Belize, formerly called British Honduras, is a rapidly developing country in Central America. It lies just below Mexico and is bordered by Guatemala on the west and south and the Caribbean Sea on the east. The second largest barrier reef in the world is located off the coast of Belize.
The ancient Mayans were the first inhabitants in Belize dating back to 2000 BC. Their culture flourished until about 900 AD.
Spain first laid claim to the region of Central America during the 16th century although they never established a settlement in the area now occupied by Belize. British logwood cutters also known as the Baymen were the first Europeans to settle in the area. The Baymen depended on slave labour for their logwood operations. In an effort to reduce tentions between England and Spain, treaties were signed which allowed the Baymen to cut logwood for their dye operations. Nevertheless, in 1798, in a showdown at St. George's Caye, the British along with the help from their slaves drove away the Spanish invaders. The area then became known as British Honduras and remained a British colony until 1981 when it attained its independence. In 1973, in anticipation of its impending independence, the name was changed to Belize.
Belize has a mixed ethnic population. In 1991 the population was estimated at 190,792 with approximately 58,000 living in Belize City. The official language is English but Spanish is widely spoken.
Belize is a melting pot of cultures with about 44.1% of the population is of mixed Mayan and European descent (mestizo); 31% are of African and Afro-European (Creole) ancestry; about 9.2% are Mayan; and about 6.2% are Afro-Amerindian (Garifuna). The remainder, about 9.2%, includes European, East Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and North American groups.
The country is divided into six districts: Corozal, Orange Walk, Belize, Cayo, Stann Creek and Toledo. Belmopan, the capital, is located about 50 miles west from Belize City.
Belize enjoys a sub-tropical climate with an average temperature of 80 degrees F. The rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the North to 180 inches in some areas of the South.
The government of Belize is operated on the principle of parliamentary democracy with Her Majesty the Queen as the titular Head of State. The political links, however, are primarily ceremonial. In Belize she is represented by the governor General who must be a Belizean.
Belize's constitution provides for a three way balance of power among the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch. The Executive Branch is composed of the Governor General, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
The House of Representatives is comprised of 28 members who are elected by popular vote. The Senate is appointed by the Governor General, the opposition party and the Belize Advisory Council. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor General and is the leader of the political party that commands the majority of members in the House of Representatives. Cabinet members are appointed by the Prime Minister from members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Effective power in Belize rests with the Prime Minister, who is both the leader of the ruling party and the Cabinet.
A myriad of reasons make Belize the place of choice for retirement.
Given the fact that English is the official language and that spanish is also widely spoken, communication is a breeze in Belize. You'll have no problem commnicating with your local grocer about your favourite fruits that are in season or to your doctor about that pain in your lower back.
The cost of living is also relatively low. Although the cost of many goods imported from the U.S. are expensive, with some adapting on your part, you can enjoy meals that are healthy and inexpensive. Locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, for instance, are relatively inexpensive.
Health is of primary importance in the consideration by an individual who intends to relocate or retire to a foreign country. The cost of a typical visit to a general practitioner is about $30.00 BZD or $15.00 USD. With the completion of the new Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City, with approximately 218 more beds and a more modern treatment facility, better health care is available.
The climate in Belize is like a doctor's prescription: lots of sunshine and fresh air - no smog and no stress.
Stability is also an important factor to consider. Belize presents itself as a democratic country with a low crime rate. Despite all the political problems in Central America, Belize remains untouched.
Its location also gives it an advantage as it is accessible by road, sea and air. With daily flights from Belize City to New Orleans, Houston and Miami, travelling back and forth is made easy and quick.
Belize is a popular travel destination for people all over the world. On the Caribbean coast just south of Mexico, the charming country of Belize offers an amazing blend of tropical forests, lush mountains, sacred Mayan temples, mysterious caves, and the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.
To obtain a work permit in Belize, the employer and the prospective employee must fill out an application form at the Department of Labor. Three passport pictures and a valid passport are required along with the application. If self-employed you can apply in person.
A tourist entry permit, which is usually 30 days, is given upon arrival to an individual with a valid passport and visa. (People arriving from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom only need a valid passport.) If a person wishes to stay longer than the time allotted on his permit, he needs to renew his permit at the Immigration Department before it expires.
In order to obtain residential status in Belize, an individual will need to apply for residency. To do so he must demonstrate that he has been residing in Belize legally. To qualify for residency an individual must reside in Belize for a year and can leave the country for no longer than 14 consecutive days. An immigration deposit might be required to leave the country, while applying for residency.
Other requirements include:
- A police report from the police department where an individual has resided for more than six months.
- A health certificate including an AIDS test, which can be obtained from any of the local doctors.
- 3 passport pictures.
- A statement from your bank or financial institution, if you are not employed or retired.
- Birth certificates for minor children, marriage certificate/declaration of support etc...
- A work permit or Trade License, where applicable.
An individual must renew his tourist permit at the Immigration Department every 30 days while applying for residency. It is also necessary to demonstrate adequate funds during this time, usually $100.00BZ per day, $3000.00 BZ per month. When residency is granted the individual is required to register at the Income Tax Department.
An individual can apply for citizenship if he has been a resident of Belize for five years or after one year if he is married to a Belizean. Applications for citizenship require the same information as those for residency.
Qualified Retired Person Status
Anyone at least 45 years old from anywhere in the world can qualify for the program who can show the required monthly income from investments or pensions. A person who qualifies can also include his or her dependents in the program. Dependents include spouses and children under the age of 18. However, it can include children under the age of 23 if enrolled in a university.
A Qualified Retired Person is exempt from the payment of all taxes and levies on all income or receipts which accrue to him or her from a source outside of Belize whether that income is generated from work performed or from an investment. Benefits also include duty-free import of household goods and a vehicle, airplane and boat. A one-year period is granted for the importation of personal and household effects.
Applications include the following:
- Background check: All applications are subject to a background check by the Ministry of National Security.
- Birth certificate: A certified copy of a certificate for the applicant and each dependant.
- Marriage certificate: If applicant is married and spouse is a dependant.
- Authentic police record: A police record from the applicant’s last place of residency issued within one month prior to the application.
- Passport: Color copies of complete passport (including all blank pages) of applicant and all dependents that have been certified by a Notary Public. The copies must have the passport number, name of principal, number of pages and the seal or stamp of the Notary Public.
Proof of income: (either a or b)
- An official statement from a bank or financial institution certifying that the applicant is the recipient of a pension or annuity of a minimum of US$ 2,000 per month.
- A financial statement from a financial institution, bank, credit union, or building society in Belize certifying that the applicant has deposited the sum of a minimum of US $2000 per month or the equivalent of US $24,000 per year.
- Medical examination: Applicants should undergo a complete medical examination including an AIDS test. A copy of the medical certificate must be attached to the application.
- Photos: Four front and four-side passport size photographs that have been taken recently of applicant and dependents.
The application form for the Qualified Retired Persons Program is available for download on the Belize Tourist Board Website at www.travelbelize.org .
Find additional information on the program at www.belizeretirement.org .
Belize Tourist Board
Central Bank Building, Level 2
P.O. Box 325
Belize City, Belize, Central America
Tel: 501-223-1913 or 1-800-624-0686
The Belize.Net website has several maps showing physical and political boundaries, plus maps of each district.
The Government of Belize website is a good source of additional information.