When Dean Barrow was running for prime minister, he was quick to address the problem of inadequate health care in many parts of Belize. Now that Barrow is in office, his government has planned several initiatives to solve the problem, especially improvements at the country’s best known medical facility, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City.
Belizeans acknowledge, however, that it will take many years before the country’s health care system is on the same level with medical treatment in the neighboring countries of Mexico and Guatemala.
If you’re considering a visit or a move to Belize, rest assured that most minor ailments can be treated quickly—and cheaply—at doctor’s offices and clinics that can be found in all but a few remote areas. People who suffer from serious conditions can be taken to private clinics such as Belize Medical Associates or Belize Health Care Partners. Both of these facilities offer excellent services and costs are still very reasonable. Belize does have a number of public hospitals but most expats prefer to use the private clinics.
But since all these facilities lack the quality care of hospitals in the U.S. and neighboring countries, some many expats leave Belize for more complicated types of medical treatment. Many American retirees, for instance, return home for a few days whenever they want to take advantage of Medicare. Some expats also go to Chetumal and Merida, just north of the border in the Mexican state of Yucatán, and to Guatemala City and Antigua in Guatemala.
Tourist visa: When you visit Belize, there’s no need for a tourist visa if you’re a citizen of the U.S., Canada, a country in the European Union or the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Australia, Hong Kong, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, or Venezuela.
If you’re from one of these countries, you can stay 30 days without a visa. To stay longer, you pay $25 a month for the first six months and $50 a month thereafter.
The Qualified Retired Persons Program: Many expats in Belize choose this residency program. To take advantage of this visa, you have to be at least 45 years old and have a monthly income of at least $2,000 from a pension or annuity (including Social Security) generated outside of Belize. Despite the name, you don’t necessarily have to be retired.
To qualify, you can from any country in the world and can also include your spouse and dependents under the age of 18 in the program.
Permanent Residency Visa: In order to obtain Permanent Residency status, you must live in Belize for at least one year. To do this, enter the country on a tourist visa, apply for residency and then renew your visa until residency is granted. You must also pay a non-refundable fee of $1,000 if you’re American. The amount for other nationalities varies.
Belize has one of the world’s best retiree programs. Through the Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program, the government gives qualified retirees an exemption from taxes on all income derived from sources outside Belize, whether such income is earned or passive, and whether or not it is remitted to Belize.
You don’t have to be retired—or even of retirement age—to take advantage of this program. However, you must be at least 45 years old, and be able to show that you have adequate resources to deposit a monthly income of $2,000 or more per month, and comply with several other minor requirements. To keep your QRP status you must spend just one month of the year in Belize.
The regulations state that you must show a pension or other regular income. In reality, if you can demonstrate that you have adequate savings to transfers $24,000 per year, the Belize Tourist Board has accepted that approach, since many expats do not have pensions but do have IRAs/401Ks. You can also make a single $24,000 deposit a year or make it in monthly installments.
In addition to tax benefits, qualified retirees can also import a specified amount of personal and household goods as well as a car, boat, or plane without having to pay import duties or other taxes on goods up to the value of $15,000.
QRPs are considered non-residents for purposes of banking, meaning they can set up a U.S. dollar bank account with a local or offshore bank in Belize. QRPs are also allowed to engage in gainful employment as long as most of their business activity takes place outside Belize and is conducted exclusively with non-residents of Belize. This is especially important for expats who wish to maintain a consulting business from their second home in Belize. QRPs are also allowed to own a business in Belize. It is best to talk to a qualified attorney if you are thinking of doing this.
Though Belize isn’t the cheapest country in the Western Hemisphere, it takes less to live well in Belize than in most places in the U.S., Canada, or Europe.
Here’s a sample monthly budget for two people:
If you have a car—which you may not need, depending where you live—add $300 for gas and maintenance every month. Belize is a small country and you won’t go far, but gas is expensive (more so than in the U.S.).
Foreigners in Belize are only liable for tax on income they generate in Belize.
Income tax is charged at a rate of 25%, and for residents of Belize, the first $10,000 of their annual income is exempt. Pension income is also exempt.
To qualify for residency, an individual must be present in Belize for 183 days or more during a calendar year. There’s no graduated scale of taxation like in the U.S. and many other countries. Property taxes depend entirely on the type of property and start at 1% of the assessed value. Belize currently has no capital gains tax.
Though Belizean tax law is far simpler than the U.S. tax code, always consult a knowledgeable attorney, especially if you spend more than 183 days in the country during a calendar year.
General sales tax in Belize if 12.5% and it is included in the price of the good that you buy.
Currently, property transfer taxes are at 10%, and attorney fees usually equal 2%, including miscellaneous expenses. The buyer usually pays around 12.5% for closing costs, based on the total purchase price of the real estate. Property taxes depend on the type of property and start at 1% of the assessed value. Belize currently has no capital gains tax.
READ MORE AT:
How to Live, Retire, Work and Buy Property in Belize
YOUR MORTGAGE RELIEF SITE: Ultra Mortgage Solutions
ECO-FRIENDLY SUPPLIES: Eco Friendly Products
YOUR TRAVEL SITE – Sea Your World for Less
A GREEN SHOPPING SITE Shop Green & Eco Friendly
YOUR SHOPPING SITE Shopping Mall