Based on the attached article from the San Pedro Sun that chronicles the misadventures of the McGowans, it states that a visitor is entitled to an initial 30 visitor permit and then renewable up to 6 months. It further states that if you intend to stay beyond 6 months, you must get a work permit. This certainly is not the way that the system is currently working. Is there anyone, anyone at all that knows what the rules and regulations are regarding this important issue. Just curious because I sure would not want to see mass deportations.http://www.sanpedrosun.net/09-114.html
You arrive and are typically granted a 30 day visa to visit Belize - then every 30 days you can go to an immigration office, and for a fee you will be granted another 30 days. Once you have stayed in country for a period of 6 months you are expected to either formalize your emigration status by applying for and receiving a work permit or QRP status - or you are expected to leave the country.
Technically I think you can leave overnight and go to Guatemala or Mexico and then return the next day and begin the visitor visa process again for another 6 months. And considering applying for a work permit or QRP takes a while to be processed this tends to be what people who want to live here tend to do.
Once you have lived here for a year you are qualified to apply for permanent residency status or a 2nd work permit.
Immigration also tends to frown on folks once they apply for their 3rd work permit (work permits are valid for one year in most cases.) They figure if you have lived here for 3 years you should applying for residency status.
Once you have held residency status for 5 years you qualify to apply for citizenship.
And don't worry you won't see any mass deportations. Belize occasionally even has immigration amnesty programs in order to legalize foreigners that have been living here for years illegally - typically Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadoreans.
We are a developing nations with a tiny population, our population growth is slow and in order to be productive we do need more working people. So we provide some basic immigration rules that are very simple to follow. And eventually we even invite productive people to stay (residency) and join us (Belizean Citizenship.)
Compared to most other nations, Belize is extremely lenient and easy to enter, work and live.
But - there are some rules and laws that must be followed - and therein lies the downfall of the McGowans.