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 investments.

General requirements
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 process.

Information about Belize Retirement is divided into four sections:
Qualifying Process
Incentives and Regulations
Terms and Conditions
Application Process

Qualifying Process

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 or university.


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 Belize.

2. Certification
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 letter
-Certifying that the obligation signed in favor of the beneficiary is not less than US $2000.00 per month.

iv) The applicant must present two (2) bank references from the company that is sending the pension.

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 Security.

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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 interpretation.

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 Customs Department.

2. Transportation
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 vehicle.

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.

c. Boat
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 transportation.

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 Residency Card.

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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Terms and Conditions

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 in Belize.

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 status.

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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Application Process

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:

Birth Certificate:
A copy of a certificate for the applicant and each dependant

Marriage Certificate:
(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 this application

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 Public.

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 month.

Medical Examination:
Applicants should undergo a complete medical examination including an AIDS test. A copy of the medical certificate must be attached to the application.

Four front and four-side passport size photographs that have been taken recently of applicant and dependents.

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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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