Starting a Business in Belize
With so many opportunities to get in on the ground floor of this developing market, starting a business in Belize is a great idea. If you’re considering offering products and services targeted to the local market, it’s important to be aware that the country has a small population of about 360,000 people. However, many businesses in Belize target the huge tourism market, as the country is increasingly becoming a popular vacation destination.
Geographically, Belize is close to the United States, and the country benefits from many low-cost direct flights with connections to Texas, Florida, Georgia, New York, and California. Belize is unique in Central America because the official language is English, and many locals also speak Spanish, making this a unique market that serves two of the most commonly-spoken languages in the world. Belize also has strong connections to the rest of Central America, as well as neighboring Caribbean nations, which opens up unique opportunities thanks to trading agreements in place in the region.
As a developing nation, Belize is ripe for new opportunities and industries. Furthermore, commercial properties are still relatively inexpensive to either rent or buy. The local labor force has one of the highest minimum wages, but these are still far below rates in more developed countries.
As an additional incentive, the government of Belize provides many benefits to businesses that can demonstrate a positive contribution to the local economy and the creation of jobs for Belizean citizens, including exemptions to import and export duties and special tax holidays.
Currently, Belize has a lot of prime acreage that is still undeveloped, making it a prime candidate for new ventures in manufacturing or agricultural development. While this undeveloped land is located outside metropolitan areas, the price per acre is very affordable.
To open a business in Belize, you must first receive a work permit from the government. The costs associated with this vary, so it is recommended that you consult with a local lawyer to obtain the right work permit to suit your individual needs. According to the BELTRAIDE association, it is prohibited for foreigners to own or operate a business unless it is first registered under the Business Name Act and/or the Companies Act.
To begin operating a business in Belize, it currently takes approximately 45 days to receive the necessary permits. During this time, it is recommended that you conduct market research, develop local contacts, and explore the country.
To start a business in Belize, you should:
- Find a physical location to base your business
- Register either as a local company, or as a branch of an existing overseas firm
- Complete the necessary paperwork to obtain a trade license
- Apply for a work permit
- Register with the corresponding Social Security office
- File paperwork to register with General Sales Tax
- Obtain a Taxi Identification Number by registering with the Business Tax office
Depending on what type of business you wish to conduct in Belize, you may also be required to obtain additional permits and licenses, so be sure to explore all of your options and obligations with your lawyer.
Business Culture and Workforce
Typical of the region, Belize has a very laidback culture where punctuality and expediency are rarely at a premium. Because Belize have a casual approach to business, it’s important to allow for extra time for things to get done.
The current labor force in Belize measures about 100,000 people, and skilled jobs are hard to find as many citizens have moved overseas to find work. The minimum wage ranges from between $3-3.5 dollars an hour, and a university graduate can expect a salary ranging from between $4.40 and $6.25 an hour.