Jul 082015
 
Know your residency options to remain in Belize legally

Know your residency options to remain in Belize legally

Residency Options.


Residency options may not be
on the top of your list when you first arrive in the country, but if staying in Belize is on your short list you may want to keep your options in mind. Upon arriving in Belize you will receive a “Visitor Visa” based on your expected time of stay. The maximum visa issued will be one month. If you need more time, or would like to stay permanently, you will need to renew your visitor visa and pursue one of these three residency options.

 

  • The QRP Program.
  • Permanent Residency.
  • Perpetual Tourist

 
 

Three unique Residency options. Which one is right for you?

 
 

Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program.

To qualify for the QRP Program, individuals must be at least 45 years of age. You will have to prove permanent income of at least US$2000.00/month from an investment, pension, or other retirement benefits. An individual who qualifies may also include a spouse and children under age 18.

Some advantages of this program are that it is administered by The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and can be applied for before even moving to Belize. In addition, once approved you will be permitted to import your personal items and an approved method of transportation duty free. This is a one shot deal and must be done within one year of entering the program. Finally a Qualified Retired Person will be free of income tax.

Some disadvantages of this program are that while you can operate a business. You can never work under this program. You can never become a citizen. Finally, if you choose this residency option, you will need to provide documentation annually proving income, status of dependents, as well as, other proof that you still qualify for this program. Also note if you leave this program in the future, no time is credited towards a Permanent Residency application and you will be required to pay back any benefits received from the program.

 
 

Permanent Residency.

The process to apply for Permanent Residency is similar to the QRP Program but with a few key differences. Firstly, after you have lived in Belize for one full year you will make your application to the Director of Immigration and Naturalization. During this first year you must maintain your visitor visa and may not leave the country for more than 14 days total or the clock will reset.

Permanent Residency is the most common of the residency options. Chosen by people who have not yet reached retirement age but have decided to stay and make a life in Belize.

This process can be more expensive and take a little longer. However, I believe the benefits will pay for themselves in the long run. As a Permanent Resident you will be permitted to work once approved and enjoy all the benefits of a Belizean except you will not have the right to vote. After being a permanent resident for 5 years you may apply to become a citizen of Belize.

Note: Citizens of commonwealth countries need not be approved for permanent Residence to apply for voter cards. You may apply after living in Belize for one year, and at least two months in the district that you apply in.

 
 

Perpetual Tourist

Perpetual Tourist technically should not be included as one of the residency options. It is an option that will allow you to remain in the country legally. A perpetual tourist is someone who continues to renew their visitor visa indefinitely. If you are still unsure about staying in Belize permanently, or if you will only spend a few months a year this may be an option for you.

You will remain a visitor and will not enjoy any of the benefits that the other two programs offer. For example, you can not work or engage in any business activity without the permission of the Director of Immigration and by purchasing expensive permits or work visas. Any belongings you bring to Belize may be subject to high import duties.

NOTE: If you take up full time residence in Belize, at some point the immigration department will insist upon your entering into one of the two residency programs.

 
 

Renewing Your Visitor Visa.

Regardless of the residency option you have chosen to legally stay in Belize. On the day that your initial Visitor Visa expires, your first duty will be to renew your visitor visa. This can be done at your local Belize Immigration and Nationality Department office. The fee is US$25.00/person or BZ$50.00/person and must be paid in Belize currency. After six months the fee doubles. By now you will probably have a good idea of your intentions, and what your residency options are. Here is a link to the visitor visa renewal process.

 
 

Which of the residency options is right for you?

Choosing which of the residency options is right for you, will depend on what your long term plans are. Each program has it’s own unique advantages and disadvantages. Knowing the answers to the following questions will often narrow the choice for you. Will you need to work? Do you want to open a business? Will you bring all of your belongings with you? Your answers to these questions will often eliminate all but one of your residency options.

For more information and to download the PDF on the Qualified Retired Persons (QRP)  Program visit this page of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB).

I regret that I cannot find any links to the Department of Immigration and Nationality. The information contained in this post is up to date at the time of publishing. My recommendation is to visit their office yourself, to get the most up to date information.

 
 

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Jan 152015
 
A Visitor Visa allows you to stay in Belize.

A Visitor Visa allows you to stay in Belize until residency has been granted. This visa is issued for 30 days only and must be renewed monthly.

Visitor Visa vs. Entry Visa.

A visitor visa is issued to everyone that enters Belize. They are issued based on your expected visit time, but typically for a maximim of 30 days. The visitor visa should not be confused with the entry visa that is required by the citizens of some countries. Citizens of most countries do not require a visa to enter Belize. Click here to see which nationalities are required to obtain an entry visas. If your country of nationality is not listed, you need to apply for an Entry Visa before you arrive.

Requirement To Renew Your Visitor Visa.

Once you enter the country, you will be responsible to renew your visitor visa every month or portion of a month until you leave. Or, until you become enrolled in either the QRP Program or are issued your Permanent Residency status. The cost is BZ$50.00 per person for the first six months, and increases to BZ$100.00 per person after that.  This fee must be paid in Belize currency. Click here to get more information on the QRP and Permanent Residency programs.

People used to leave for 72 hours after the 6 month mark (maybe a few days in Mexico). They would pay their departure tax and be issued a new visa upon their retun. This would rest the 6 month clock and the fee would return to the initial lower price. I have heard that lately if the immigration officer suspects that your reason for leaving is solely to avoid paying the higher fee, then the new visa issued will expire at the same time as your previous stamp would have. Also that the 6 month clock does not reset. These rulings seem to be at the sole discretion of the the individual immigration officer.

Procedure To Renew Your Visitor Visa.

The process to renew your visitor visa is quite easy. You will attend your local “Immigration and Naturalization” office. At that point the officer will review your passport and determine how many renewals have already been issued. Based on that, you will be issued a fee. That fee must be paid in Belize dollars to the “Department of Revenue” and a recipt of payment received. You will then return to the immigration officer with your receipt of payment to have your passport stamped with the up-to-date visitor visa stamp as shown in the picture above.

The picture is hard to read so I will tell you what it says;

PERMITTED TO REMAIN ON CONDITION THAT
THE   HOLDER   DOES   NOT  ENTER   INTO
EMPLOYMENT PAID OR UNPAID.  DOES NOT
ENGAGE IN ANY BUSINESS OR PROFESSION
WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE DIRECTOR OF
IMMIGRATION AND DOES NOT REMAIN IN
BELIZE LONGER
THAN THE  ________________________________
DATE _______________RCR _______________
SIGNATURE ______________________________
IMMIGRATION OFFICE SAN PEDRO TOWN.

The blanks are filled in with a pen and you are on your way.

Be Prepared. The Process Is Easy, But Not Always Quick.

As I mentioned earlier, the process to renew your visitor visa,  is easy enough. But depending on which office you must visit, you may be required to pack enough patience to get you through the entire day.

In San Pedro, we never took longer than a ½ hour to visit the immigration officer and get our fee. Then to pay our fee to the “Department of Revenue” in a different office at the opposite end of the same building. And then finally to return to the original immigration officer to receive our stamp.

In Belmopan however, we must sign out a number.  I recommend that you arrive no later than 7:00AM to get one that will get you in the door before noon. Now in fairness, the process is just as quick, but the wait at some offices can be several hours before your number is called, and you make your first contact with the immigration officer.

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