MORE ON RETIRING IN BELIZE
Ever since the 1998 national elections,
which brought about a tremendous turnover in government, we've been waiting
anxiously to see how the new ruling party would make good on its promise
to attract foreign capital to Belize. Our expectations have been far exceeded
by a new, ground breaking act. The Government of Belize has passed sweeping
legislation that promises to be the most substantial enticement ever, to
attract retirees to Belize's shores. The Retired Persons (Incentives) Act,
1999, which should come into effect within the next few weeks, will accord
tax-exempt status to "Qualified Retired Persons" (QRP), and the
right to freely visit and/or reside in Belize, along with their spouses
and dependents under age 18.
This Act is to be administered by the Ministry of Tourism.
Mr. Dion Pascasio, Assistant Secretary within the Ministry, is the individual
responsible for coordinating all the various aspects involved, including
the application process. I recently spoke with him to clarify the general
details, as well as some finer points.
The essence of the program is that it grants freedom of
mobility to these designated individuals. While this special status does
not come with any of the benefits of residency or citizenship, neither does
it impose any of the obligations of such residency or citizenship. Effectively,
it allows the qualified individuals to remain tourists in Belize on an indefinite
basis. Mr. Pascasio explained that the Act is in its infancy, and, once
implemented, we should fully expect it to be amended and expanded as need
and practice dictate.
Who Can Qualify?
Individuals applying for "Qualified Retired Person"
(QRP) status must meet the following requirements:
a) Be 45 years of age, or older;
b) Be a citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States,
Canada, the United Kingdom, or Belize (and possibly other nations, to be
identified at a later date);
c) Be the beneficial owner of a pension or annuity, or other off-shore
source of income;
d) Give written agreement to deposit either US$2,000 per month or
US$24,000 per year, for their own use, into a licensed financial institution
in Belize (or the equivalent in an approved currency).
While there will likely be a nominal application fee, as
well as a charge for the special visa that will be issued, the application
process is not anticipated to be difficult or time-consuming.
These designated QRPs are permitted, on first entering Belize, to import their personal effects, and
a single "approved means of transport," for their personal use,
completely tax and duty-free. These approved means of transport are motor
vehicles, boats, and light aircraft. This transport may even be replaced
every five years, also under concession, provided the previous item was
properly disposed of. If these personal effects or means of transport are
ever sold or otherwise distributed to another person in Belize, such duties
and taxes must be paid immediately. QRPs are permitted to import more than
one such item, however, only one will be exempt.
Any income (earned or passive) which comes to a QRP from
sources outside Belize is exempt from all taxes and levies. Theoretically,
you may be able to qualify as a non-resident in your native country, and
therefore be relieved of taxation at home, as well. It remains to be seen
how some oppressive tax regimes will deal with that! Another key point of
interest in the Act, accords these retired persons to be deemed as "non-residents,"
with respect to many laws of Belize relating to international financial
services, including the Offshore Banking Act, the Trusts Act, and the International
Business Companies (IBC) Act. For example, the Trusts Act states that individuals
residing in Belize may not be beneficiaries of a Belize Tax-exempt Trust.
This means that many business persons who are clients of Belize's offshore
industry, may now retire in Belize without losing their non-resident status,
and therefore, the benefits of these financial tools.
QRPs, and their dependents, are permitted to carry on business
while in Belize, provided such a business deals primarily with activities
outside of Belize, and exclusively with non-residents. Neither the QRPs
nor their dependents may be gainfully employed within Belize. Should anyone
wish to undertake a business venture in the country, they will likely have
to entertain the idea of dropping their QRP status and applying for permanent
residency. However, Mr. Pascasio informed me that an amendment is likely
that would permit some sort of passive investment, as individuals wishing
to invest in Belizean interests should be encouraged to do so.
In conclusion, anyone who has considered retiring in Belize,
or even just spending their winters here to escape a cold climate back home,
will now have a chance to do just that, free from the time-consuming residency
requirements and worry of local taxation. These advantages, combined with
our wonderful climate, friendly people, and laid-back lifestyle, offer no
greater inducement...So, come on down!!
Retirement Incentives Update
Belize's new retirement act is open for business
Now that Belize's Retired Persons
(Incentives) Program has been fine tuned and implemented, it's time for an update on the benefits of the program, and an
overview of the requirements for qualification.
