If you’re shopping jurisdictions, trying to choose where to begin (or further) the process of internationalizing your life, one country should be at the top of your list:
Belize offers good options for planting every possible offshore flag, including international banking, residency, citizenship, structure, jurisdictional taxation, and self-sufficient living.
International banks in Belize are among the few in the world that will open an account for you without requiring you to visit the bank in person. Of course they, like all offshore banks today, will insist on know-your-client due diligence and paperwork, but you don’t have to get on a plane to go through that process.
Belize banks also have low account minimums compared with bigger private banking centers. You can open an account in this country with as little as US$500… and that account would give you access to multiple currencies including the British pound, the euro, the Swiss franc, and the Canadian dollar (or the U.S. dollar if you’re Canadian).
Banks in other jurisdictions impose minimum balances starting at US$100,000 for an account providing easy access to multiple currencies.
If you have US$100,000 or US$1 million to fund your offshore bank account, you have more options. However, if you’re just starting out with your flag-planting efforts or if you’re working with less available capital, Belize can be a best and easiest starting point for banking.
That’s banking, which is the flag I recommend you address first.
In this context, again, Belize is a top option. The country offers one of the most straightforward retirement residency programs available anywhere.
The income requirement of US$2,000 is higher than that for other options in Central America and even than for some European jurisdictions, but the required time in country each year is only 30 days. You can set up a second (or back-up) residency and maintain it by taking a couple of two-week vacations to Belize each year… or you could live there full-time if you wanted.
While you can’t work in Belize if you establish residency through its Qualified Retired Person (QRP) program, you can start a business. Set up a consulting company using an entity outside Belize, and the country’s jurisdictional approach to taxation system allows you to operate tax-free (in Belize… remember, as a U.S. person, you’ll still have to address any possible U.S. tax liability).
The one downside to residency through QRP is that it doesn’t lead to citizenship. If a second passport is an objective, your option is to go the permanent residency route. This requires you to spend an uninterrupted year living in the country. That can be accomplished easily enough. You simply have to renew your tourist visa every 30 days for a year. Once you have that year under your belt you can apply for permanent residency… and you can come and go from the country as you like.
After five years of permanent residency, you can apply for citizenship.
A Belize IBC (International Business Company) isn’t taxed in Belize because it can’t do business in Belize. If you want to do business in Belize, you’ll need to use a local Belize company instead.
A Belize LLC can also be a good choice as the holding company for offshore investments—for example, real estate in different countries. Again, thanks to Belize’s jurisdictional approach to taxation, you’d pay no taxes in Belize on income or capital gains from your non-Belizean investments held in the Belize LLC.
Banking, residency, structures, and taxes are all great reasons to be looking closely at Belize… and here’s one more…
This country is one of the world’s safest havens, an ideal place to escape the troubles of the world. No terrorist cell and not North Korea either is paying any attention to anything going on in Belize.
Meantime, this country boasts an abundance of fertile land and fresh water, meaning loads of opportunity for growing your own food and embracing an off-grid lifestyle to whatever extent you’re up for. Build a house with solar panels and you could easily live completely off-grid in this country.
You could set up your personal Plan B in Belize and then put it on a shelf where it’d be ready for you and your family should you decide the time has come to bug out.
Belize is close and easy enough to get to from the United States and Canada. All major U.S. carriers offer daily flights to Belize City… or you can fly into Cancún, which is serviced by flights from most secondary cities in the United States thanks to Southwest Airlines, and then drive down the coast to the border. Friends come and go from Belize this way all the time.
I’ll be in Belize this January for our annual Live and Invest in Belize Conference. Come see for yourself why this small country packs a powerful punch when it comes to internationalizing your life.
Editor-In-Chief, Offshore Living Letter,
Lief Simon has lived and worked on five continents and traveled to more than 60 countries. In his long career as a global property investor, Lief has also managed multimillion-dollar portfolios of rental properties, for others and for himself. He offers advice on international diversification in his twice-weekly and monthly dispatches.
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