How To Successfully Relocate & Settle Down In Belize As An Expat

by Larry Waight
expat

If you have ever wondered “why move to Belize,” then no one single answer can suffice. This guide was written to best explain expatriation to the only English-speaking country in Central America. Relocation may seem overwhelming but you can streamline your experience by having the most accurate info to make the most informed decisions that will continue to influence you for decades to come. Follow this information and you will never regret expatriation and relocation to Belize.

Understand the Vibe

Strolling in Southern Belize. Photo by Duarte Dellarole

Belize likes to take things easy and can be a refreshing change of pace from the “Go! Go! Go!” of an urban center. A Belizean morning is one where you can easily hear tropical birdsong and maybe even the crash of waves against the beach. Belize’s super-chill vibe extends to its people; Belizeans are among the most easy-going sorts and the notable demographic of Canadian and American expats is certainly a factor as to why. Beyond the expat community, Belize is home to Creoles, Mestizos, Mennonites and, of course, Maya.

Know the Language

Wander around a nature trail of an APAMO member. Photo by Quilz Tamay Photography

Belize’s official language is English, thanks to the colonial practices of the British crown. This means you will not need any translation when signing various legal documents. If you want to learn other languages, know that Spanish and Belizean Kriol are also quite popular tongues, the latter of which tends to have a lot of overlap with English as a dialect.

Your Money Goes Twice As Far

Since odds are good that you are coming from the USA, Belize’s currency is locked into a 2:1 ratio with the American dollar. Every $1 USD is worth $2 BZD (Belizean Dollar). Other ways of staying thrifty come in how many common services like insurance, internet and taxes are quite affordable. You can also use USD to pay for most things outside of dealing with government. It is quite easy to live on a monthly budget of $1,600 BZD.

The Weather is a Selling Point

The average temperature of Belize is between 74°F-84°F throughout the year. This means that you want to dress light and breezy. Furthermore, the country rarely experiences tornadoes, earthquakes or tsunamis.

Homesickness is Easily Cured

belize map of flying flights airlines

Belize’s location means that is just a short trip by plane to Houston or Miami. Many major airlines offer direct flights to and from Belize. So if you’re an expat and missing family, it’s just two flights (at max) from Belize to see them. 

On Geography

MPR coppola hideaway belize blancaneux breakfast

A Belizean breakfast served with the rushing sounds of Privassion Creek. Blancaneaux Lodge, Mountain Pine Ridge

Belize is home to less than 400,000 people but features a robust array of environments and differing vistas. Nothing stops you from having brunch at Mountain Pine Ridge, then snorkeling around a marine reserve a few hours later. Getting to any major settlement is easily accomplished by wheels or by domestic flight. The small size and great deal of activities and environments have often been cited as a major motivator for expats to choose Belize as their home.

The Immigration Process

The Belizean government has come up with the Qualified Retirement Program (QRP) as a major draw to expats. The goal of the QRP is to fast-track potential residents into having a permanent residence. As long as you are at least 45 years of age, you can pursue the QRP for a residence and additional features like tax exemption on our income, duty-free importation of your personal effects and vehicles and other features. Some individuals choose to stay within the country on a visitor’s permit and then pursue permanent residency after 12 months’ time. Permanent residence grants all of the benefits of Belizean citizenship, such as the right to vote, while allowing you to retain whatever your nationality may be.

Much like any other government project, you cannot simply check a single box and call it a day. Anyone seeking to expatriate to Belize needs to fill out several different forms and supply documentation of police records, a copy of their passport, birth certificate, proof of income and marriage certificates, if applicable. If your goal is permanent residency, you must remain within the country for at least one continuous year. Applying for residency is done within Belmopan City’s Department of Immigration and involves filling out forms, submitting a record of your criminal history, providing two recommendations and submitting to an HIV test. Should your application go through without issue, you can apply to become a full citizen after five years. The base fee to apply is around $1,000 USD per individual but this may be adjusted based on individual nationality.

On Housing in Belize as an Expat

vista real estate

One major boon to living in a small tropical paradise is that it is a buyer’s market when it comes to real estate options and locales. Considering how active the country’s real estate market is, a good idea would be to take a vacation and check out different areas to get a feel for where you want to settle down. 

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