An amendment to the Immigration Act proposes to create a new class of persons with legal immigration status in Belize. As the name suggests, temporary residency supposes that holders who are active in Belize but maintain other residences and legal statuses would be allowed to claim Belizean-ness for as long as they wish without having to renew for visas and spend what they consider unnecessary money. Members of the Senate Special Select Committee, Eamon Courtenay and Mark Lizarraga, on Wednesday raised objection because in their recent questioning of the top people at the department, this idea was never raised. But it is no less urgent, according to substantive minister Godwin Hulse, who described the plight of businessmen who feel inconvenienced by the standing Immigration procedures. The new legislation, he said, was recommended by the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) as a way of easing that plight.
Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator
“In the context of the ongoing inquiry, we have these loopholes, these things that are not specific and people who are ill-intentioned take advantage of legislation that is not accurate. So, my point with highlighting these is based on what we have experience and indicate that we on this side believe that the legislation needs to be more specific, clearer and more direct in what is required of these applicants.”
Mark Lizarraga, Senator for the Business Community
“Is it that we have a new policy to attract investment? Are present investors in need of this? Do we need to have this to facilitate present investors for banking purposes? What is the matter and why is it being pushed? Everybody else is waiting for the Special Select Committee to put into place whatever it is that they think they need to put into place or to begin investigating or to do whatever. Why is this being pushed through in this manner and not a part of the overall recommendations that will come from the committee to strengthen the way we do things at immigration? That baffles me.”
Godwin Hulse, Leader of Government Business
“But the problem came up that a lot of these investors, how they get to Belize? They get a visitor permit, that’s the first thing. Then they have to stamp up every month, every month, which is a bit of a hassle because if they miss a month then immigration grabs them or at least chastises them. Then after six months they have to leave the country, if they were here six months and then they have to get a visa, so that doesn’t really satisfy their needs because this is the man that is putting his money. So they have been going for work permits but he is not really the worker, he is the employer. I could name several but I won’t call names in this Senate, who have huge investments in Belize and this going and coming. They don’t want to be citizens, and they can’t be permanent residents because you have to live here and you have to wait five years and turn citizen. They don’t want to do that because they are legally resident in another country and they can’t be a legal resident, I guess, in two or three countries [if] your legal residence is in the U.S. There are even some investors who have said, look, we have other nationalities but we have permanent residence in the U.S. and if we ever get permanent residence for Belize, well then that will be a big problem, because you can’t be a permanent resident in two places. But they want to be able to go and come, and be facilitated with that going and coming, without having to apply for visa, back and forth.”
The residency would be offered for renewal every year but holders would be subject to the established regulations for permanent residency and citizenship.