Belize is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The structure of government is based on the British parliamentary system and the legal system is modeled on the Common Law of England.
Regulation of entry and stay of migrants
The law that regulates the entry, stay and departure of migrants is the Belize Immigration Act (Chapter 156)1. There are several ways to legally visit or live in Belize, all with different benefits, challenges, and requirements.
Tourists, temporary visitors or expatriates who do not yet qualify for residency will need to apply for a permit or visa.
Persons entering Belize as visitors must have visas issued by a diplomatic or consular officer of Belize, or of the country acting on behalf of Belize in the issuing country, except: citizens of Commonwealth countries; National citizens of countries with which Belize has signed a visa waiver agreement; citizens of the United States of America who enter Belize for a period of less than six months; persons who are passengers of tourist vessels and who intend to remain in Belize only during the stay of the vessel in which they arrived and in which they will depart; transit passengers as long as said passengers do not intend to remain in Belize for more than seven days and have in their possession a ticket and valid documents that will allow them to enter the country of destination; national citizens of the European Union (EU).
Retired Incentive Program
Anyone who is forty-five years of age or older can qualify for the program. The person who meets all the requirements can also include their dependents in the program. Dependents include spouses and children under the age of eighteen. However, a person may be included as a dependent up to age twenty-three if that person is enrolled in college.
To be designated a Qualified Retired Person under this program, the applicant must receive a monthly income of no less than US$2,000 through a pension or annuity that has been generated outside of Belize. A Qualified Retired Person shall be exempt from the payment and duty of all taxes on all income or receipts accruing from a source outside of Belize, whether income generated from work performed or from an investment.
Permanent residence in Belize
Applications for Permanent Residence in Belize are made through the Belize Immigration Department in Belmopan City after residing continuously in the country for one year and without having left the territory for more than 14 consecutive days during this time. .
The requirements to apply for permanent resident status are: 1) the Application for Permanent Residence form, 2) take an HIV test, 3) present a recent police certificate that does not show any criminal record, and 4) provide two recommendations for individuals who have known the applicant for at least one year. These individuals are typically ministers of religion, licensed physicians, lawyers, the head of a government department, or a Justice of the Peace.
According to Chapter 29 of the Labor Law of 2000 it is possible to provide employment to foreign nationals under certain circumstances. There are two types of applications to obtain a work permit in Belize:
a) Application for permission to employ a foreigner: Any foreign national wishing to work in Belize must be a legal resident (having resided in Belize for at least six months) with the appropriate visas and/or permits issued by the Immigration Department. At the same time, the labor provider must be convinced that all efforts to employ a national have been exhausted. This includes providing proof that the vacant position was advertised locally for at least three weeks, after which no suitable candidate was found.
b) Application for temporary self-employment: This category applies, among others, to foreign investors. All applicants must be in the country legally, with proper visa and/or permits issued by the Immigration Department. The applicant is required to submit proof of funds reasonably necessary for his/her business project (ie: local bank statement). In addition, applicants must obtain a reference from the relevant local Ministry or Organization that is in charge of the category of work involved. In such situations, the six-month residency requirement does not apply, and the business is supposed to lead to job creation for nationals in the future.
Acquisition of nationality
Belizean nationality by birth
Belizean citizenship is acquired by ius soli (right of land) or ius sanguinis (right of blood). According to section 23 of the Constitution of Belize, Belizean nationals are those who i) were born in Belize immediately prior to Belize’s independence day ii) were born in Belize but were citizens of the United Kingdom and its colonies before of Belize’s Independence Day, iii) were born outside of Belize but whose father or mother was a Belizean citizen on the date of their birth.
A Belizean national by birth or descent who obtains the citizenship of any other country may retain his or her Belizean citizenship if permitted by the laws of the other country.
Belizean nationality by naturalization
Many people choose to remain as permanent residents and not apply for nationality status. But for those who want to become citizens of Belize by earning the right to vote, the rules are quite simple. The required documents are very similar to those needed to acquire permanent residence. The applicant must be a permanent resident for five years prior to filing and will need to pass a citizenship test. If the applicant is the spouse or dependent of a citizen, the application can be made after one year of residence, instead of five.
The legal provisions on refugees in Belize are regulated in the Belize Refugee Act of 2000 in congruence with the provisions of the Convention on Refugee Status of 1951. The law provides that any person who seeks to obtain refugee status refugee has the right to remain in Belize until his application has been heard, and if the application has not been approved, until all avenues of appeal have been exhausted, and up to three months after the close of the appeal if the decision is not approved. it was revoked. This provision allows applicants to take the necessary steps for their departure from Belize. Under said Law, every recognized refugee will be granted the rights of resident and will be subject to the obligations established in the 1951 Convention and the laws in force in Belize.
In recognition of its constitution as a state of cultural and ethnic diversity, and in an attempt to reduce the number of workers outside the formal economy, in 1999 the government of Belize launched a program to regularize the status of immigrants, granting temporary permits of work and citizenship, depending on the case, to Central American immigrants.
Amnesty beneficiaries included people without legal status who had resided in Belize for at least four years, families with children born in Belize, and people married to a Belizean citizen. These categories include a significant number of refugees from neighboring Central American countries who entered Belize in the 1980s and early 1990s but never regularized their stay. Approximately 4,709 immigrants benefited from the program (Moore and Williams, 2008).