Dual Citizenship in Belize

Dual Citizenship in Belize

Belize, a small country in Central America with a population of approximately 400,000 people, achieved its independence from the UK just 42 years ago. While it may not yet possess a developed economy or a high standard of living, the allure of living in close proximity to nature, within a tropical paradise framed by the warm Caribbean Sea, may captivate certain individuals.

Virtually anyone can relocate to Belize. The process of obtaining local residency or citizenship is relatively straightforward, and in many instances, you can retain your existing citizenship.

Citizenship by Descent

Citizenship matters in Belize are governed by the country's Constitution, which was adopted in 1981 following independence, as well as subsequent amendments, and the Belizean Nationality Act. As of September 21, 1981, the day of independence, Belizean citizenship was granted:

  • to the citizens of the UK and its colonies if they were born in Belize;
  • to the citizens of the Commonwealth States who were naturalised in Belize as British citizens before 21 September 1981;
  • to the Commonwealth citizens born abroad if their parents or grandparents gained Belizean citizenship;
  • to the wives of the Commonwealth citizens who became Belizean nationals.

Today, one can acquire Belizean citizenship either by descent or through registration. In the former case, citizenship can be obtained either by jus soli or jus sanguinis. Individuals falling into the categories listed below automatically become Belizean citizens.

  • Children born in Belize, regardless of their parents' citizenship, unless their parents are diplomats.
  • Children born to Belizean nationals. In this case, the place of birth does not matter. The key thing is to have at least one Belizean parent.

Photo: Meritt Thomas (Unsplash)

Citizenship by Registration

Foreign nationals can obtain citizenship of Belize in two cases:

  • By marrying a Belizean citizen. You are eligible for citizenship after having lived in Belize for 12 months with your spouse. Interestingly, a person married to a Belizean citizen automatically becomes a resident after the official ceremony.
  • By naturalisation. Any foreigner who has legally lived in Belize for five years before applying for citizenship is eligible for naturalisation.

You may legally stay in Belize on various grounds:

  • A multiple-time extendable tourist visa for 30 days;
  • A work permit;
  • A Qualified Retirement Programme (though it does not count toward the five-year residency when applying for citizenship);
  • A permanent residence permit.

To meet the criteria, applicants must demonstrate their financial stability and law-abiding conduct, undergo a medical examination, and furnish two reference letters from Belizean citizens.

Additionally, in the five years leading up to the application, you must not spend more than 30 consecutive days abroad or reside outside the country for more than a cumulative total of three months per year. Upon acquiring citizenship, none of these restrictions will apply, granting you the freedom to travel whenever you desire.

El Caracol. Photo: Robin Canfield (Unsplash)

Dual Citizenship

Initially, Belizean citizenship laws stipulated that Belizean nationals who acquired citizenship by descent would lose it if they obtained citizenship in another country. However, this provision has since been revised.

According to Article 27 of the current Constitution of Belize, "a citizen of Belize by birth or descent who acquires the citizenship of any other country may, if the laws of the other country so permit and at his option, retain his citizenship of Belize."

However, there is an exception that applies to Belizean citizens who voluntarily renounced their nationality. If they seek to reapply for Belizean citizenship, their application will be considered, but only on the condition that they relinquish their current citizenship and demonstrate a genuine intention to become ordinary citizens of Belize.

Likewise, the regulations regarding dual citizenship have been streamlined for individuals who acquired citizenship through registration, marriage, or naturalisation. In the past, these applicants were required to renounce their other citizenship, but today, they have the option to retain dual citizenship.

However, this rule is not without exceptions. Indian nationals seeking Belizean citizenship are required to renounce their current citizenship. They must complete a form expressing their intent to relinquish their Indian citizenship from the moment they become Belizean citizens.

Photo: Meritt Thomas (Unsplash)

In a Nutshell

There are two pathways to obtaining Belizean citizenship: by descent or through registration. The latter route allows you to become a Belizean citizen by marrying a Belizean citizen or through naturalisation after five years of residency in Belize.

Recently, Belizean authorities have eased the regulations surrounding dual citizenship. Now, you are not required to renounce your other citizenship upon obtaining a Belizean passport. The sole exception applies to Indian citizens, who are ineligible for dual citizenship in Belize.

Cover photo:  Meritt Thomas (Unsplash)

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