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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an IBC and how does it work?
Buying and selling property using IBC’s (International Business Companies) is a way to legally eliminate or postpone the paying of taxes that may be required by your home country. For more information on how to set this up please email me. Check out this link for more details. http://www.belize-offshore-formation.com
Owning a Vacation Home on Ambergris Caye - How to be a Part Time Resident
One of the most common real estate purchases to make here is that of a vacation home or condo. Most of my real estate clients don’t plan to live in Abergris Caye or Caye Caulker, Belize full time for or for several years, if ever.

“How long can I stay in Belize?”

When you arrive in the country of Belize, you will be issued a 30 day visa. If you would like to extend your stay past the 30 days, you must go to the Immigration Department office with your passport and pay US$25. You will be issued a visa for an additional 30 days.

“How many times can I renew my visa?”

Indefinitely. You can continue extend your visa for the duration of your stay in Belize. However, if you stay for more then 6 months in Belize, the visa extention fee goes up to US$50 for each additional 30 day visa. Many vacation home owners  who have been coming Belize for years will continue to extend their visas from 3-6 months.

Is there an immigration services office in Caye Caulker?

No. The closest Immigration Department office is in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. The immigration office is located above our RE/MAX Island Real Estate office, across from Tropic Air.

What if I would like to become a permanent resident of Belize?

Once you know that you want to become a permanent resident of Belize and stay here for long stretches at a time and come and go as you please then its worth it to look at getting your “Permanent Residency Stamp”. It’s not hard to get and doesn’t cost much and once you have it its good for life.

I would say about half of all of my clients will end up with some type of permanent residency at some point, but in the meantime all they do is make the quick trip upstairs to see immigration once a month.

Qualifications for the Belize Retirement Program (QRP)
Anyone forty-five years and older can 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, if your dependent is enrolled in a university they can be included up to the age of twenty-three.

INCOME FROM PENSION OR OTHER SOURCE

1. Qualified Retired Persons
To be designated a Qualified Retired Person under the program, applicants must receive a monthly income of no 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 500 Company.

3. Background Check
All applications are subject to a background check to be carried out by the Ministry of National Security.

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 dependent

Marriage Certificate:
(if married and spouse is a dependent)

Authentic Police Record:
An authentic police record from the applicants last place of residency issued within one month prior to this application

Passport:
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.

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

Incentives
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.

REGULATIONS

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 offense 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.

Terms and Conditions
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.

 

Tax Advantages in Belize


Tax Advantages of Owning Property in Belize
Those who purchase property abroad are often very successful financially. It stands to reason they they closely watch their dollars and sense and take reasonable steps to make sure that when it comes to paying taxes they pay the least amount required by law.

We all know that a good portion of our income goes to paying taxes of some sort or another. Many are unavoidable. But others aren’t, especially in Belize.

As an example, there are NO capital gains taxes in Belize. So if you buy a property for $100,000 and you sell it for $200,000 and make $100,000 on the deal you don’t owe the government of Belize one dime.

Property Taxes are also very low in Belize. For instance, a 2 bedroom oceanfront condo in Miami Beach that costs around $400,000 would be taxed around $5,000 U.S. per year. In comparison a 2 bedroom ocean front condo on Ambergris Caye that costs $400,000 will only run you $275 U.S. per year! You can see immediately how the cost of ownership would be much much less on a property here then in the U.S.

Rental Income is also taxed at a very low rate. Let’s say you rent out your home or condo when you are not here to make some extra income. In the U.S. or Canada the tax on such income can be viewed as personal income and taxed accordingly from 25-35%. Here in Belize the tax rate is only 1.75%. So if you rent out your home or condo for $200 a night then your tax on that income is only $3.00

There are other tax advantages to consider. Buying and selling property using IBC’s (International Business Companies) is a way to legally eliminate or postpone the paying of taxes that may be required by your home country. For more information on how to set this up please email me or register to view one of our Investing in Belize Webinars which breaks down the details of this type of ownership structure.

How Often Do Hurricanes Affect Belize and Ambergris Caye?
Ambergris Caye is one of the best Caribbean Islands to live on when it comes to concerns from hurricanes. In my last blog post I spoke about why I feel safer here then any other Caribbean Island. In this blog post I’ll give you some more stats and details.

First, look at this: Since 1951 there have only been 7 hurricanes that have hit Belize directly. Other have come close but as we all know its the direct hits with the high winds surrounding the eye of the storm that causes most of the problems.

In any given year Belize has only a 17% chance of getting hit by a hurricane. By comparison the State of Florida has 65% chance of getting hit.

Why doesn’t Belize get too many hurricanes?

1. We are located very far to the west. The normal weather patterns usually turn hurricanes northward by the time they work their way across the Atlantic.

2. Also, we have a fairly short hurricane window. While the “official” window is from June through November history shows that almost all of the hurricanes to hit Belize have done so in the months of September and October. Hence we have a smaller window of opportunity then do other Caribbean Islands.

Finally, the main things that cause damage in a hurricane are high winds and storm surge. Most everything that is built here is built to withstand such high winds. We use solid concrete construction with hurricane resistant windows and doors. We also pour solid concrete roofs. When looking at the damage caused by a hurricane you’ll find that most of it is due to the high winds ripping of the roofs. We prevent that from happening by building the way we do.

Also, the reef acts as a huge protection for us. In some places like Cancun and in Florida the water depth can be several hundred feet just a little ways offshore. This allows for the formation of damaging waves and storm surge. Ambergris Caye has a reef running its length just a few hundred yards of shore. This reef acts like a protective wall. It takes the brunt of the wave action so those that do reach the shore are limited in the damage they can cause.

So, in looking at all of the variables involved I would say that hurricanes should not even be a concern. We rarely get them but if we do you’ll be able to get off the island to safety quickly, and most likely come back within a day or two. You property will most likely be as you left it accept for some debris in the yard. Within a few days all will be cleaned up and the skies will be blue!

What are the Laws For Owning Property in Belize?


Can a foreigner own property outright in Belize?
The answer to this question is 100% yes. There are many different ways to take ownership of a property. Some ways that you would expect to take title are :

  • A registered land title
  • Transfer certificate of title
  • First certificate of title
  • Strata Title ( This is generally for used condominiums)
  • Deed of conveyance

All are secure forms of ownership.

How Do I ensure Clear Title For My Belize Property?
 A title search is always recommended.  This is usually done by a closing agent or an attorney and is an important part of the purchasing process. This is done to check the lands register for charges, reservations, encumbrances and liens.  It is incomplete if a court search is not also undertaken and if it is not reviewed in light of possible equitable interests such as a spouse not on title or inheritance anticipatory gifts.
Will I need An Attorney in Belize?
This is completely up to the buyer. It is always recommended that the buyer ensures that a reputable broker is transacting the sale. In most cases a reputable closing company is all that is needed. However there are cases where an attorney is advisable. Your broker can advise you on what is the best route.

Should I use my US attorney?

NoU.S. property law is significantly different from British property law.

Are squatters a concern in Belize?
 No, Belize has a tough anti-squatting laws unlike other Central American countries. One can only claim title to a land or easement upon proof to the Supreme Court of Belize that one has had continuous and undisturbed possession for 30 years on National and Conveyed lands and 12 years on Registered lands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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