Why Parents Choose to Move to Belize

by Larry Waight
family travel sunbreeze

“I’m just one of the countless people who have made huge life decisions during this massively chaotic and unsettling pandemic year,” Jamie Ducharme writes for Time magazine; a comment that may resonate with you because you’ve also had an epiphany and concluded that your entire family would be better off living less complicated lives in a place that makes transitioning to a new culture relatively easy. Sounds familiar? That’s because it practically spells out Belize. The nation is close to home, practically everyone speaks English, your family can live on less income, and the nation’s laid back lifestyle makes it easy to adapt to the slower pace minus the stress associated with living in North America. Kids have the capacity to adapt even faster than adults, and your kids are likely to thrive in this small Central American nation.

Research is on your side

Venturing out to Moho Caye. Photo by Duarte Dellarole

According to the Pew Research Center, the pandemic proved a major motivator for Americans to move. As of June 2020, 22-percent of the populace either moved as a result of the pandemic or knows someone who did. Telecommuting to work contributed to some of this change but a reevaluation of life’s priorities has dominated people’s thinking as a result of the pandemic, notes Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, head of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Quarantine, it seems, triggers inventory taking!

What benefits can you and your family enjoy by moving south? One enthusiastic ex-pat told the publication “International Living” that she moved to improve her quality of life. “In Belize, we know our lives will be blissfully free from the commuter crush, 24-hour news, workaday stress…Belize is a land of few cars, abundant fresh food from the sea and the great natural beauty.” If you’ve come to the same conclusion, here’s what you will want to know about moving your family to Belize, too.

12 steps to smoothly relocating your family to Belize

1. Get your hands on a copy of “Caye Boy: Barefoot Adventures of an Island Child” written by Jessica Retseck Wigh and illustrated by Andrew Young. Your kids are going to love it!

2. Read this article What to know about moving your Family to Belize” on the Caribbean Culture and Lifestyle website for great advice.

3. Come to Belize for an exploratory visit. You won’t need a visa at this point, so make it an orientation holiday that gives you a taste of your future lifestyle. Stay for a month before committing to settling down, and bounce around different resorts to get a feel for the area. Stay in the heart of Ambergris Caye at SunBreeze Hotel; in San Ignacio with San Ignacio Resort Hotel; in Corozal at Orchid Bay; in Punta Gorda at Copal Tree Lodge; and Radisson Ft. George in Belize City. 

4. Decided to make the move? Everyone will need a visa to continue residency beyond your first 30 days. That includes babies, grandmas, and everyone else in your family. Pick up the paperwork at the immigration office in the capital, City of Belmopan.

5. Plan to keep renewing those visas monthly at a cost of $25 USD each. Got four kids? Budget $150 USD to cover this recurring expense for a family of 6. These renewals are required until you apply for permanent residency.

6. Hook up with a savvy realtor. Find one possessing three qualities: He/she has worked with ex-pats, knows the lay of the land so time isn’t wasted searching for housing outside your budget, and if you can find a realtor who specializes in re-settling families from North America to Belize, lucky you! Find the realtor for you on our Real Estate page here.

placencia beach couple colorful tipsy

Placencia is a top choice for retirees. Photo courtesy Kevin Quischan Photography

7. Parents over the age of 45 can apply for the Quality Retirement Program (QRP). That means you’re officially retired, Belize style. You’ll be entitled to income tax breaks and there’s no duty associated with the family belongings brought to Belize to furnish your home, including the family car and other essentials.

8. Gather documents required by the Belizean Immigration Office for every family member once you’re ready to move forward with your intention to formally relocate: Application forms, police records, passport copies, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and proof of income.

9. Enroll the kids in school. Curricula are based on British systems and while primary school is free, there is a tuition of about $400 USD annually for secondary students. Although, you can kiss those budget-busting annual clothes shopping sprees goodbye. Your children will wear uniforms that you purchase and you’ll be on the hook for their textbooks, too.

10. Prepare the kids for a different school experience. Some schools are religion-based while others are international systems aimed at a scholarly study that promotes high academic standards. International schools are more expensive, but the cost will be offset by Belize’s lower cost of living. 

11. Choose your community. Some of the most popular family-oriented communities in Belize are San Pedro, Placencia, and San Ignacio where your family members will find ex-pats of all ages. That stated, it costs more to live in these three communities. Want to raise your youngsters so they treat the planet kindly and save money, too? Consider Carmelita Gardens where environmental responsibility is at the heart of this unique community.  

Placencia aerial Itz’ana

An aerial of Placencia. Photo courtesy Itz’ana Resort

12. Get to know your neighbors. You will run into plenty of U.S. ex-pats but if you don’t, consider visiting this website to find people in the area you are about to call home. This forum could prove invaluable so don’t be shy. We have it on good authority that you will be welcomed with open arms by ex-pats, no matter where you set up your new home. Once you’re settled, you may wonder why you didn’t decide to move your family to Belize before now!   

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