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Belize


Visas & Residency

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Page last updated on November 28, 2012

There are several ways to legally visit or live in Belize, all with different benefits and challenges, and with different requirements. Tourists, temporary visitors or expatriates who don't yet qualify for residency will require a permit or visa. These come in many different varieties and most are fairly easy to get. For those looking to make their stay more permanent, there is Permanent Residency, the Qualified Retired Persons Program, and Citizenship.

While Belize welcomes all visitors and encourages immigration, the system isn't perfect. Application lengths can vary from days to months. Requirements and regulations change frequently, sometimes without notice, and can be inconsistently enforced. As Belize develops, the system continues to improve and clearing the red tape is getting faster and easier. In the meantime, however, patience and persistence are still your best friends.

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Temporary Permits/Visas

There are a few different permits that allow you to stay in the country for a limited time. These permits can be issued by an Immigration Officer at the various offices around the country. Some permits, such as the Tourist Entry Permit and the In Transit Permit, are issued as rubber stamps in your passport upon arrival. Others, like Temporary Employment Permits and Special Permits, can be sought at Immigration offices after you arrive. Finally, some permits will need to be obtained before you arrive in Belize, such as Tourist Visas for nationals of specific countries.

 

In Transit Permit

Those just passing through Belize to another country will require an In Transit permit. These are issued at the border or the airport. You'll need to have some sort of documentation to prove your intentions, such as an airline or bus ticket to another country. Once granted, you will be permitted to be in Belize for up to seven days.

 

Dependent's Permit

Dependent's permits are issued to those dependent upon a permanent resident or citizen of Belize, usually issued to women, children and seniors. The Dependent's permit is valid for one year, and the application requires documents from both the supporter and dependent.

Supporter Requirements

  • Proof of financial stability, whether it be bank statements or a letter from their employer;
  • Proof of Belizean citizenship, or a valid residency card, or a Temporary Employment Permit.

Dependent Requirements

  • Photocopies of applicant's passport;
  • Two passport size photos;
  • Fee: BZD$100.00, plus an additional BZD$1.50 for stamps.

 

Temporary Employment Permit

Anyone who intends to work in Belize must be either a permanent resident or have a work permit. Work permits are employer specific and limited in duration, usually a year. In special cases, the permit is transferable to another employer, though this must be approved by the Immigration Department. Getting a work permit can be difficult, especially in protected industries like farming and retail.

Your employer will 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. Applicants usually require:

  • Photocopies of applicant's passport;
  • Three signed passport photos;
  • Valid Tourist Entry Permit;
  • Completed application form;
  • Fee: between USD$25 and USD$750, depending on the industry, plus an additional USD$10 for stamps

For additional details on obtaining a work permit and working in Belize, see the Working section.

 

Student’s Permit

Student's Permits are only issued to students at recognized educational institutes in the country. The permit is only valid for the institute specified and is not transferable. The student must provide the following:

  • A letter of financial support, completed by a Belizean, or permanent resident, or one with a Temporary Employment Permit;
  • A letter from the institution verifying that the person is enrolled;
  • Proof of income, whether it be a bank statement or a letter from their employer;
  • Two passport size photos;
  • Photocopies of applicant passport;
  • Fee: BZD$50.00 per year for primary and secondary institutions. BZD$100.00 per semester for tertiary institutions.

 

Special Permit

Special Permits are issued to those in special circumstances, such as prohibited immigrants applying for an entry permit, someone seeking special medical treatment, victims of human trafficking crimes, or key witnesses testifying in a Belize court of law. The applicant must provide the following:

  • Proof of identity, such as a passport, a birth certificate, or photo ID if no passport is available;
  • Two passport size photos;
  • Other documentation, as required by the reason for the permit.

 

Visitor's Permit

Visitor's Permits, not to be confused with Tourist Entry Permits, are issued to travelers or those investigating possible settlement who, for whatever reason, don't have their passports. Visitor's permits are mostly given North Americans who are traveling without their passports or have lost them in Belize. They are valid for up to one month and are available at most Immigration offices except in Corozal and Punta Gorda. Applicants require:

  • A completed application form;
  • Proof of identity, such as a birth certificate and/or photo ID;
  • A police report, if passport has been lost in Belize;
  • Two passport size photos;
  • Fee: BZD$100.00.

 

Tourist Entry Permits

Also referred to as tourist visas, these are issued for free on arrival to nationals of the following countries:

  • The European Union Member States (EU) and their dependent territories.
  • The Caribbean Community Member States (CARICOM) with the exception of Haiti.
  • The United States of America and dependent territories.
  • The Commonwealth Realms & Monarchies, and their dependent territories.
  • Costa Rica, Chile, Guatemala, Switzerland, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Tunisia & Uruguay.

Any nationals not from the countries listed will be required to apply for a tourist visa before coming to Belize.

Tourist visas are valid up to thirty days and must be renewed monthly. You can renew your visa at the Immigration Department in Belmopan or Belize City, or with the Senior Immigration Officer in the other districts. For the first six months, renewing your Tourist Entry Permit will cost BZD$50 a month and for the following six months, BZD$100 a month. At one year, unless you intend to apply for permanent residency, you must leave the country for at least 72 hours, after which you can re-enter and start all over again.