This program has been designed to attract foreign retirees (and dependents),
with their capital, to become permanent visitors of Belize, as "Qualified
Retired Persons" (QRP). As a peaceful, English-speaking nation, Belize
has much to offer, including a lovely year-round climate, easy access to
land for construction of retirement homes, a stable currency, abundant natural
resources, and, last but not least, friendly people. The principal incentives
the program offers QRPs are importation of household and personal effects,
and an approved means of transport, such as a motor vehicle, boat, or light
aircraft, free from import duties and taxes. The maximum exemption on household
and personal effects is US$15,000 in tax/duty; the means of transport is
permitted in addition to this. QRPs are also exempt from all taxes and levies
on income generated outside of Belize, whether from work performed, or from
Applicants must be at least 45 years of age, and
a citizen of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, or Belize. Belizeans
qualify only if they are permanent residents of one of these other countries
and enter Belize under this status. All individuals must certify that either:
a) they are the recipient of a pension or annuity of a minimum of US$1000
(one thousand US dollars), per month; or b) if revenues are generated by
investments, they have deposited a minimum of US$2000 (two thousand US dollars)
per month or US$24,000 per year into an accredited financial institution
in Belize. Because the program is designed to accept US Dollars only, all
such deposits must be made in this currency. QRPs must sign a written agreement
to deposit these funds regularly. An authentic Police Record from your last
place of residency, and a Medical Certificate (including an AIDS test),
must accompany your application. Applicants are also subject to a background
check. If, at any time, a QRP wishes to leave the program and relinquish
their status, all assets imported under the program must be liquidated in
accordance with program guidelines.
Although it is not required, applicants may solicit the
services of a local attorney or accountant in completing the application
Information about Belize Retirement is divided into
Incentives and Regulations
Terms and Conditions
Anyone forty-five years and older may
qualify for the program. A person who qualifies can
also include his or her dependents in the program.
Dependents include spouses and children under the
age of eighteen. However, it can include a person up
to the age of twenty-three if enrolled in a college
INCOME FROM PENSION OR OTHER SOURCE
1. Qualified Retired Persons
To be designated a Qualified Retired Person under
the program, applicants must receive a monthly
income of not less than US $2,000 through a pension
or annuity that has been generated outside of
i) When a company grants a pension, that company has
to prove that it has been in operation for at least
20 years by submitting proof of registration.
ii) The company that grants the pension shall
certify that the pension of no less than US
$2,000.00 per month will be forwarded to a reputable
financial institution within Belize. This letter
must be signed by the manager, president, or by a
legal representative of the company.
iii) Certification by a Certified Public Accountant
independent of the company:
-Stating the date the company was established
-Verifying the authenticity of the above mentioned
-Certifying that the obligation signed in favor of
the beneficiary is not less than US $2000.00 per
iv) The applicant must present two (2) bank
references from the company that is sending the
v) The company granting the pension must present a
document outlining its pension scheme.
Requirement ii, iii, iv could be omitted where the
company sending the pension is considered to be a
Fortune Five Hundred Company.
3. Background Check
All applications are subject to a background check
to be carried out by the Ministry of National
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Incentives and Regulations
All persons who have been designated a Qualified
Retired Person shall be entitled, on first entering
Belize, to import his or her personal effects and an
approved means of transportation free of all import
duties and taxes.
A Qualified Retired Person shall be exempt from the
payment of all taxes and duties on all income or
receipts which accrue to him or her from a source
outside of Belize whether that income is generated
from work performed or from an investment.
All privileges, exemptions and regulations herein
included are governed by the Retired Persons
(Incentives) (Amendment) Act, 2001 and the ACT will
serve as the basis for all purposes of
1. Personal Household Effects
Qualified Retired Persons have one year from the
date that they officially enter the program to
import their personal and household effects free of
duties and taxes as determined by the Customs
Department. Numerous entries are permitted within
the one year period; however, your detailed master
list of household and personal effects must be
submitted to the Belize Tourism Board upon approval
into the Program. After the year has elapsed, you
will be subject to all duties and taxes under the
a. Motor Vehicle
Qualified Retired Persons are strongly encouraged to
procure a vehicle in Belize. However, we will
facilitate duty and tax exemption on an imported
b. Light Aircraft
A Qualified Retired Person is entitled to import a
light aircraft less than 17,000 kg. A Qualified
Retired Person is required to have a valid Private
Pilot license to fly in Belize. This license can be
obtained by passing the requirements set by the
Civil Aviation. However, if the participant has a
valid pilot's license, that license only has to be
validated by Civil Aviation Department in Belize.
