About Belize

Currency

The national currency of Belize is the Belize Dollar (BZ$). It is "pegged" to the USD and has a 2:1 fixed exchange rate with the U.S. Dollar - USD$1 = BZD$2.


US Dollars are widely accepted by most businesses in Belize. Belize currency exchange is extremely easy for American visitors. So it's very easy to see how much something is costing in USD when you go shopping. Most accommodations and tours are listed in US$ prices, and most restaurants, shops, etc. are listed in BZ$. Nearly everyplace readily accepts USD currency. Most also should accept traveler's checks as long as you write your passport number or driver's license number on the back. Large bills (anything above a $20) are a little more difficult to cash. Shopkeepers generally ask you to spend a minimum amount. ATMs are also available across the country, particularly in most tourist destinations- including Placenica,Punta Gorda, Belmopan, Dangriga, Belize City, San Pedro Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Orange Walk, San Ignacio and Corozal.

Government and Legal System

Belize is a Westminster style democracy with peaceful transfers of power from one party to another based on free and fair elections.
The government has three branches: the executive, legislative, and judiciary. The legislative branch includes a Senate and House of Representatives and functions similarly to the system in the United States. The judiciary branch originates in English Common Law and includes Magistrate’s Courts, the Family Courts, the Supreme Court, The Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice. Nominal executive authority is vested in the Queen of England (seriously), who is represented in Belize by a Governor General. True executive authority rests with a Prime Minister, who is the leader of the ruling party in the House, which is decided by popular election.
Belize is a member of the United Nations, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Non-Aligned Movement, the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), and the British Commonwealth.

Geography

Belize is located in Central America and it is bordered to the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. We are a diverse country with various cultures and languages. We also have the lowest population density in Central America with 35 people per square mile or 14 people per square kilometer.
Belize is also known for its extreme biodiversity and distinctive ecosystems. On the coast, there is a swampy coastal plain with mangrove swamps. In the south and interior there are hills and low mountains. Most of our land is undeveloped and is forested with hardwoods. It is a part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot and it has many jungles, wildlife reserves, a large variety of different species of flora and fauna and the largest cave system in Central America. Some species of Belize's flora and fauna include the black orchid, the mahogany tree, the toucan and tapirs.

History

The first people to develop Belize were the Maya around 1500 B.C.E. As shown in archaeological records, they established a number of settlements here. These include Caracol, Lamanai and Lubaantun. The first European contact with Belize occurred in 1502 when Christopher Columbus reached the area's coast. In 1638, the first European settlement was established by England and for 150 years, many more English settlements were set up. In 1840, Belize became a "Colony of British Honduras" and in 1862, it became a crown colony. For one hundred years after that, Belize was a representative government of England but in January 1964, full self government with a ministerial system was granted. In 1973, the region's name was changed from British Honduras to Belize and on September 21, 1981, full independence was achieved.

Language

English remains the State language of Belize. Come to Belize and you’ll hear familiar words of the English language. In fact, we are the only English language-speaking country in Central America. While English is the official language of Belize, Kriol(Belizean Creole) is the language that most people speak. Although Spanish is commonly spoken as well, especially in Northern part of Belize and Western Cayo District. Also unlike most of Central America Belize is a relaxed country even our most up-tight citizens sound relaxed more like the Caribbean Islands neighbours. The pronunciation is very close but words seem a bit shorter. But don’t worry, you’ll understand everything people say around here and majority of population speak pretty good common English! Apart from English, Kriol and Spanish there are African-based Garifuna, Maya-Kekchi, Maya Mopan, Mandarin, German are just a few of the languages that form the unique dialects of Belize.

People

From the moment you arrive in Belize – whether you are an adventure traveler, part of a family trip or in the country for a relaxing beach vacation – Belize people and culture make you feel as welcome and comfortable, like nowhere you’ve ever visited. In Belize, our traditions and customs are varied and represent more than eight diverse cultures. For generations, the people of Belize have demonstrated a cultural commitment to preserve the country’s unique charms. This enduring promise to the land, the waters and you, our visitor, inspires all to achieve a genuine and intimate connection to a variety of extraordinary experiences.
We are truly a melting pot of colorful personalities, making our 321,115 residents the country’s greatest resource for tourism. The Belizean people are made up of Maya, Mestizo, Kriol (Creole), Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite and Chinese. There also are a number of expatriates in Belize from Canada, UK, Europe and the United States – and many of them retire here. A blending of cultures has resulted in one of the happiest and most peaceful countries in the region and a widespread reputation as one of the world’s friendliest tourist destination.

