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Important Changes for Expats in Belize

This article from a subscription newsletter  was forwarded to me by a friend.   I know nothing more about these changes other than what was reported below.   I suspect this will be a lively topic for a long while.  :o  :/  :huh:

Important Changes for Expats in Belize
2017 has already started with some new developments in Belize. Changes to banking and the property buying process have been causing confusion. I'll make sure to keep you updated as we get more detailed information, but here's what we know so far.

Will Belize's currency be devalued?
There have been predictions during the last year, in local business articles in Belize, that the Belize dollar will soon be devalued against the U.S. dollar. Belize faces a daunting increase in payments coming, due to their debt bondholders starting during February 2017. These increased payments are projected to bring the U.S. dollar reserves at the Central Bank below a critical threshold level.

The long established 2/1 $BZ/U.S. dollar ratio might change to 3/1, or 4/1. Or the Belize dollar may be allowed to float. It's not clear how this type of devaluation will impact real estate in Belize. Since most real estate is sold in U.S. dollars, between expats, the impact may be nominal. But it is expected that the cost of products in Belize could increase if the Belize currency is devalued.

Central Bank approval required for property sold to foreigners.
Every property sold in Belize to a foreigner must now be reviewed and approved by the Central Bank. Lawyers have told me that this requirement has been in place for years, but has only recently been enforced by the Lands Department. Expats can still legally own property in Belize, but must go through a review process before going through with a purchase.

However, Central Bank did not staff up to meet the demand of this more rigorous process and this has caused delays in property sales and titles. So, if you do plan to buy property in Belize this year, assume that the entire process will take four months longer than usual due to the backlog for approvals at the Central Bank.

Expats encounter banking challenges.
In recent months, there have been changes to the process of opening a domestic bank account in Belize. Now, you must obtain QRP residence status or become a permanent resident to open an account. This may not affect day-to-day banking so much, as you can still withdraw funds from your North American account at local ATMs. But if you need to pay utility bills you'll need to do so either at their offices or at a bank.

The above three relevant issues may improve, or be resolved, during this year. But there are no guarantees. My advice is that if you're planning on moving to Belize, you rent initially and wait to see how these issues shake out.

Will Belize's currency be devalued?
There have been predictions during the last year, in local business articles in Belize, that the Belize dollar will soon be devalued against the U.S. dollar. Belize faces a daunting increase in payments coming, due to their debt bondholders starting during February 2017. These increased payments are projected to bring the U.S. dollar reserves at the Central Bank below a critical threshold level.

The long established 2/1 $BZ/U.S. dollar ratio might change to 3/1, or 4/1. Or the Belize dollar may be allowed to float. It's not clear how this type of devaluation will impact real estate in Belize. Since most real estate is sold in U.S. dollars, between expats, the impact may be nominal. But it is expected that the cost of products in Belize could increase if the Belize currency is devalued.


This issue has been speculated on for a while now. It seemed to be most dependent on how GoB met there obligations to repayments of loans that were due in February. Belize did indeed miss that payment and had 30 days to meet their obligation or be held in default. Last week the super bond was re-negotiated with a slightly lower interest rate and the initial payments being pushed to 2030.

from Breaking Belize News (BBN)
"Reuters reported that bondholders and GOB hammered out a deal reducing the interest on the note and shortening its final maturity.

According to the revised terms, the new note will pay an interest of 4.9375% below the current 5% and much lower than the 6.767% scheduled to kick in on August 20.

In addition the bonds final maturity has been brought forward from 2038 to 2034. The amortization schedule, which was to begin in 2019, will now be paid in five annual installments starting in 2030".


While there are other issues like a recent judgement against the GoB for 25 million dollars by a US court in another issue, It appears to me that this renegotiation is an important step to help Belize to avoid devaluing its dollar, as well as buys some time to get the economy moving again before payments are due.

Here is a link to the BBN March 06 article Superbond 3.0 Complete.


Central Bank approval required for property sold to foreigners.
Every property sold in Belize to a foreigner must now be reviewed and approved by the Central Bank. Lawyers have told me that this requirement has been in place for years, but has only recently been enforced by the Lands Department. Expats can still legally own property in Belize, but must go through a review process before going through with a purchase.

However, Central Bank did not staff up to meet the demand of this more rigorous process and this has caused delays in property sales and titles. So, if you do plan to buy property in Belize this year, assume that the entire process will take four months longer than usual due to the backlog for approvals at the Central Bank.


The above is my understanding. Also please note that this department was also temporarily closed due to massive corruption allegations earlier in the year. I have not heard that it has reopened yet. This I am sure will add additional delays.

