Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Retire Belize Program

Recently the finance division of Yahoo quantified Belize as one of the top retirement destinations for 2011 and it probably is in no small part due to the "Retire Belize" program. It is formally called the Belize Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program and sets out to make it easy and attractive for retired persons that have some reasonable way to support themselves, to spend their golden years retired in Belize. When you discover where Belize is located you'll understand why so many Americans are finding it an attractive place for a seasonal or retirement home.

Of course those folks that want to participate in 'Retire Belize' (my name not theirs) program do have to jump through some hoops and prove that they have a secure income from either a retirement program, pension or from investments but for many Americans that is not an issue at all. Belize Tourism Board, who administers the program, has done a pretty reasonable job putting an attractive group of benefits together for the retiree that is looking for more than cheap places to go on vacation

Let’s look at a few of those benefits and you can be the judge.

1. Belize generally has a stable 'dollar'
2. Not far from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and the USA
3. Really Nice People
4. Magnificent Natural Beauty
5. Tax Breaks
6. Belize is Peaceful
7. Speak English
8. Warm year round sub-tropical weather
9. Good Schools
10. Import tariff waivers

There are some important qualifiers for a person that might be interested in the benefits of the best country to live in. By far, the most important filters are age and income. One must be forty five and have a verifiable income of at least $2000 a month. An added benefit is that only the person qualifying has to meet these requirements. Their dependents do not. Dependents in this case can be both spouse (no age requirement) and children up to 18 years old or up to 23 years old if they are still in College.

There are some legal requirements to prove that a pension is valid but these, although tedious and detailed, are not hard to provide. In a ironic sort of attempt to streamline the process the Belize Tourism Board will waive some proof requirements for fortune 500 companies. I find this loophole somewhat ironic since in the present economy, (post 2008), the size of the organization does not seem to necessarily correlate to financial stability but that is purely personal conjecture and I certainly understand why the board may have acted in good faith in its attempt to make the process of application easier for these pensioners.

In a not too surprising attempt to keep trouble out of Belize , the Tourism Board requires a background check for the 'Retire Belize' program by the Ministry of National Security of Belize.
There are several more qualifications that address other details and stipulations on the "Retire Belize' program and here we will take a look at a few of the more minor ones.

1. Must follow the rules for bringing in personal goods on the move into Belize
2. Can't look for a job or be employed while in the program.
3. You have to let the board know if your situation changes in a way that would affect qualification for the program
4. Must follow Belizean laws
5. The benefits of the 'Retire Belize' program are only for qualified person and dependents
6. Board has the right to do their investigation on all the documents you provide to them.
7. If you leave Belize indefinitely you must tell the board so your assets can be liquidated.
8. Documents in the application for the program become property of the board.
9. You can have no outstanding criminal issues at time of application
10. You have to provide required information about dependents
11. Must show proof via yearly bank statement, that you have the required income.
12. Must live in Belize at least one month a year to continue to qualify for Retire Belize program.

Although one would want to familiarize oneself with these and the other rules they don't present too much of a burden to gain the benefits shown before.

The normal type of documents will be required beyond the application form itself like birth certificates, marriage certificate, police record from most current location, passport, proof of income as stated before, medical exam results including the results of an AIDS test and four passport size recent pictures. All of these are quite reasonable for this sort of application and to be expected.

Although this process is quite involved and in this authors opinion it would be best approached with a local attorney, it is like many such involved applications. It is very detailed and detailed but with attention to those details it is a step by step process that takes a fair amount of time and should not be rushed. The good news is it is done all the time and has been completed by many before.

Hopefully this post has been educational and informative in giving you an overview of the "Retire Belize" program as I call it. As stated before there are many benefits that the Belize Tourism Board has put together for living in Belize as an American but please do yourself a favor and seek professional advice to undertake this process. When you are successful you will end up in one of the cheapest places to live and retire in Belize and with a lot of personal advantages besides living in a tropical paradise.

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