If laid back days, ocean focused activities and some of the freshest fish you’ll ever eat are on your radar, then you may very well be considering relocating to Belize.
Belize is a veritable jewel in the Caribbean and money-wise, it’s still the best deal going. Though moving there isn’t especially complicated, there are some important things to consider.
As a tourist you can stay in Belize up to six months as long as you renew your visa every 30 days. Obviously, though, if you plan to relocate, you’re going to want a more permanent option.
To be eligible to apply for permanent residency you must live in Belize for 50 consecutive weeks. Since this time frame exceeds the six-month rule, you may need to let immigration know your intention to qualify for residency. Further you may need a letter from a Belizean attorney to support you in this process.
Once you’ve knocked out the 50 weeks, North American citizens pay a non-refundable fee of $1000 US. You must also submit an application along with two passport photographs, a copy of your passport, an original birth certificate, proof of financial stability and current medical and police records from both Belize and your last country of residence.
You can apply to become a Belizean citizen after you’ve been a permanent resident for five years.
Another option if you don’t want to go through the long process of applying for permanent residency, is to apply to stay in Belize under the Qualified Retired Persons Program, or the QRP.
Under the QRP program you must be at least 45 years of age and bring a minimum of $2000 a month into the country. Unlike residency, the QRP program is much more flexible, only requiring you to spend one month of the year in the country to maintain status. It also allows you to import household goods, a car and a boat completely duty free for the first year. However, also unlike residency, the QRP program doesn’t allow you to work in Belize. This can be a factor for those who don’t have passive, retirement income, or a job they can do remotely.
Shopping in Belize
People intending to move to Belize should seriously consider the change in lifestyle it entails. If you’re a big shopper, then this is not the country for you. Belize has almost no shopping, but no one really cares because life here is very simple. Clothing is just t-shirts and shorts, and food is local, fresh and cooked from scratch. If there are certain items you just can’t live without, you may want to budget in a trip back to North America once or twice a year to fill up a suitcase and bring it back with you.
There are good doctors in the country, and though there is a modern hospital in Belize City, Belize does not have the extensive medical system such as it is in North America. For most residents, this is not an issue. Leading a low-stress, healthy lifestyle is the norm, and so the need for medical attention is less.
For something serious or life-threatening, a lot of people go to places like Panama where all the doctors are US trained and treatment is fairly cheap. Another option is to take care of minor and preventative care in country and make an occasional trip to the US or Canada to handle more serious issues.
Internet and Phone in Belize
Belize has been in the process of upgrading their wireless services with the installation of fiber optic cable, and service is better than it’s ever been, but those working via the internet or just addicted to Netflix should know that power outages aren’t uncommon, (though the number of them has reduced considerably). Those who adapt well here are people who cultivate a relaxed attitude and simply shift to doing other non-power dependent activities when the power goes out.
Though Belize may have a few minor living challenges, any expat whose made the move will tell you, the bigger benefits of living a stress-free lifestyle in harmony with the ocean, make it all worth it.
Brett Renee Stone is a managing partner and director of communications for Palm Reef Resort.