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.

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  12 Responses to “Working in Belize, what you need to know”

  1. Bill, If we were to come into Belize and buy an existing house and then rent it out when we weren’t using it, or Airbnb it, would that be legal? Or would that just be starting our own business?

    • Hey Rob;
      Thanks for another great question, there is a short answer that is yes, many part time residents do exactly that.

      The longer answer is also yes, it would be considered a business. The government here like everywhere, like to collect their taxes. First in addition to property tax, you would be expected to pay tax on that Belize income. Also property rented short term or to non-residents is legally subject to a hospitality/tourist tax. 9% I believe. Like everywhere this is often done under the table, but also like everywhere, if caught will probably cost you more in the long run and have other negative repercussions. If ultimately looking to acquire residency, I would recommend not taking any short cuts. Having purchased property and paying taxes that are low anyway, helps a lot with that process.

  2. Bill, what is your opinion about the QRP program? Is the only benefit the duty-free import and not having to renew your visa every 30 days? I realize this answer is probably different for everybody, but my husband and I are roughly your age and will have a pension for some income, but also hoping to supplement that with some type of online business to stretch that pension further.

    • Hi Cara Ham;
      Thank you for following my site and for your question. Just my opinion and yes everyone’s situation is different, but from my point of view the short answer is yes, those are the only advantages. Also if down the road your situation changes and you decide to work, or become a citizen, you would have to pay back or pay for any incentives received and you get no credit for your time here while on QRP and would start from day one to apply for Permanent Residency.

      Online businesses are the ideal way for expats to supplement their incomes. Work permits are only required for jobs where physical work is performed in Belize, . As long as no work is performed here that would eliminate a job for a Belizean, and you keep the payment process out of the country, then you should have no problems with an online business.

      Hope this helps.

  3. Hello Mr. Bill,
    I really love the good work you are doing on here educating us about Belize.
    I am Koffi Ukas from Ghana and I want to relocate to Belize and work.
    From what you said here, getting work will be difficult except Online businesses and pls can you tell me more about Online businesses that one can engage on in Belize.
    Thanks.

    • Hi Koffi Ukas,
      Thank you for your kind words on the site, I appreciate you saying so and that you are finding value in it.

      With regards to online businesses, they are usually a business that you would bring with you. Maybe a consulting business, or website design, etc. A business that can be done online where no physical labor is done that would put a Belizean out of a job. Most people work with international clients (at least outside of Belize) and receive their payments to a bank account in their home country.

      Hope this helps.

  4. Nikki again…
    Lately I’ve decided that I want to get my bachelor’s degree (where I am, when I graduate I can get a free associate’s degree in nursing! Can’t wait!) In nursing so I can become an RN. I’ve also been looking around at places I want to live and of course I always come back to Belize. I’m kinda a go with the flow person that can adapt to change and I’ve been reading your posts lately and am trying to prepare myself with knowledge before I decide Belize. One of the things I was thinking about was becoming a nurse in Belize. I looked at the salary in Belize, and it looks very low. I’ve looked at your post about low cost living I belive it was where it was saying things about don’t compare. But I’ll be honest, seeing somewhere around “$20,000” is a little scary to the American me haha! The site I looked on didn’t really say much or anything, so I’m confused. I haven’t really looked into much more detail about low cost living in Belize and a’s long as I can have my needs (and horses… My only wants!… which are expensive wants so that’s mainly the only reason I am a little concerned) I’ll be okay,but I still would like to know where that would put me? Do you think you could help me? Thank you so much in advance! I love this blog, it gives the honest facts which before I found you, I had no idea about! So thank you thank you thank you! 😊

    • Hi Nikki;
      I commend you on your choice to help others by becoming a RN nurse. Getting a degree there will also allow you to maybe get additional skills that might help you get a job as a nurse in Belize, but it is not a guarantee. As you know from my post on “working in Belize”, Belize protects it’s job market for Belizeans. So if a Belizean has the minimum requirements to fill a job and you have the minimum as well as additional qualifications, the job would probably go to the Belizean. You would be eligible to apply for any job once you were approved for permanent residency, but that can be a process that take several years to complete.

      The cost of living is much lower here if you live like the locals. That salary would probably be adequate to live comfortable on what you need rather than what you want. I didn’t mean to mislead with my comment on comparing US dollars to Belize dollars. What I was saying was that many people come and justify spending with a comparison to the US dollar. For example a box of 12 Fererro Roche chocolates (my favorite) is BZ42.50. It is easy to justify the purchase by saying “oh, that’s only US21.25”, no big deal right? Except in Belize 42.50 can purchase 425 bananas at 10 for $1.00 or 170 oranges at 4 for 1.00. My point was not to compare the price of something to purchase power of a US dollar in the US, but rather to the purchase power of that same dollar in Belize. I hope that makes sense.

      I hope this helps. And, thank you for your very kind word on this site. I am glad you find it useful and informative.

  5. If I was born in the U.S. but one of my parents is Belizean, I was told I can apply for my duel citizenship or passport to work in Belize. How does this process work? Will is be similar to obtaining residency?

    • Hi Dan;
      Thank you for your question and for following my site, I hope the information has been helpful to you.

      I always like to respond to these questions based on my personal experiences, however I regret that I have no personal experience with this particular process. I can tell you that “Citizenship By Decent” is certainly an option and can be applied for even before moving to Belize. I am not sure how long the process is at this time (the document linked below indicate 8 weeks), but I would think it is faster than the Permanent Residency option which is a three to four year wait at this time (including the year you must live here before applying).

      If you have family members who are Belizean citizens, you may qualify to apply for citizenship by descent even before you move to Belize (Even if they are deceased). You will need to be able to prove with authentic original documents that these relatives were indeed legal Belizean citizens and of course your relationship to them.

      Here is a link to the “Citizenship guide” just be aware that there are different requirements depending on whether you were born pre or post independence in 1981.

      I would recommend for this type of process that, you visit your closest Belize Embassy to get the most up-to-date requirement information and application forms.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if I can be of further assisstance.

      ~Bill~

  6. Are there many new arrivals from CARICOM countries? I have a British and a Jamaican passport (Jamaica is in CARICOM). If I were to want to stay in Belize and apply for residency would it be better to be British or Jamaican?

    • Hi Matt;
      I really can’t answer that question. Having a passport from a CARICOM country allows you to move more freely in participating countries, and of course Belize formally being British Honduras and a Commonwealth country, citizens from Commonwealth countries it appears do seem to have a slightly easier time with some processes. Regarding Residency though, it appears to be a long process for all forieners to Belize.

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