Although it has been many years now since we got our Permanent Residency in Belize, it’s still quite a valid subject. If you are thinking of moving to Belize or retiring in Belize, then this information is vital!
We started this journey when we first moved here, fully aware that after 30 days in the country, you have to go down to the Immigration office and get your passport stamped for another 30 days to legally stay in Belize on more than a “tourist” status. The cost to “renew” it for the first six months is $25USD and after six months is $50USD. Once you have lived in the country for 1 year straight, without leaving for more than 14 consecutive days, you are eligible to apply for Residency. The cost to apply for Residency depends on what country you are from. For US Citizens it is $1000USD.
Now for some things that we didn’t know about when we moved here and started down the “Residency Road.” First, in order to get your Residency, you must show employment status – whether you are self-employed or working as a volunteer or as a contractor or other, you must be employed to gain Residency. We knew that but were unaware that you must FIRST get your Work Permit. We had been told/read that you had to be a Resident in order to work – which is true in one respect – you do not need a work permit to work in Belize once you become a Resident. However, in order to get your Residency, you must first HAVE your Work Permit!
You can legally apply for a work permit as soon as you arrive in Belize. To obtain a work permit, you can apply directly at the Department of Labor, and will need three passport photos and a valid passport, a $20 Belizean stamp and self-addressed envelope, as well as a letter to the Director of Labor explaining your business and outlining your business plan. More on doing Business in Belize later.
We made the trek down to Belmopan to get our work permits, after we had already been here for close to a year. We were exceedingly fortunate to be able to get our Business Name registered (which only cost us $25USD) in one day and we submitted our application for our work permit. We were told we would receive our work permits in the mail within 4-6 weeks. About two weeks later we got a letter that our work permits had been approved. (This is important – it plays a role in the “adventures” we had in getting our Permanent Residency later.)
Now that we had the Work permits out of the way, we went through the steps to get our Residency. Please see our information on Obtaining Permanent Residency in Belize for a complete list of the required documents for obtaining residency: (Note – these documents are subject to change), but this information is current as of April 2015.
Once the application is submitted you will be called for an “Interview” – which is basically just a review of the application where the Interviewer asks a lot of questions; you do have to go to Belmopan for this interview. Then, you will be called within three months for a second interview at your local Police station (ours was literally 3 months, almost to the day!) and then the Immigration department processes all the paperwork and usually, within another three months you will obtain your Residency.
More next time on our “Adventures” while getting our Permanent Residency in Belize!