Belize was once known to be a real banking haven, a place where banking secrecy was guaranteed. The situation changed somewhat with new banking regulations coming out of the United States in an attempt to curb US tax evasion. Many Belize banking institutions are none too happy about the host of paperwork and reporting now required of them, so the Central Bank has been more hesitant to approve accounts locally, and several of the international banks have left altogether.
It has been reported that the banking process may be more difficult for US expats than for expats from other countries. Using an international bank with a local arm may be the best route for a non-permanent resident expat from the US.
Still there are several national and international banks where you can open an account. Procedures differ a good bit from those in other countries, and the process can be very, very slow. Like many things in Belize, it’s best to be patient and polite. Requirements also vary from institution to institution. When in doubt, call and ask.
How to open an account in Belize
To open a bank account in Belize, you need 2 references, that is recommendation letters from two banks in your home country. If you don’t have two banks, often a letter of reference from a Belizean with an account at that bank (the more prominent and respected, the better) will do. Commercial banks may ask you reasons why you wish to open a bank account in Belize, like buying property or building a house, for instance. Documents to be produced are two forms of identification and proof of residence, such as a utility bill.
Expatriates participating in the QRP program in Belize must deposit at least US USD24,000 per year in a bank account in Belize.
Good to know:
Renters almost never have utilities in their name in Belize, so if you are renting, a letter from your landlord may work. Then again it may not. Always ask ahead of time.
There is no deposit insurance in local banks. This is one of the reasons most expats keep the majority of their money in an international bank in US dollars or in a bank in their country of origin.
Once you have a bank account, you can request loans. Unless you are a long term resident, they are rarely approved. Moreover, interest rates are very high.
On opening a bank account in a local or international bank, you will receive a debit and a credit card, as well as a check book. You can also access your home bank account through international banks ATMs. In fact many expats just use their ATM card and never open a Belize bank account.
Good to know:
Belizean banks are only open up to 2 pm on weekdays and closed at lunch time.
Belize offshore banks serve numerous international clients. These banks are regulated by the Central Bank of Belize and offer services such as savings accounts and current accounts in foreign currencies. Furthermore, bank accounts and foreign currency transfers are not subject to local taxes or other controls. The minimum deposit required to open an offshore bank account ranges between USD1,000 and 5,000 depending on the type of account.