Residency And Citizenship In Belize

The requirements and benefits for Belize Permanent Resident status are similar to those of the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act. The application process and supporting documents needed are virtually the same as for retirement residency. But there are some key differences.

Permanent Resident

As a regular Belize permanent resident, you do not have to deposit any particular sum of money in a bank in Belize. And unlike the QRP program, you do not need to continue making cash deposits every monthly into your bank account. However, you do have to show financial resources sufficient to obtain residency status. You can work for pay in Belize.

You must live in here for one full year before you can apply for regular permanent residency. During this period, you cannot leave the country for more than 14 consecutive days.

It is more expensive to apply for regular permanent residency than for retired permanent residency. Application fees vary according to your country of origin, ranging from US$125 (citizens of Mexico and Guatemala) to US$2,000. Citizens of the U.S. pay US$1,000, and most British Commonwealth country residents also pay US$1,000. CARICOM citizens pay US$250.

Once residency is granted, you pay a fee of US$62.50 for a residency card. You apply to the Belize Immigration and Nationality Department rather than through the Belize Tourism Board. For information and application form, contact: Immigration and Nationality Department Ministry of National Security and Immigration Belmopan, Belize Tel.: 501-222-4620 Fax: 501-222-4056

Belize Citizenship

belize passport

The Belize Passport now carries the logo CC for Caribbean Community.

Citizenship (naturalized Belizean) is a possible for those permanent residents living in Belize for five years. To acquire citizenship, applicants must have been a resident or have permanent residency status for a minimum of five years. After five years permanent citizens submit an application for citizenship and this is usually processed within 6 months. Note that as an inefficient bureaucracy this process can take up to a year. Ensuring that all documents are in order before making your application, and regular checks to the immigration department in Belmopan will make for faster results.

There are two other options to obtain citizenship which we will discuss briefly. The first is citizenship by marriage. A foreigner who marries a Belizean can apply for  citizenship and this is usually granted within one year. This of course means a real commitment to your new country of nationality. One citizenship is granted you are free to come and go as you wish or even relocated permanently to any country you wish to live in. A foreigner who marries a Belizean, automatically gains residency status:

“BELIZE BELIZEAN NATIONALITY ACT, CHAPTER 161, REVISED EDITION 2000

“Part IV, section 10

“For the purpose of the residency requirement specified in subsection (3) (b) above, if any applicant marries a Belizean citizen, such applicant shall be deemed to have been legally resident in Belize from the date of such marriage,…”

Citizenship via birth or descent are other options.

If you achieve Belize nationality, any child under age 18 that you have is entitled to become a Belizean, no matter where he or she was or is born. As parent you need to submit an application for citizenship via descent to the immigration department and thereafter your children will be issued with a certificate of nationality which you then submit to apply for passports.

Any individual born in Belize, notwithstanding the migratory status of the parents, is automatically a Belizean.

“BELIZE BELIZEAN NATIONALITY ACT, CHAPTER 161, REVISED EDITION 2000, Part III

“5.-(1) Subject to the other provisions of this Part, a person born in Belize on or after the appointed date shall have the status of a citizen of Belize.

“(2) Subject to the other provisions of this Part, a person born outside Belize on or after the appointed date shall have the status of a citizen of Belize by descent if at the time of his birth his father or mother is a citizen of Belize.”


Marriage Based Permanent Residency and Citizenship

Both Belize citizens and  Legal Permanent Residents can file immigrant petitions for their foreign born spouses. There is no waiting period to file. However, the petitioner has the burden to prove that the marriage is bonafide, meaning it was not entered into solely for immigration benefits.

Because marriage is the only option for many foreign nationals to obtain legal status, these petitions are investigated for marriage fraud. The penalty for marriage fraud can be prison, fine, deportation, and a lifetime ban from obtaining legal status. Investigation for fraud is performed when you initially apply, when you file to remove the condition, and also when you file for naturalization. Additionally, fraud is investigated when you, or your spouse, petition for your foreign children.

You have the right to be represented by an attorney in the immigration process and it is vital that you and your spouse retain an experienced immigration attorney. Competent legal representation will lead to positive results. Remember, no attorney can knowingly assist anyone in fraud, but nothing you say to your attorney can ever be revealed to anyone.

Recognition of citizenship via descent is done via an Application For Registration. Forms are available from an Belize embassy or consulate, but must be presented in person at the Immigration and Nationality Department in the City Of Belmopan.

Where a person is born here, a certificate card of live birth is issued by the medical doctor, hospital, clinic or midwife. This certificate is then taken (usually about a month or two after birth) to the Birth Registry located in all cities and towns in Belize. These Registries normally consist of a senior public officer that visits a population center and holds office in within a court or municipal building on a fixed schedule, often twice a week, sometimes once a week.

Within two weeks to a month you can pick up a certificate of birth. The parents then take to the Central Registry in Belize City where you apply for a Birth Certificate. This can be a tedious experience due to a small staff attending what may be a hoard of moms and dads. Thus we recommend applying for at least two or perhaps four certified copies at this time. You will not regret this in the future when you need a copy of your child’s birth certificate and are miles away from the Registry. The birth certificate is issued within two weeks but you can pay an express fee to obtain it within three days. The Birth Certificate is then used to apply for a Belize Passport – no certificate of nationality is issued – the birth certificate is the defining document in this case.

Belize Passports now carry the logo of the Caribbean Community. As a member of CARICOM, passport holders of Belize do not need a visa to travel to the 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies. The same visa-free travel advantages applies to the U.K., Mexico and most countries in Central and South America.

© 2011 Belize.com Ltd. Article by M.A. Romero – former Chief Information Officer to the Government of Belize.