualified for the job and they have exhausted all avenues to find a Belizean to employ. Usually this means publicly advertising the job for three weeks and having no Belizean with the necessary skills apply. Head to the Immigration office to get a list of all the paperwork you'll need, as it can change without notice and will vary depending on the job and the industry.
While it won't hurt to spend three to six months in Belize before applying for a work permit, there is no official minimum time that must be spent in the country before you can apply, as long as you have been offered a job. Also, you will not be required to apply for a work permit if you do not intend to work. Work permits range in price from USD$25 for volunteers and agricultural workers to USD$750 for professionals. Sometimes the employer may foot the bill, other times it's up to the employee. Work permits are valid for one year and aren't renewable; you must apply for another one. As an application can take a while to process, it would be wise to begin applying at least a month before your work permit expires.
As the government tries to protect local jobs, it is harder to get a permit for certain industries. Permit applications for farmhands, waiting and retail positions are almost always denied, and only Belizean citizens or permanent residents may run a tour company or have a tour operator's license. Officially, it should take about two to four weeks to get a work permit, however those who have gone through the process claim it can take two to three months. However, it's possible for people with desperately needed skills to have some restrictions waived and permits quickly processed.
Getting a Temporary Self-Employment Permit, as it comes with the assumption of creating Belizean jobs, is often a quicker and easier process, with fewer required documents. You must be in the country legally, provide proof of adequate funds to support your business and attend an interview with Immigration. Check with the Immigration Department to ensure you have all the necessary documents before applying. For more information on starting a business in Belize, check out our Doing Business article.
Applications used to be processed by the Labor Department, then sent to Immigration for final approval, however nowadays the entire process is handled by Immigration. If at all possible, submit your applications in person and the process will run far smoother. Keep extra copies of all of your submitted documents, as they have been known to get lost during processing and, as always, remember that persistence, patience and a friendly smile go a long way.
Transferring for Work
Multinational corporations in Belize are usually registered in the International Business Company (IBC) program, so they are technically offshore companies and can't operate in Belize. Thus, multinational corporate presence in Belize is limited and employee transfers to Belize are very rare. If you find yourself being transferred to Belize for work, you will need to collaborate with your company and Belize's Immigration department to get all of the required paperwork in order.
Accommodations and Living Arrangements
When moving to any new country, choosing your accommodations is an important consideration. If you're moving into a region that you're not familar with, it is recommended to rent a property before purchasing.
Many towns and cities will offer furnished rentals, that can be booked for as little as 3 days to several weeks. These rentals will give you an opportunity to get to know the area, prior to settling in for a longer period of time. Paradise Hunter has a large number of furnished rentals, and we can help you find a property in most places within Belize
If you are looking to purchase a property in Belize, there are a few important things you need to know. Like many countries in Central America, there is no mandatory licensing body for real estate, and limited recourse if things go wrong. Finding the right realtor is the single most important aspect of purchasing a property in Belize, and they can also assist with helping you get your bearings. Paradise Hunter has developed a strong network of realtors in Belize, and we would be happy to refer you one of our trusted partners. Simply contact us and let us know where you're looking.
Click here to receive our "Top Ten Things to Know Before You Move to Belize". It's free, and will save you time and money.
There are a lot of volunteering organizations and opportunities in Belize, such as building schools and churches, helping the sick and needy, exploring archaeological sites and working on environmental protection initiatives. For some types of volunteer work, you will need a Temporary Employment Permit. Getting a volunteer work permit is generally easy and quick, and the process will often be helped along by your organization.
Work permits for volunteer positions cost USD$25, which you may or may not have to cover yourself, and you'll need USD$10 in cash for stamps as well as three passport size photos. As policies and regulations change often, check with the Immigration Department as well as your organization to see if you will require any other documents. Some organizations recommend that you just show up and they'll help you take care of the paperwork once you arrive.
For more details on how to get involved in volunteering in Belize, visit the Volunteering section.
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