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Finding Employment

Belize - Finding Employment

Belize is a English speaking tax haven which actively encourages expats to retire there. However, if you want to work in this beautiful country, you will have to overcome a number of barriers.

Belize typically has high unemployment rates. In April 2016, the country seemed to be benefitting from higher exports which reduced the unemployment rate to 8 percent. By September of the same year however, the national unemployment rate had sharply escalated to over 11 percent; in the Stann Creek district, which is reliant on aquaculture and agriculture, it reached 17.7 percent. The majority of unemployed individuals have been without work for more than six months but less than 12 months. Young adults and women are more likely to be unemployed, especially those living in urban areas.

Even adults who are employed in skilled or highly-qualified jobs do not earn high rates of pay. If you are an expat employing the services of an electrician or kitchen fitter, you will be pleased that the labor costs are so much lower than in the US or UK. However, if you are trained in those trades yourself, the going rates in Belize may make you think twice about seeking work there.

These labor conditions impact Belize’s ability to support itself and maintain public order. The government therefore actively discourages the employment of expats for work which could be done by local citizens. All expats must obtain a work permit or self-employed work permit before they can legally earn an income in the country. The regulations are strict.

Work Permits

If you have a good business idea, you may find it easier to obtain a self-employment work permit. You can show that you are not taking up a position which could be filled by a local citizen, and more importantly you could become an employer and offer new jobs to local workers. You will need to complete an application form and take it to the immigration office. Bring along all your original identity documentation, three passport photos and your bank statements. You may be asked to bring in further documents or answer additional questions, which can slow the process down.

If you have been offered a job, the employer will complete the work permit application form and submit it with the fee payment. You must supply three passport photos, identity documentation and proof of your qualifications. The employer must also send in evidence that they advertised the job in Belize for a minimum of three weeks. All applications must be presented to the area’s labor officers so that they can check whether any local candidates would have been suitable for the position.

There are a number of occupations for which work permits will not be offered to migrants at all. Positions for waiters, domestic workers, retailers and agricultural laborers must all be filled by local citizens. This restriction also applies to tour guides who work in fishing, snorkeling or diving pursuits.

Some people arrive in Belize and start employment without a work permit. This is illegal, and the fines imposed on the individual are substantial. Regardless of your personal views on this or any other matter, the laws of your new home should be obeyed and local cultures respected.

Career Options

Medicine is an area in which well-qualified and experienced doctors, nurses and other specialized professionals may obtain a work permit more easily. Opportunities for teaching positions are better than for other areas, as the government strives to place only fully qualified teachers in all classrooms throughout the country. A number of non-profit NGOs operate in Belize. They sometimes require specialist skills, experience and qualifications at a high level.

That said, the wages on offer in all these valued professions will be well below that expected by those coming from wealthy western countries. You should see the employment as a way to support yourself in the country, to develop your skills and to benefit the community you will be serving. You will not be generating a savings pot to take back to your native home.

It is possible to find work in the busy Belize tourist industry, especially if you have previous work experience which shows that you can manage and coordinate teams of staff, that you use resources efficiently, and that you are able to promote customer satisfaction. However, be aware that the hours are usually long and tourists have very high expectations, which means the work can be very demanding.

A number of websites list current vacancies in Belize. Remember that some of the listed jobs will be for restricted occupations, and for the others you will only be granted a work permit if a suitable local candidate is not found. Some of the websites include:
My Belize
Belmopan Online

Belize's Culture

It is important to be polite and friendly to everyone when you are living in Belize. People often prefer to employ someone they know, and Belize is no exception. If you are a poor manager, or are rude to locals, the news will travel quickly in small communities and between friendship groups. Actively networking with people who are involved with your industry may lead to interesting employment or business opportunities. If you plan to find work in Belize now or in the future, you need to build a reputation as friendly and pleasant, reliable and hard-working.

Business Organizations

The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (the BCCI) has almost three hundred members from across a wide range of business sectors. It has been operating since 1920 and its mandate is enshrined under the Belize chamber of commerce and industry act. It is a non-profit and non-political organization, although it also manages a number of profit making subsidiary units.

The BCCI can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 291
4792 Coney Drive
First Floor, Withfield Tower
Belize City, Belize
Central America
Tel: +501-223-5330
Fax: +501-223-5333
Email: bcci@belize.org

Another organization which promotes business in this country is the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service, known as BELTRAIDE. A national economic development agency and statutory body of the government of Belize, its mission is to enhance Belize’s prosperity by fostering investor confidence, entrepreneurship, business growth and innovation. More than four thousand people follow BELTRAIDE on Facebook.

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.