Opening a business in Belize isn’t difficult, but it does have its share of legal and bureaucratic hurdles, just like in the U.S. Depending on the type of business and its organizational structure, getting started takes anywhere from 30 to 44 days. Even though opening a sole proprietor or partnership is a relatively straightforward process, it’s still a good idea to consult or work with an attorney.
Open an account with an International Bank. This allows you to maintain funds in U.S. dollars and eliminates the need to either get special permission from the Central Bank of Belize or meet the six-month to one-year residency requirement to open an account with a local bank.
Choose and register your business’s name with the Belize Companies Registry. The Business Names Act, Chapter 247 of the Laws of Belize, requires that you either be a permanent resident or apply with a Belizean partner. You’ll need an identification card, the appropriate form -- Form 1 for a sole proprietor or Form 2 for a partnership -- and pay the current fee.
Find a business location to purchase or lease. This is a necessary step, because fee calculations for certain licenses depend on the purchase amount or annual lease payment.
Apply for a trade license at the local City Council office. You’ll need your business name registration and the trade license application form. The cost -- and annual renewal fee -- is 25 percent of your annual lease payment. Although the Trade Licensing Board normally meets quarterly, you can speed up the process by requesting a special meeting for an additional fee.
Register your business with income and general sales tax authorities. Submit Form TR121A to the Income Tax Department to get a Tax Identification number. Submit a general sales tax application to the Department of General Sales Tax to get a sales tax certificate, which you must display in a public location. Although it can take up to 21 days to get both certificates, you can open for business without them.
Register as an employer with the BelizeSocial Security Board within seven days of hiring any employees. Submit the application form along with your Business Name Certificate to an office of the Social Security Board.
Contact the Belize Small Business Development Center for assistance with any of these steps. The SBDC Belize supports small business start-ups with free services ranging from business plan development to loan application assistance. The SBDC also offers a variety of free and low-cost workshops.
Check exchange rates, which update quarterly, before leaving for Belize.
If you decide to incorporate, either now or later, it will take about two days to get a Certificate of Incorporation, which involves registering company statutes and memorandum, and articles of association at the Companies’ Registry.