With regards to Expat Bank Challenges, I understand that these issues arise for US citizens more so than for expats from other countries (Especially Common Wealth countries) as a result of cumbersome US FACTA regulations placed on Caribbean banking institutions by the US. As Canadians we have never had any problems with the banking system. I must also admit that our accounts were opened in early 2015 and there have been several changes since then. We have a checking account, a savings account, and pay our utilities online.

Thanks Bill,
I am not sure I fully understand all the info, but it does appear things are not as bleak after the renegotiation.

I suspect that the 20 year long Ponzi Scheme of crooked Texan Allen Stanford that wrecked the banking system in Antigua a few years ago contributed to the additional complexity we Americans now face with Caribbean banks.  :mad:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/15/busin … -case.html

So, I just want to add that we have been here almost two years and have never had a Belizean bank account. I'd like to have one, but the only bank in independence at the time was Heritage, and they were impossible. If I'd known then how much easier Atlantic is, I would have gone to the one in Placencia. That said, we pay our electric bill online with our us debit card with no problems. And the Atlantic atm has no fees, so I only have to deal with the international fee imposed by my bank. Also, an increasing number of the groceries will take my card with little or no fee.

Time for an update after my last trip:

I just returned to Texas after my all too short April visit to my 2nd home in Placencia.

Lots more building going on up and down the Placencia Peninsula. Some lots cleared a few years ago now have actual signs of building progress.

Many new areas have been cleared and real work is progressing. More new real estate for sale signs are up.

The Casino and Hotel near the top of the Peninsula have closed. No surprise to me after my one visit last year. How anyone could spend millions on that type of place in that area, just shows how gullible folks with more money than brains can be. 

In Placencia Village itself:
Atlantic Bank International's two year+ build is completed and they moved into their new offices. Biggest surprise there is they stay open during lunch time. ;)

The Prime Minister's three story Condo Tower almost three years in the build is now finished. Located next to one of my favorite places De'Tatch Seafood Beach Bar & Grill I  could see he, his family and MANY friends enjoyed the fantastic weather, beach and water we had over Easter week.

A few hundred feet North, two of the new rental apartment buildings between the sidewalk and Placencia Rd are nearing completion after less than a year, and work has started on at least one more.

On the Lagoon side of  Placencia road on the South side of Harbor Place S. A new two story concrete building looks to be about 2/3s completed. Located at the east end of the canal this property has room for two more large buildings, and I still kick myself for not getting interested in it sooner. two years ago, I found the  owner living in Fl. but only two days after he had just sold it to the current developer.  :sosad:

Further South next to and behind the Police Station, the property has been cleared, is being filled with rich red clay (trucked in from areas many miles west). I don't know yet what is being built there. Same is true of the long vacant wide lot across the street from the Police Station, long used as a free parking lot by many locals and tourist.

The always ill conceived two story, three building strip mall stretching between the Caribbean and Placencia Road along the Pickled Parrot sidewalk is being converted into Time Share/Rental apartments. The strip mall configuration was completed about a year ago, but never had one tenant. Someone almost converted the large restaurant configured building into a movie theater. LOL but sanity must have intervened. It now serves as the sales/opportunity center for whatever the current developer is trying to do.  How anyone could spend a few million on that type of place in that area, just shows how gullible folks with more money than brains can be. But at least it has kept locals employed in Building and rebuilding for a long time now.  :)   

Banking:
When I was at the airport I saw a new sign on the immigration exit podium saying one can now bring into the country up to  $10,000 USD / $20,000 BZD without needing to declare it. Previously it had been half that amount and is now inline with US regulations.

GST (general sales tax) went from 12.5% to 17% on many items effective April 1.

I was finally able to fund my Atlantic International account , it only took 10 months....
When i did, I applied for a "Token" to enable online banking with my new account. They said it would take 10 days to program it and send it down from Belize City. I left three weeks after that, still no Token....  :unsure

Southwest Airlines has added a direct flight from Denver (DEN) to Belize City (BZE), in July will add Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to the existing Houston (HOU) flight.

For my Canadian friends I see  WestJet now has a ticket counter in the new area of BZE airport.

We plan to be back down for Lobsterfest in late June, always a great time, lots of good food, and fresh Lobster prepared in too many ways to even begin to describe.  :top:

Wow the casino didn't last long maybe location not too brilliant. Having to pass the bad teeth buildings ( my autistic grandson said that is what all the blackened concrete half built buildings look like so that is the family name for them now)  to get into it, not very salubrious.
Most punters would have a fairly long drive 10 miles plus, to get there from any populated areas. Did not manage to go to Placencia this  last last few weeks, hopefully in the  June or July trip. Do love Placencia, but love my jungle riverfront place more for year round living, lack of biting insects, and its central location.

OOPs edited for spellings

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