Making the long-awaited decision to retire or move to Belize is the easy part, especially once you’ve had opportunities to come for vacations and home shopping expeditions and had a chance to familiarize yourself with the laid-back lifestyle and welcoming perks that come with residency in this easygoing Caribbean nation. Worried that relocating to a new nation is going to have you all tied up in bureaucratic tape and paperwork? Relax. The Belize government makes it extremely easy to understand and circumnavigate visa and residency requirements and since the country operates on a legal system established by the British; you’ll not only find it a breeze to handle paperwork but you’ll understand every written and spoken word since it’s all in English.
What’s the easiest way to establish Belize residency?
Get your passport in order, put your affairs in order, too, and simply come to Belize with plans to live in country for 50 consecutive weeks. Take advantage of the shortcut many North Americans have figured out to further your efforts: Apply for a tourist visa and renew it monthly until you’ve met that 50 week anniversary. While you’re waiting out your deadline, shop for homes, get the lay of the land and start making friends. That 50 weeks will go by fast.
What does the process of renewing that visa entail?
Start online by visiting this website where you can not only download the forms you need to do the job but you can double check the credentials you must present in order to complete the process. There’s a $25 USD fee associated with this renewal so bring that along when you travel to Belmopan (location of the immigration office) with requested documents. Your passport must be valid and it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that you must not have broken any laws during the past 30 days in order to complete the renewal process.
Must I renew my visa every 30 days during that 50 week period?
Actually, you must go home after 6 months unless you want to spend the next 6 paying a $50 USD renewal fee monthly. You only have to stay a week back in the U.S. if you would prefer to keep that visa renewal tab at $25 USD; just enough time to get caught up with the people you miss. Expect to be questioned by immigration authorities with each renewal. You’re not doing anything wrong. Plenty of folks take advantage of Belize’s easy-going system and authorities want to be sure that you’re not one of them.
How to get the ball rolling
Having put in your 50 weeks and had your hunch confirmed that you absolutely want to take up residence in Belize, gird your loins for the next round of documentation and screening that would be the same were you asking to move to most other countries. Belize residency requirements may change from time to time but most are set in stone. Back to Belmopan to apply for permanent residency. Tell immigration officials that you’ve resided in-country for 50 weeks (as proven by your visa stamps) and start the process by paying a non-refundable processing fee of $2,000 USD.
Relax, settle in and run the paperwork gauntlet
Like all bureaucratic processes, you will be called on to exercise patience as it could take another year to put all of your ducks in a row. If you’ve led a particularly complicated life, you may have to wait a couple of years before Belize is ready to put out the welcome mat for you. You’ll stay busy in the interim since you will be asked to provide these items to the Immigration and Nationality Department in support of your residency:
- A completed application form
- 2 passport photos
- A copy of all of your passport pages
- Your birth certificate
- Proof of financial independence (e.g., bank statements)
- Police records from Belize and your homeland
- Results of a medical examination recently conducted in Belize.
If you’re not planning to work and you’re over the age of 45, the QRP is heaven sent. As long as you can prove a monthly income of at least $2,000 a month from investment and/or pension sources outside Belize, you start the qualification process. You must spend at least 30 consecutive days in Belize annually to maintain QRP status but you’re relieved of the burden of monthly visa updates and fees – plus you can import all of your possessions duty-free. There is a non-refundable application fee of $150 USD and if you’re accepted, pay a program fee of $1,000 USD. Annual renewal cost is $25 USD.
Want to make your residency permanent?
Once you have run that 50 week gauntlet and met all aforementioned criteria, you can consider permanent residency which comes with its own perks and privileges. To achieve this status, you must stick around Belize for an entire year. Leave for 14 or more days during this period and you will be required to start the process over again. Apply for this status through the Department of Immigration and Nationality (back to Belmopan) and make application to be elevated to permanent residency. You’ll pay a $1000 USD fee and fulfill requests for more documents: current financials, health tests and police records. Would it surprise you to learn that the wait to achieve permanent residency could range between 6 months and two years? Keep renewing your visa during this time to stay out of trouble!
Having invested a big chunk of money in your Belize future and being absolutely certain that this is your promised land, you can apply for full citizenship, a process that can be started once you’ve lived in Belize for 5 years. It may take a few more to seal the deal because the granting of citizenship requires lots of checking and verifying. As you can expect, a new list of required documents will be asked of you – medical, police reports and you must appear for an interview so you have an opportunity to tell authorities why you want Belize to be your homeland. The modest fee of $150 USD could be the last one you pay at this point.
What benefits would you get if you become a Belize citizen?
A bounty of goodies that include a CARICOM membership giving you all of the power granted to natural born citizens and that allow you the ability to travel, live and work throughout the Caribbean rim. As always, that application for citizenship comes from the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services, but by now, you may know these officials by their first names and the route to Belmopan has been thoroughly implanted in your brain! You will trade in your U.S. passport for the Belize version and join citizens who enjoy access to 96 nations and territories (a Belize passport ranks 45th on the world.
Wondering where to relocate to in Belize? Consider Orchid Bay – Orchid Bay is a master-planned community located in Northern Belize. This property development offers a variety of accommodations from beach cabana, vacation condo, or private home all perched on the finest beach in all of Belize. Enjoy first class amenities and modern conveniences while having easy access to the best of Belize.