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Visas, residency & work permits

Residents of the UK and most members of the EU do not need to have a visa in order to enter Belize, with the same rules applying for citizens of the US and Canada.

One of the major attractions of buying property in Belize is the advantageous status accorded to overseas retirees who come to the country. This means that citizens of the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland have the right to apply for residency under the Belize Retired Persons Program if they are over 45 years of age.

This status will give them tax advantages, as well as allowing them free access to the country. The conditions of the programme are that the person must have an income of more than US$1,000 per month (or a lump sum of more than US$12,000 per year) which is deposited in a bank account in Belize and comes from a source of income outside of the country. This source can be pension, property investment returns, or any other source outside of Belize.

In return, the resident is then exempt from taxation on any income that comes from outside of Belize, and may import personal effects, a car and even a boat, without paying duty.

A small nominal charge is levied for registration to the program, which is outweighed almost immediately by the savings made.

Investment potential

Property growth in Belize has generally been good, stable and reasonably reliable. The government has been in power for more than ten years, and is well-respected by its peers and neighbours in the region. Growth has been impressive in recent years, with projections for the future equally optimistic as the prospect of direct flights from Europe draws nearer.

Tourism is growing, and the government has been careful to keep the natural beauty of the coastline and rainforest as intact as possible while still allowing development to take place. With all of this growth, property prices remain somewhat below the levels you might expect, and can be 50 per cent below the prices that are found nearby in the Bahamas.

Once direct flights from Europe begin in the coming years, expect prices to rise sharply.

One note of caution however, is that property outside of the major destinations might be difficult to reach at the present time. The issue with transport in the provinces of Belize is that road transport can be quite sketchy at times. Try to buy in the vicinity of regional airports that will at least give you options for access while the infrastructure of the country is brought up to higher standards.

Healthcare

Primary healthcare in Belize is covered by a government-sponsored system, and nine per cent of the income raised by taxation in the country is spent on the health service. Patients have to pay for some services, but again, much of this is subsidised at least in part by the government. Doctors are routinely trained in other countries, but the standard of their education is generally good.

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