Belize Named One of Top Three “Ex-Pat Friendly” Countries

Belize is emerging as one of the top foreign destinations for ex-pat retirees

Article Preview By David Gobeil

After living in Belize for seven years, I’m well versed with the different programs the Belize government has in place to help woo foreign retirees to it’s shores.  Perhaps the most talked about is the Qualified Retirement Persons Program, which the government enacted about a decade ago.  As the article points out, there are some pros and cons for ex-pats to go this route.  Also, I think the government of Belize would be wise to take a closer look at what Panama currently offers foreigners, since this benefit package is one of the main reasons Panama has become one of the leading destinations for expats.

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By Kathleen Pedicord

Some countries roll out the welcome mat for foreign retirees, offering sometimes significant tax breaks, in-country discounts, and other perks once you’ve qualified for resident retiree status.

Costa Rica was the first country to make a concerted effort to attract foreign retirees with a program of special benefits. Its pensionado program was responsible for bringing tens of thousands of foreign retirees, mostly Americans, to the country in the 1980s and 1990s. While the pensionado visa is still available in Costa Rica, many of the tax breaks and other special perks it once offered have been discontinued. Costa Rica has also become more expensive, both as a place to live and as a place to own a home. For these reasons, while Costa Rica is perhaps the world’s best-known overseas retirement haven, it no longer qualifies as one of the best.

However, these three countries do work hard to attract foreign retirees with tax breaks and other incentives:

Panama. Panama has picked up where Costa Rica left off. Its pensioner program offers some of the deepest retiree discounts available anywhere. Seniors (that is women age 55 and older and men age 60 and older) get up to half off on nearly everything, including movies, motels, doctors’ visits, plane tickets, professional services, and electric bills. Furthermore, these discounts are easily realized. It’s not a big deal to have your pensionado status recognized. As one American retired to Panama with pensionado status puts it: “The only thing I haven’t been able to get a discount on so far are my gin and tonics at the bar down the street from my apartment, and I’m working on that.”

To qualify for pensionado status, you must have a regular pension (from Social Security, any government entity, the armed forces, or a private company) of at least $1,000 per month. Panama pensionado benefits, which are for life, include:

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