Belize Health Care

healthcare webpage

Belize Health Care

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.

Visa Requirements

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.

Retiree Benefits in Belize

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.

Cost of Living in Belize

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:

Rent $700
Electricity $100
Gas $25
Water $25
Cable TV $25
Telephone $80
Internet $80
Groceries $300
Entertainment $200
Miscellaneous $200
Monthly  total: $1,735

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.).

Taxes in Belize

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.


How to Live, Retire, Work and Buy Property in Belize

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