What are the Belize entry requirements for residents and expats? They’re different from the rules applying to tourists. In this article, we highlight the different categories of travelers to Belize and outline the individual guidelines.
Since Belize opened on October 1, there’s been a lot of talk about tourist protocols. You know, gold standard this, gold standard that.
Download the app, do this, go that. Stay in your hotel, don’t go there, don’t do this. It seems we’re pretty clear on tourists coming to Belize right now. At least as clear as we can be in this super-complicated new world we find ourselves in.
But what about citizens and residents entering Belize? We don’t hear so much about them. I guess it’s understandable. Tourism, after all, represents some 40% of Belize’s economy. Belize desperately needs to kickstart that again while juggling with managing the virus.
Great to see #Belize joining Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala by allowing all travelers in to enjoy its beautiful country. Panama set to do the same on Oct 12. Best of luck to you all. Costa Rica, are you watching?https://t.co/F6mxAhm10J
— CentralAmericaLiving (@VidaAmerica) October 1, 2020
Still, citizens and residents need to come and go too. So let’s go over some of the rules for them.
Travelers entering Belize are now classified into the following four groups:
- Foreign Tourists
- Belizean Citizens & Residents
- Business Travelers
- Foreign Second Home Owners/Long Stay Non-Nationals
We’ll put aside the foreign tourists. Most expats are either Citizens & Residents or Second Home Owners/Long Stay Non-Nationals.
And it’s a little different coming into Belize for them. For a start, you don’t need to wear a wristband for your stay. That’s gotta be a good thing, right? I mean what’s all that about in the first place? But I digress…
— Belize Tourism Board (@belizevacation) October 6, 2020
Belize citizens and residents need to download the Belize Health App, the same as tourists. They also need to take a PCR COVID test within 72 hours of boarding their plane. If they can’t take the test, they will have to take one upon arrival in Belize at their own cost (US$50).
Citizens/residents arriving with a negative test or receiving all-clear with their airport test can leave the airport and go home, where they have to quarantine for ten days. Once those ten days are up, they need “clearance” from the Ministry of Health before getting on with their lives.
Presumably at this point they can get rid of the health app.
Citizens/residents who get a positive result from their on-arrival COVID tests need to quarantine at an approved hotel for a minimum of 14 days at their own expense.
For the sake of clarity, the government deems “residents” as foreigners with permanent residency, work visas, and expats with QRP residency (Qualified Retired Persons).
You’ve decided to move to Belize but don’t want to fall foul of the immigration laws. Luckily they are straightfoward, even if time-consuming. Here’s a guide to living legally and getting residency in Belize.#Belize #expatlife https://t.co/3GGRBllWFx pic.twitter.com/4Kvd5Inzbg
— CentralAmericaLiving (@VidaAmerica) April 12, 2019
Foreign Second Home Owners/Long Stay Non-Nationals:
All other foreigners who aren’t tourists count as “Foreign Second Home Owners/Long Stay Non-Nationals”.
It’s interesting how Belize classifies long-stay visitors without residency in this way. Other countries in Central America don’t. You’re either a tourist or a resident.
Long stay visitors to Costa Rica, for example, struggle with the tailored-for-vacationers insurance requirements. It’s great how Belize recognizes – and makes exceptions for – those who spend a lot of time or own homes in the country.
Anyway, if you own a home in Belize or classify as a “Long Stay Non-National”, your entry requirements differ from citizens and residents.
First, you need to apply to visit Belize. You do this at www.COVID19.bz. Here, you must submit proof you own or rent a home in Belize.
Then you download the Belize Health App and take a PCR COVID test within 72 hours of flying. Again, travelers without a test will get one upon arrival for US$50.
Like citizens/residents, a positive test upon arrival means at least 14 days quarantine at your own expense in an approved hotel.
Home owners/long stay non-nationals with negative results or 72-hour negative result in hand can leave the airport and go home, where they must quarantine for 10 days.
Like citizens/residents, once those ten days are up, they need “clearance” from the Ministry of Health to end their quarantine and get on with their lives.
Everything You Need To Know About The Belize Health App https://t.co/FVwvCIhfRz
— Breaking Belize News (@belizemedia) October 13, 2020
Business travelers to Belize also have their own classification.
For the government, a business traveler is someone with business concerns in Belize, but who doesn’t necessarily live in Belize or have a work permit in Belize.
Business travelers also need to apply for permission to visit at www.COVID19.bz. Here they need to provide proof of their investment(s) in Belize and/or the reason for travel. They also need to provide their planned itinerary while in Belize.
The next step is to download the Belize Health App and take their COVID test within 72 hours of travel.
As business travelers are assumed to not live in Belize, they need to book Gold Standard accommodation like tourists have to. If a business traveler owns property in Belize, they can stay there, as long as they provide proof of ownership.
Business travelers arriving without the COVID test will get one at the airport, for US$50. A negative result means they can go about their business. A positive result means 14 days quarantine in an approved hotel.
All business travelers need to adhere to their submitted itinerary and use approved transportation with a trained driver.
— Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle: Belize (@caribbeanbelize) October 11, 2020
Yesterday, an expat posted an interesting account of entering Belize as a “Long Stay Non National”, which is worth reading.
US expat Laura Monfort posted the following on the Belize Expats Facebook group about her partner’s experience entering Belize:
“For those wanting or needing to leave and then come back to Belize now that the airports are open:
“My partner recently had to go back to the states to see an ill relative. He left on October 2nd and returned October 11th.
“Before leaving he called the MOH (Ministry of Health) as recommended here to get permission. They said none of that was necessary so he didn’t get anything on paper or fill out anything. No issues leaving.
“Returning, he downloaded the tracking app ahead of time and opted to get the COVID test at the airport. His flight landed at 12:03pm. They separated the tourists into a different line and gave them a green band to wear for the duration of their trip.
“For those living in Belize, even without official residency, you go in the other line.
“They will ask you multiples times if you are a resident so say yes and yes and yes.
“They ask if you own or rent. If you rent they want to know your landlord’s name and phone number. He had a copy of our property agreement, but since they were fine with the name and number, he didn’t bother with that. Anyway, you line up for your COVID test, wait about 25 minutes for your result, and if negative go through immigration.
“After knowing his ride was there, he asked to leave the airport and just had to tell them that yes, someone from his household was picking him up and he walked out.
“We were driving away by 12:45pm and he is required to stay home for 10 days. Easy peasy apple squeezy.
“Side note: they forgot to make him pay for the test and when asked they said that only one person coming in had tested positive so far.”
Make of that account what you will, but it certainly provides insight on what to expect when arriving in Belize as a non-tourist. Straight from the horse’s mouth, so-to-speak.
It’s also worth noting there’s been some confusion on social media about the Ministry of Health “clearance” required after ten days of quarantine.
It seems that after you complete your ten days quarantine, you don’t hear from the Ministry of Health at all to “clear you”.
The consensus is that it’s done on the honor system and you don’t need anyone to give you clearance. If you’re symptom-free after ten days, you can get on with your life, and presumably delete the app.
The best bet is to call the Ministry of Health for confirmation of what to do.
The best way to summarize getting into Belize as an expat or non-tourist is like this:
If you’re not a citizen or don’t have legal residency, the government needs proof of where you’re staying or what you’re doing. This is why home owners/long stay non-nationals and business travelers need to seek permission beforehand.
Citizens and residents don’t need to seek this permission.
As with all aspects of travel during this pandemic, protocols and rules can change on a dime. But right now, we hope this this helps expats and residents trying to get to Belize.
James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.