One question is central to your Belize retirement… how can you legally stay in the country for more than just a few months?
Belize's "Qualified Retired Person Program" (QRP) is probably your best bet, but there are other options too. Let's look at them.
To the average Westerner the rules and regs of Belize will seem a little, well, off the wall.
This is especially true when it comes to visas and residency. Lots of departments are involved in the process.
Most small cities in the western world have a bigger population than the whole country of Belize but nowhere near as much bureaucracy!
Most people first come to Belize on a Tourist Card visa. It’s not necessary to apply for it if you are a citizen of these 95 countries (e.g. USA, Canada, European Union, Australia, New Zealand and many others).
You must have a passport that is valid for at least 3 months from the date of arrival.
The tourist card is valid for 30 days and can be renewed at any immigration office. Many people stay indefinitely on this basis, but I wouldn't recommend it if you're serious about your Belize retirement. Cost of renewal is $25 USD per month for up to 6 months, and $50 for every month thereafter.
Security issues the number you’ll need to reserve your place in line and they arrive at 7 am. So plan to arrive early at the immigration office. Most numbers are issued by 8:30 am and if you don’t have one you'll have to wait until 2 pm and then hope for a place in line.
Bring a book; you can wait off-property or go for breakfast and lunch depending on your number priority.
If you are not a national from one of the countries mentioned above, you will have to apply for a temporary visa in advance of your arrival in Belize.
Ask your travel agency or the hotel if they can do this for you. The consulate will review the visa application; they decide about your admissibility and the number of times you can renew.
The temporary visa is good for 30 days and can be renewed as many times as permitted with the acceptance of your original application. The fee is $25 per renewal and is also performed at the immigration office.
Bring your passport; the visa is a sticker in your passport.
Inaugurated in 1999 with some fanfare, this program showed a great deal of promise. In reality this promise hasn’t materialized and the granting of the status has been very limited; the process is currently under review in an attempt to make it more efficient.
The Belize Tourist Board administers the program, with input from the police department, immigration authorities and the Ministry of National Security. The process typically takes a few months to complete.
Once your residency card is granted, you'll basically be considered a long-term visitor. You will still pay exit taxes when leaving the country.
Here's the essence of the Qualified Retired Persons Program:
These are the documents you will need...
The application fee is $1350 per individual and $750 for each dependent (spouse or children).
The documentation to apply for this status is the same, but some of the conditions are different. For example, you must have lived in Belize for one full year, without leaving the country for more than 14 days during that year. A one hour visit to Chetumal is considered a day, but the ministry is looking for 14 consecutive days so that shouldn’t matter.
The application fees vary from $125 to $2000 USD depending on the country of origin. If you come from the USA the fee is $1000 USD.
If you are working in Belize you'll also need a working permit from the Ministry of Labor, which has to be submitted with the rest of your documentation.
Residency cards cost $150 per person although there are no longer cards; it's just a stamp in your passport.
This form of residency will allow you to vote in local elections, to work in Belize and to avoid paying exit taxes by land and by sea.
Contrary to the Qualified Retired Person Program, which is handled by the Belize Tourist Board, your application to become a permanent resident must go to the Belize Immigration and Nationality Department in Belmopan.
Another alternative for your Belize retirement? Become a Belizean citizen. Citizenship is available after 5 years of residency or by marrying a Belizean, but you must prove (somehow) that it is not a marriage of convenience.