Hello all ...
There have been some very good questions raised here, as well as some good advice. I don't think I can offer any advice at all, but I can relate my experiences with these issues.
We moved to SP in August, 2002, with the hopes and dreams of living permanantly in Belize. We are too young to fully retire, and planned on having some sort of small business, both to occupy ourselves and to make some money to stretch our savings to get us to the age where we can draw from our pensions, etc.
To accomplish this goal, we would need to reside here for one year, without leaving the country for more than 14 days total, in order to meet the requirements for residency. No problem. Go to immigration every 30 days and get the tourist visa stamp in the passports. Kick back and enjoy the good life for a while, settle in and get the feel of living here. After the year has expired, file for our residency and THEN we can start a business.
Things change though, and when we went to immigration to get our 10th stamp, we were told that they could no longer stamp our passports, as we had been here more than 6 months. We would have to fill out a "Post 6 Months Extension" form, along with passport photos and documents regarding financial status, and take them to Belmopan. Big surprise when we got to Belmopan (the first time), only to find out that we would also have to leave our passports there, and come back in a week to retrieve them with our 30 day stamp. Ugh.
The above mentioned rule went into effect on July 1, 2003, and is still in effect. As you might immagine, it was no fun to make 2 trips per month to Belmopan just to get a 30 day extension. We went to the trouble of making an appointment with the Director of Immigration, Mr. Parchue, to find out just what we needed to do to get to where we wanted to be. As it turned out, that was exactly what we should have done when we first arrived here. Because we had stated on our "Post 6 Months Extension" that we intended to make a living in Belize, Mr. Parchue informed us that we would be required to have valid work permits before we could apply for residency.
To make a very long story a bit shorter, we eventually got our work permits (which thankfully allow us to reside and work here for one year -- no more monthly passport stamps), and our residency application is currently being processed. We have done all of this on our own, by the book. We have had LOTS of advice from many people who have been through the process before.
I was told the other day that as of last week, Mr. Parchue is no longer the Director. I have no idea what impact that will have on the way things go in the future. I think it's safe to say that some things will change though.
The bottom line for us ... listening to well intentioned friends who had gone through the process just didn't work in the end. In my humble opinion, the best way to find out what will be required in each individuals situation is to go to the source -- get your information directly from Immigration regarding regular residency, from the Belize Tourist Board regarding QRP, and from the Department of Labor for work permits.