Weather

One of the nicest things about visiting Belize is the weather. With an average yearly temperature of 84° F (29°C), it’s always warm, yet comfortable. Costal sea breezes as well as our jungle and rainforests keep you cool even in the hottest summer months while winters can be cool but never very cold. In short, the climate is pretty much near perfect. Even in winter (November-March) the temperature in Belize rarely falls below 60°F (16°C), while the summer (May-September) is around 86°F (30°C). Humidity is also fairly consistent at around 85 percent. Belize’s dry season is between February and May and has significantly lower rainfall than the rest of the year. When it does rain, it is usually in mild, short bursts. June through December is our wet season, when parts of the country receive up to 150 inches of rain and the heavy, sometimes wild storms associated with the Caribbean occur, usually in the late afternoons. The most frequent rainfall usually happens in June or early July and is punctuated by a break in late July or August known as the "little dry." We also have a hurricane season, and while statistically Belize does not attract many major direct hits, it does get its share of severe tropical weather with high winds and rain. However, we have cooperative early warning network that we share with our neighbors. Our safety, evacuation and other procedures have proven to be effective, so no worries. No matter what season you visit, there’s plenty to do and see down here.

Maya

From Cerros Maya in the north to the stone walls of Lubaantun in the south, Belize is truly the heart of this once great and mysterious culture.
Archaeology buffs and curious travelers alike will find that anywhere you are in Belize, our history is there. The Ancient Maya Temples are an attraction no other tropical location can offer, and one you'll always remember. Belize is believed to have been at the heart of the Maya civilization that dominated Central America from 250-900 A.D. Supporting this theory is the fact that Belize possess 1,400 recorded Maya sites, the greatest concentrantion in the entire region. Physical evidence of this incredibly advanced civilization includes ceremonial temples, stately structures and fine artwork made of jade, stone and clay. The Maya were highly evolved mathematicians, and sites are imbued with fascinating symbolic meaning. Archaeologists and students from around the globe come to Belize to advance their own learning. Maya antiquities are also on display at various visitor centers coutnrywide, and at the Museum of Belize in Belize City that includes the largest carved jade Maya object ever discovered.

Belize Barrier Reef

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System lies about half a mile off the windward side of the island. It is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world. To the east of the Barrier Reef are three separate atoll reefs. There is also a fourth atoll reef, Banco Chinchorro, just to the north in Mexican waters, which will be of particular interest to wreck divers. The three Belize atoll reefs are formed on two tiers of submarine ridges: Turneffe and Glover's on one ridge and Lighthouse on a separate ridge farther to the east. There is famous Great Blue Hole - a giant submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the centre of Lighthouse Reef.
Find a lot of interesting information about Belize here.

The Facts

Real Estate in Belize

Why Buy Real Estate in Belize?

People are interested in buying real estate in Belize for different reasons.
However the most common ones are:
  • Retirees moving to Belize are looking for a home to buy or build
  • Investors looking for some capital gains taking advantage of inexpensive land and properties available in the country (regardless whether they want to obtain Belizean Residency or continue living abroad)
  • Foreigners (primarily North Americans) are looking to buy a vacation property to come here during colder season back home and "unwind" in a comfort of their own house, which can earn rental income for them during the rest of the year
If you are one of those persons or you have completely different motivation it is definitely a good idea for you to invest in a property in Belize. Real estate here is affordable and easily acquired by non-residents. Belize is part of the British Commonwealth and unlike its Central American neighbours is one of the few the countries in the world where foreigners enjoy the same rights as citizens with regards to property ownership in land ownership and tenure. All land purchases are subject to a Government Stamp Transfer Tax, which currently is a little under 5% of the purchase price.
If you are interested in buying a home or land in Belize as an investment opportunity, an important incentive would be the absence of any capital gains tax in Belize. The same applies to selling this property later for a profit, your profits will not be taxed. Keep it in mind when you buy a home in Belize as a retiree and then for some reason you change your mind.
Please do not hesitate contacting us with any questions about Belize Real Estate. We are here to help!
Acting in Association with our Real Estate and Concultancy Branch ABLE Professional Consultants Corp.
Retirement in Belize

Why Retire in Belize?