If your temporary permit expires while you are still in the country, go see an immigration official immediately as you could be fined up to BZD$1,000 and deported, if caught. If you're responsible and have a good reason for not having a valid permit, you could get off with just paying the fees for renewal.

Some people living in Belize choose to do so as permanent tourists, meaning they follow the cycle of renewing their visas every month, then leaving the country and returning after 72 hours. Living as a permanent tourist has its advantages. You don't have to deal with the red tape of applying for residency and you don't have to commit to living in the country for any amount of time. But you are still considered a tourist and aren't allowed to work without a permit. This isn't a problem for some, but others may enjoy the benefits of becoming a permanent resident.


 

Permanent Residency

After living in Belize for a full year, without leaving the country for more than 14 consecutive days during that year, you may be eligible for Permanent Residency. Those who become residents will quickly feel the benefits: getting in and out of the country is much easier, you can work without a permit, get a Belizean driver's license, and need pay only half of the stamp duty on real estate purchases. The only real downside to obtaining residency is the act of obtaining it. It can be time-consuming, expensive and a lot of work. But if you have the patience and plan on staying in Belize for a long time, residency might be the best way to go.

In order to be approved for residency, you basically have to prove to the government that you've been in the country for a year, you are who you say you are, that you'll be a benefit to the country and you won't be a drain on Belize's limited resources. You must also have a work permit. Some of the other requirements include:

  • A completed application form;
  • Your passport, along with photocopies of all pages;
  • Proof that you have been in the country for a year and haven't left for over 14 consecutive days (often found in your passport);
  • A financial statement proving adequate funds or income to sustain yourself;
  • Two recent passport size photos;
  • Marriage and/or divorce certificates, if applicable (originals and copies);
  • A birth certificate (original and a copy);
  • An original, recent police record;
  • A current work permit (original and a copy);
  • A medical examination form, performed in Belize, testing for HIV and VDRL including original test results;
  • A recent Income Tax Return from the Government of Belize;
  • A sworn statement of financial means to support any dependents;
  • Fee: BZD$200 plus a deposit which is refundable after three years. Deposit amounts vary by applicant's nationality.

Belize's residency requirements often change without notice, so check with the Immigration Department well in advance.


 

Qualified Retired Persons

An increasingly popular option for people looking to get away for their retirement is Belize’s Retired Persons Incentive Program. Governed by the Belize Tourism Board, the program is meant to entice retirees to choose Belize as a new or second home and provides great benefits, including impressive tax breaks.

To become a Qualified Retired Person (QRP), you must be at least 45 years old and receive a pension or income from outside of Belize of at least USD$2,000 a month. A QRP can include dependents in the program, such as a spouse, as well as children under 18, or under 23 if they are registered in a university. A couple may submit only one application if they choose, with the other person claimed as a dependent, which means a couple only needs USD$2,000 a month in income, not USD$4,000.

People who qualify for the program will be free of all taxes and levies on income or receipts from outside of Belize, either generated from work or investments. Retirees may, for the first year in the program, import household and personal effects free from taxes and duties as determined by the Customs Department. Once you’re accepted into the program, a detailed list of all of your household and personal effects must be submitted to the Belize Tourism Board, to ensure transparency. Though retirees are encouraged to buy a vehicle in Belize, it’s also permitted to import a car if it's less than three years old, a boat for personal use and even a small aircraft lighter than 17,000 kg, all duty and tax free. Some of the necessary documents include:

  • Birth Certificates from the applicant and each dependent.
  • Marriage Certificate, if applying with a spouse as a dependent.
  • An original police record, issued from your previous place of residence within one month of application.
  • Clear copies of complete passport (including all blank pages), certified by a Notary Public, of applicant and all dependents. The copies must have the name, passport number, page numbers and the seal or stamp of the Notary Public clearly visible.
  • An official statement from a bank or financial institution certifying that the applicant is the recipient of a pension or annuity of a minimum of USD$2,000 a month.
  • A background check by the Ministry of National Security.
  • Medical Examination: Applicants should undergo a complete medical examination including an AIDS test. A copy of the medical certificate must be attached to the application.
  • Eight recent passport size photographs of applicant and dependents, four from the front and four from the side.

Fees include:

  • A non-refundable application fee of BZD$300.00 to the Belize Tourism Board.
  • Once you're accepted into the program, a fee of BZD$2,700 (BZD$4,200 for a couple) must be paid to the Belize Tourism Board. This fee was recently increased from BZD$2,000.
  • A Qualified Retired Person Residency Card will cost BZD$400.00, payable to the Belize Tourism Board.
  • A Program Fee of BZD$1,500 is required for each dependent to enter the program.

 

Citizenship

Many people choose to remain permanent residents and don't bother applying for nationality status. But for those who want to become a Belizean citizen, gaining the right to vote, the rules are pretty straightforward. The documents required are very similar to those needed to acquire permanent residency. You must be a permanent resident for five years before you can apply and you'll have to pass a citizen test. If you are a spouse or dependent of a citizen, the application can be made after one year of residency, instead of five.

Belize used to have an Economic Citizen program, where you could essentially purchase citizenship (in the form of a donation) for USD$50,000. The money would go towards developing infrastructure and helping finance social programs. Successful applicants would have full citizenship rights, except the right to vote. This program was cut in 2002.

 

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