With only about 330,000 residents in Belize it’s not hard to believe that 90% of businesses here are small or microbusinesses, making it a good place for an overseas venture. Expats are running all types of businesses here and making a living.

For example, Frik De Meyere, owner of Belize Wind Energy and a real estate agent with Mannsfeld and Associates, says he spent 80% of his time on paperwork back in Europe. But in Belize, paperwork only takes 10% of his time.

And it’s efficient. Business owners seldom complain about how difficult it was to obtain a permit to operate their business. Nadege and Tom Thomas, owners of Mystic River Resort in the Cayo region received their restaurant and bar permit within a month of applying.

Tourism-related businesses such as restaurants, bars and B&Bs are popular expat businesses in Belize. But keep in mind that the tourist season is from December through April. Savvy expats who depend on tourism usually open their new business late in the year, before the high season.

Although in the past tourism businesses where the primary focus of most expats, the Belizean government offers more incentives for other types of businesses, such as light manufacturing and specialty agriculture. Expats now own and operate yoga studios, health spas, hair salons, vitamin shops,
specialty coffee and wine stores, pool supply and operation services, and organic farms. A growing number of expats are working online. Some even continue to work for their North American employers, but from Belize.

The government offers incentives to entrepreneurs such as exemptions from import and export duties and a variety of taxes. To qualify you will need to demonstrate how your business activities will benefit Belize economically

Getting a work visa

If you are not a permanent resident in Belize, you will need a work permit to legally work. Self-employment permits are by far the easiest to obtain, as you will most likely be viewed as someone with a business that will in fact create jobs and employ local Belizeans. General work permits must be applied for by your prospective employer. That employer will have to prove that they have been unable to find a current local resident to fill the position before a permit will be issued.

For more information, contact your nearest Belize Embassy.

Setting up your own business

The Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) works to help international and local investors in establishing and developing a business in Belize. See their website for more.