May 182016
 
Working in Belize, what you need to know

Working in Belize is not as easy as showing up and looking at the classifieds. There are procedures to follow as Belize rightfully protects it’s jobs for Belizeans.

Working in Belize is not easy, but not impossible.

Working in Belize is not as easy as just showing up and looking at the classifieds. There are procedures to follow as Belize rightfully protects it’s jobs for Belizeans. Belize is a small, generally poor country with high unemployment. It is practically impossible to just move here and get a work permit for any job that can be done by a Belizean. If you have a rare skill or one not common in Belize then it becomes easier. For example, maybe a French restaurant might hire you if you spoke French and no French speaking Belizean could be found.

Jobs You may find difficult to land.

If you are planning on working in Belize, normally jobs for waiters/waitresses, cleaners, driver jobs, gardeners, general laborer, etc. are the ones that will be hardest to acquire as any Belizean can do those. Even what I consider skilled trades like plumbing, electrical, mechanics, etc. are often done here by locals that an aptitude for it, or have been trained down through the generations by other locals. It will also be very difficult to convince someone to hire you under the table or off the books for cash. Belize is a small country and little goes unnoticed, so even if you were hired for a cash in hand job it would probably not be very long before you were discovered by a local that wanted that job and were reported. If caught, the fines would probably be more than you made at the job and may well lead to you being deported. The fines to the business are also so high that it is usually not worth their effort or reputation to get involved with this practice. In Canada I know this happens all of the time, wages are much higher there and foreigners can often be hired much cheaper than local trades people for cash. The wage savings for some small companies make the risk worthwhile. In Belize however, the wages are already rock bottom, the average Belizean (and probably so will you) makes about BZ$5.00/hr. or BZ$40.00/ day (US$20.00/day) which is about what I made in a half hour as an electrician back in Canada, so there is no advantage for a business in Belize to hire an expat for cash.

Your unique skills may help you qualify.

Highly skilled jobs if you are qualified may be easier to acquire, like a Doctor, Nurse, Architect, engineer etc. as not many Belizeans can just come off of the street to do these jobs, now that been said it is not a guarantee, there are not a lot of these jobs available and many Belizeans do go to the US, Canada, and throughout the Caribbean to get quality training and degrees, and then return to take those jobs as well.

Expats Working in Belize Have a Few Options.

The main options expats working in Belize tend to exercise are firstly, to work online for a business outside of Belize, or to open their own business. Also permanent residency is an option that if you can wait for up to three years will allow you to do any job and solve your problem of working in Belize.

  • An Online Business.

    An acceptable online business is one that can be done from Belize for a foreign company. You would probably want to be paid in the currency of that country, and have your cheques deposited in an account in that same country. You would then bring your money into Belize as required maybe using an ATM machine for daily expenses, or wire transfers for large purchases. For expats with that ability to do their jobs online, this scenario is a perfectly acceptable opportunity for you to be working in Belize because you are not taking a job from a Belizean.

  • Open Your Own Business.

    Belize welcomes expats that open businesses and then hire locals. Sometimes this is the way to go and the cheap labor here often makes it feasible. That being said, IMHO it is important to find a niche that provides a needed service and does not compete with another local business, otherwise growing your business may be difficult. That is not to say that a motivated individual could not be working in Belize for themselves, hire local labour, and find customers that might pay for gardening or other labor services. Again building a client list, and reputation will require spending time here, and getting to know people. You will also be competing against every local that has a machete and a rake and is calling himself a gardener, and likewise every local that owns a hammer and is calling himself a carpenter, and so on.

    As I mentioned earlier, many of the what I consider to be skilled trades are performed by locals that have the practical knowledge of their trade passed on, usually on a need to know bases and with less and less theoretical knowledge passed on through the process. As a result the quality of workmanship is often below the standards we are used to in other countries. This is where some expats may see an opportunity to open a competing business but are successful because of their superior training, customer service, and overall work ethic.

  •  Permanant Residency.

    Another option for working in Belize if you have the time and patience is to become a Permanent Resident. This can be a long process that can take between two and three years. In order to qualify for Permanent Residency you must live in Belize for one full year and not leave for more than 14 days total in that year. After that time you may apply to become a Permanent Resident. It will usually take another year to be accepted but can be up to two years depending on your country of origin and how fast information is shared during the investigation process. In reality to be safe, you should have enough savings to sustain yourself for up to three years. Once you have been granted residency, you will have all of the same rights as a Belizean except for the right to vote (unless you are from a commonwealth country), and although you would still not be considered a citizen, you would be entitled to work any job you might find. Here is a link to my post on Residency Options.

 

Conclusion.

Belize is not a country that makes processes easy for expats (or for locals for that matter), but it is not impossible either as long as you have time and patience and “go slow” with a positive attitude. I have found that most things in Belize including jobs, home rentals, etc. are not generally advertised in the classifieds but are made known by word of mouth. Having that down time while we wait for our Permanent Residency to be approved, has allowed us to get to know people, explore the country, and ultimately has put us in a position to find better opportunities for working in Belize, as they present themselves.