Living and Investments in Belize

Form of Government::
Belize, until 1973 known as British Honduras, is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the British Commonwealth. The country has a tradition of democracy and free elections.

Legal System:
Similar to the United States. Belize's legal system is derived from English common law, where innocence is presumed.

Can foreigners own land?
YES!

Facts on Land
Foreigners or Non- Nationals of Belize may purchase and hold title to land.
Land can be leased from the Government of Belize with an option to buy if the planned development indicated at the time of the application is carried out. Land in general has a (1%) tax on the unimproved value of the land.
If a property is being sub-divided for sale, a subdivision permit must be obtained from the Minister of Natural Resources.
The cost of transfer of title to real property is 10% of value for Stamp Duty and a token fee for registration. Attorney's fee is additional.
Unless there is an agreement to the contrary these cost are usually shared between seller and buyer.
The Government of Belize has given its assurance that any bonafide developer will encounter no problem in obtaining a license provided that the developer is prepared to carry out a reasonable amount of development during the term of his license.

GOVERNMENT POLICY ON PRIVATE INVESTMENTS
The Belize Government is cognizant of the need to create an enabling environment which will attract investments by both local and foreign investors. Subsequently it enacted a series of legislation in the early 90's to allow for a range of incentives which will encourage and assist any feasible and genuine development activity in its ongoing search for sustainable national development.
The criteria to qualify for the different incentives varies but once met the recipient obtains full benefits which can be a tax holiday or import duty exemption on imports or a combination of both. Benefits, however, will be dependent on the type of incentive awarded to the potential investor. Investments are particularly welcome if they result in increased production, introduce state-of the-art technology, and enhances local management skills, promote greater efficiency through competition, diversification of the economic base and facilitate access to foreign markets.
Foreign investment will be particularly encouraged in export oriented activities which lead to increased employment, and employment opportunities, and the development of of local technological capacity.
Belize continues to enjoy preferential access to markets in Europe, Canada, United States of America, and the Caribbean. However, the realities of NAFTA, GATT and other regional and international trading blocks require that the Government of Belize shifts its emphasis away from the traditional exports of sugar, citrus and bananas to non-traditional products such as papayas, mangoes, pineapples, and other exotic fruits and vegetables including export oriented manufacturing and services.
While government supports and encourages joint venture and partnership investments as a preferred mechanism for investment capital it allows one hundred percent foreign ownership of an enterprise. Indeed Belizean laws allow for the following categories of business ownership:
  • Private Companies
  • Joint Ventures and Cooperatives
  • Partnership
  • Sole Proprietor
  • Public Investment Companies
  • International Business Companies
  • Trust Funds
The creation of productive employment is recognized by Government. Therefore, it will permit the importation of highly skilled personnel to compliment the Belizean labor force provided that appropriate training programs for nationals are established. It will certainly encourage that a local counterpart be assigned for every foreign skilled personnel employed by the company.

What are the advantages of Belizian residency?
If you have residency status, you can bring in all your household items at one time with a duty free exemption. You may bring in a new car and boat every 5 years if you have a retired residency status.

Offshore Banking:
The Offshore Bank Act of 1996 is designed to move Belize into the ranks of other offshore banking havens such as the Cayman Islands and Panama. Whether that will come about is still very much up in the air. Offshore banks chartered in Belize pay no taxes in Belize and can take deposits from the public, make loans, conduct stock brokerage, offer credit cards, and have other traditional banking functions. Minimum capital for a "Class A" bank allowed to operate without restrictions is US$500,000; minimum for a "Class B" bank, which cannot solicit funds from the public, is US$200,000. Offshore banks in Belize need have only one stockholder. The bank must maintain a registered office in Belize and have at least two Belizeans on the board of directors. Companies in Belize offer these services as part of a package. It typically takes about three months to secure a banking license from the Belize Central Bank and to put together documentation.

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