Any vessel that is used for personal purposes and
for pleasure will be accepted under this program.
3. Disposal of Duty Free Items
If for whatever reason a qualified retired person
decides to sell, give away, lease, or otherwise
dispose of the approved means of transportation or
personal effects to any person or entity within
Belize, all duties and taxes must be paid by the
qualified retiree to the proper authorities.
Qualified Retired Persons must note that only after
3 years and upon proof that the vehicle previously
imported into Belize under the Program has been
disposed of according to regulations, will another
concession be granted to import a new
4. Offenses & Penalties
Any person who knowingly makes any false declaration
or entry in order to qualify for or renew any
exemption or privilege granted under the Retired
Persons (Incentives) (Amendment) Act, 2001 commits
an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction
to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars.
5. Fee Structure
a. A non-refundable application fee in the sum of US
$150.00 payable to the Belize Tourism Board must be
submitted with the application.
b. A Program fee in the sum of US $1,000.00 payable
to the Belize Tourism Board must be submitted upon
acceptance into the Program.
c. Upon acceptance into the Program a fee of US
$200.00 must be paid to the Belize Tourism Board for
the issuance of the Qualified Retired Person
d. Each dependent is required to pay a Program Fee
of US $750 to enter the Program.
NOTE: All payments must be made payable to the
Belize Tourism Board and be in the form of US cash,
US bank draft or US cashier's check. Personal or
company checks will not be accepted.
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Below is a copy of the terms and conditions
form. Please review.
1. All Qualified Retired Persons must adhere to the
general procedures cited by the Customs Department
for the clearing of all personal and household
effects including 'Mode of Transportation'.
2. Qualified Retired Persons are not allowed to seek
employment or work for pay while in this program or
3. Qualified Retired Persons within this program
must inform the Belize Tourism Board regarding any
changes stated on the application form. Failure to
do so may result in the revocation of applicant's
4. Qualified Retired Persons must adhere to all
existing laws of Belize, in addition to the Retired
Persons (Incentives) (Amendment) Act, 2001.
5. All benefits provided by this program will be
exclusively used by the Qualified Retired Persons
and his or her dependents.
6. The Belize Tourism Board has the authority to
carry out any investigation with respect to the
validity of any document provided by the applicant
under this program.
7. Participants within this program must inform the
Belize Tourism Board prior to leaving the country
indefinitely so that the assets purchased under this
program can be liquidated.
8. All documents presented to the Belize Tourism
Board become the property of the Board.
9. The applicant must not have any criminal matters
with the law at the time of application.
10. Applicants must present a listing with all the
necessary information with regards to his or her
dependents. If the applicant has a dependent over
eighteen and in school, then he or she must present
a proof of enrollment from that institution.
11. Qualified Retired Persons must submit a yearly
bank statement showing compliance with the financial
requirements of the program.
12. Qualified Retired Persons must spend an
equivalent of one month in Belize annually to
maintain their status as a Retiree Resident.
Acceptance of these terms and conditions must be
endorsed with the signature of the applicant in the
presence of a witness.
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Each application for the Retirement Program
will be processed by the Belize Tourism Board and
forwarded to the Department of Immigration and
Nationality. Persons interested in the program must
submit completed applications to the Belize Tourism
Board with the following supporting documentation:
A copy of a certificate for the applicant and each
(if married and spouse is a dependant)
Authentic Police Record:
An authentic police record from the applicants last
place of residency issued within one month prior to
Clear copies of complete passport (including all
blank pages) of applicant and all dependents that
have been certified by a Notary Public. The copies
must have the passport number, name of principal,
number of pages and the seal or stamp of the Notary
Proof of Income:
(a.) An official statement from a bank or financial
institution certifying that the applicant is the
recipient of a pension or annuity of a minimum of
Two Thousand United States Dollars (US $ 2 000) per
Applicants should undergo a complete medical
examination including an AIDS test. A copy of the
medical certificate must be attached to the
Four front and four-side passport size photographs
that have been taken recently of applicant and
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Click here for the BTB Belize Retired Persons Incentives Program application form with instructions, details and contact information.
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