Retirement in Belize is a great idea for many reasons: the perfect climate and the Caribbean Sea, the laid-back life style and a beautiful tropical country to explore. Belize is definitely not the cheapest place to live in comparing to Latin America or Asia, but many expats find it is more affordable and comfortable to keep living North American or European life style than back home. Typical retiree couple can support a very comfortable and modern life style for $2,000 USD per month or less. Belize also offer an English-speaking population, modern infrastructure, and access to many First World luxuries for Third World prices.
The Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act passed by the Belize House of Representatives in 1999 and is operated by the Belize Tourism Board. The QRP program is aimed at attracting retirees to Belize. In the first few years of the program it attracted considerable interest and several applications. For the prospective retiree that can show proof of the required monthly income of $2,000 USD the QRP program offers approved residency and tax-free entry of the retiree’s household goods and motor vehicle. Other items that can be imported duty free include marine vessels and small aircraft. The benefits of the QRP:
  • It is well-suited for retirees and expats who may want to import high-value items to Belize – this is one angle that makes the QRP attractive as excessive import duties are a real fact of life in Belize
  • Individuals age 45 or more qualify for the the program
  • The QRP benefits the spouse and children under the age of 18 or older if attending university
If you are interested in the Belize Qualified Retired Person program contact us for more information, but keep in mind that time spent in Belize as a QRP does not count towards time you need to be in Belize to acquire Permanent Residency or Nationality. This is regarded as one of the defects of the QRP. Ask us how we can assist you with obtaining Residency Status and tell you the benefits and difference from QPR.
Offshore Corporations in Belize

Offsore Business in Belize

IBC - an International Business Company - is the most popular type of offshore corporation, used worldwide for tax planning and asset protection purposes. Every offshore tax haven has its version of IBC legislation. IBC is the cornerstone and the primary product of offshore services industry. An IBC is a private company which is designed to engage into any international business activity. An IBC is exempt from tax in its home jurisdiction, it has extensive features protecting the confidentiality of its owners and is not subject to any onerous reporting requirements. A Belize IBC is formed under the Belize International Business Companies Act. This piece of legislation was initially adopted in 1990 and further extended and amended in 2000. Belize IBC Act is considered internationally as one of the most modern and user-friendly offshore corporation legislations available today. A Belize IBC is a perfect corporate vehicle for international financial transactions, being especially designed with the offshore investor in mind. Belize´s laws facilitate fast and simple incorporation. Belize has probably the fastest IBC Registry in the world, where incorporation of a new offshore company only takes a few hours. There are other advantages of Belize as an offshore tax shelter jurisdiction:
  • Belize IBC`s are properly free from any tax in Belize, with only a few simple pre-conditions
  • Belize IBC`s are free from any reporting requirements
  • No income tax, no tax on dividends or capital gains tax
  • No inheritance or estate tax, no interest, no royalties
  • No succession or gift task in relation to any debt obligations, shares or other securities
Beginning in 1990, Belize launched our International Financial Services (IFS) sector. The key to the initial effort was the International Business Companies (IBC) Act, which allows the incorporation and registration of tax-free companies and exchange control-free companies aimed specifically for international investors and international trading.
The Trusts Act of 1992 continued the message by providing for the establishment of both Belize onshore trusts and Belize international trusts. To supplement the IBC Act and the Trusts Act, Belize passed the Offshore Banking Act and Money Laundering Prevention Act in 1996, which is now called the Money Laundering and Terrorism (Prevention) Act. During the first decade, thousands upon thousands of overseas individuals and companies took advantage of this legally protected environment, establishing Belize as one of the best tax havens in the world. More than 15,000 Belize international business companies were created during those first ten years, and more legislation beneficial to offshore money has been passed in the years since, such as the International Limited Liability Companies Act of 2011, which instantly made Belize limited liability companies some of the most attractive in the world
Contact Us to find out more about our Offshore Company formation services.
Becoming a Belizean

Permanent Residency

If you plan on making Belize your permanent home or even secondary home, but plan to spend a few month here every year, it may be much more feasible for you to obtain a Permanent Resident Status. Applications for Belize Permanent Residence are made to the Immigration Department in the City Of Belmopan after you have resided continuously in Belize for one year. You may not leave the country for a period of 14 consecutive days during this time or your application may be rejected. You need to fill out the required Permanent Residency Application form, take an HIV test, submit a recent police certificate of no criminal convictions, and provide two recommendations from individuals who have known you for at least one year. These individuals are usually ministers of religion, registered medical practitioners, attorneys at law, Head of a Government Department or Justice of the Peace. Once your permanent residency has been approved you can seek employment or work for yourself just like any Belizean – there is no need for a work permit. You can move freely within the country, and travel in and out of Belize without any restrictions.
Best of all, the clock starts running and after 5 years you can apply for Full Citizenship. It is economical to apply for permanent residency.
Contact Us to find out how we can help you in this process.