By Victoria Day-Wilson
There’s no doubt that a move abroad is a big step and a life-changing decision, but it can also be a fun adventure full of exciting new possibilities. I’ve lived in many places, including Kenya and the United Kingdom, but when I made the move to Belize in 2006, I discovered there’s no place quite like it. Magnificent tropical fauna, a laid-back lifestyle, and endless outdoor opportunities are just a few reasons why this Central American country is a destination that shouldn’t be overlooked. Living abroad in Belize is not as hard as it may seem. In fact, it’s one of the easiest countries for European and American citizens to relocate to. Here are the top reasons why:
1. No language barriers
You won’t need to learn a new language. English is the official language and most of the population speaks it, as it’s compulsory for all children to learn English in school. Spanish is also spoken, but you can definitely get by without it.
2. Familiar laws and government
The legal system is based on British Common law, which is the foundation of American law. The government is a democratic parliamentary model.
3. Simple immigration
Getting in and out of Belize is easy; there are no hard and fast commitments required and no visa is needed. You only need to renew a “tourist visa” once a month for $25 (USD). After a year, you have the option to become a resident. This gives you the chance to give Belize a test drive without too much red tape or financial commitment.
4. Easy currency
The Belizean dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at BZ $2 to US $1, and both currencies are in free circulation. Therefore, there’s no real adjustment required to a new currency.
5. Duty-free import
The government has made retirement in Belize an attractive option by introducing the Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) program. Participants can earn an income outside Belize tax-free and import personal effects to the value of $15,000 (USD)—including means of transportation—tax-and duty-free.
6. Friendly, welcoming people
Belizeans are some of the friendliest people on Earth and make everyone feel welcome.
7. Low taxes and supportive investment options
There’s no capital gains tax and no inheritance tax. QRPs are exempt from income tax. Property taxes are around the one percent mark. To avoid income taxes, the government has created the Belizean International Business Corporation (IBC) law which allows people to transfer income and assets to an IBC from which dividends are not taxable.
8. Proximity to North America
Only a two-hour flight from Miami, Belize is easily accessible to the United States. Just below Mexico, next to Guatemala, and bordered by the Caribbean, Belize is also a great base for traveling to the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America.
For a country roughly the size of Massachusetts with a small population of 320,000, Belize packs a big punch in terms of variety and diversity. Many expats are drawn to Belize’s tropical climate, beautiful fauna and flora, multiculturalism, ancient history, and political stability. There’s something for everyone—beaches, lagoons, rivers, islands and jungles. The quality of life is high and the cost of living is low. It’s a place in touch with the rest of the world, but untouched enough to explore. Life is uncomplicated but always interesting. You may feel as though you’ve discovered paradise.
Moon Living Abroad in Belize author and photographer Victoria Day-Wilson was born in Kenya, traveled in Europe and the Middle East, and finally fell for the charms of Belize where she and her family found their dream property on the banks of the Macal River in Cayo in 2006. She has since gotten to know Belize intimately, traveling the length and breadth of the country. Today, Victoria splits her time between Belize, Kenya, and the UK.
Photo credit © Victoria Day-Wilson