Belize, formerly British Honduras, is located in Central America on the Caribbean Sea and offers tropical living in an English-speaking country. The lack of modern roads and infrastructure makes life slow and laid back. Belize is a parliamentary democracy that, unlike most of its neighbors, has been coup free. Tourists and residents alike enjoy some of the best diving in the world, fantastic beaches, Mayan ruins, virgin jungle, and an ample array of eco-lodges. Medical care and housing can be found at very reasonable costs and at European or North American standards.
Retirees and other immigrants
Belize targets British, Canadian and US retirees. Aside from cheap living and beautiful beaches, Belize offers favorable tax treatment. Belize does not tax retirees on income brought into Belize from abroad or earned abroad and left abroad. Belize only taxes income earned in Belize. Retirees may not work in Belize without a work permit but may form companies that direct foreign business activities or their own affairs without paying Belize tax or violating the ban on working in Belize. Many people base themselves in Belize for tax reasons and do business elsewhere. This is easy to accomplish because Belize has no minimum residency period to retain immigration status.
If you want a second passport, you should consider carefully before deciding on Belize unless you want to live there anyway. There have been several passport scandals, which have caused many countries to not recognize a Belize passport for tax purposes, or, in some cases, as an entry document.
One may apply for permanent residence after one year continuous legal residence in Belize, by paying the permanent residence fee of US$100, and an additional amount ranging from US$100 to US$1,200 depending on the nationality of the applicant. This deposit may be refunded three years after residency is granted. Permanent residents may work in Belize but are taxed in Belize. They may apply for citizenship after five years of continuous permanent residence.
For most people, the fastest and easiest way to move to Belize is through the retirement program managed by the Ministry of Tourism. Retirees may apply immediately, without waiting a year, as in the case of permanent residents.
The retirement program
The rules, as immigration rules go, are straightforward. To qualify, the principal applicant must be 45 years of age or older and have a monthly income stream of at least US$2,000 per month generated overseas. At least US$2,000 per month must be remitted to a Belize financial institution. Spouses and dependent children automatically qualify. Applicants must provide proof that the source of the pension is reliable and that the applicant is entitled to the pension. The exact standards for proving a secure source of funds change from time to time. At the moment, the institution providing the pension must certify it has been in existence 20 years or more, that the applicant is entitled to the pension of US$2,000 per month, and a chartered accountant must certify the same. The applicant must also provide two bank references. The requirements are relaxed when the pension comes from a Fortune 500 company or the like.
Retirees receive a one-time allowance to import a car and personal and household effects duty-free. Thereafter, there are provisions for importing personal effects, boats, planes and cars tax-free. Obviously, the authorities will look for abuses of the rules, such as the importation of goods beyond what one household could reasonably use.
To conclude, residency and tax benefits may be quickly had and at very reasonable costs. The rules change with rapidity, which is why we only offer a brief outline. Most people use Belize as a second home or tax home. The minority of foreigners who actually live in Belize can enjoy a tropical lifestyle without much of the hassle of a third world country.