Visas and Officialdom
U.S. citizens must have a passport valid for the duration of their visit to Belize; U.S. citizens, British Commonwealth subjects, and citizens of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, and Uruguay do not need a visa. They are automatically granted a 30-day tourist pass and technically must have onward or return air tickets and proof of sufficient money (though I’ve never heard of anyone checking this). Visitors for purposes other than tourism, or who wish to stay longer than 30 days, need to visit an immigration office of the Government of Belize.
If you are planning on staying more than 30 days, you can ask for a new stamp at any immigration office in the country, or you can cross the border and return. The first few times are free, then there may be various fees to extend (the most I’ve been charged was US$12.50 for an extra 30 days).
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged by the State Department to register their trip, no matter how short, online at www.travel.state.gov, so that the local embassy has emergency contact information on file.
Foreign Embassies in Belize
Only a handful of countries have embassies in Belize. The United States Embassy (Floral Park Rd., Belmopan, tel. 501/822-4011, fax 501/822-4012, embbelize [at] state [dot] gov, http://belize.usembassy.gov) is open for U.S. citizen services 8 a.m.–noon and 1–4 p.m. Monday–Thursday and 8 a.m.–noon on Friday in its brand-new fortified US$50 million building. The after-hours emergency number for American citizens is 501/610-5030. For inquiries pertaining to American citizens, email ACSBelize [at] state [dot] gov.
The British High Commission (Embassy Square, P.O. Box 91, Belmopan, tel. 501/822-2146, brithicom [at] btl [dot] net, www.britishhighbze.com) is open 8 a.m.–noon and 1–4 p.m. Monday–Thursday and 8 a.m.–2 p.m. Friday. El Salvador and India also have embassies in Belmopan.
Countries with embassies in Belize City include China, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Holland, Sweden, and Taiwan.
Moving to Belize
It’s a typical story—the foreigner who vacationed in Belize and never left. There are a number of ways to do it, from starting a business, investing in land, retiring, or working online. Just be sure to do your homework before deciding to move to Belize, as it’s more of a lifestyle change than you might realize. Visit during different seasons of the year, and start your research by listening to Jerry Jeff Walker’s song, “Just Another Gringo in Belize.”
Anyone 45 years or older with a monthly income of no less than US$2,000 through a pension, annuity, or other retirement benefit generated outside of Belize can apply for the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program (tel. 800/624-0686, shauma [at] travelbelize [dot] org, www.belizeretirement.org), which greatly facilitates the process of retiring in Belize.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition