It’s Sharon’s Soapbox time!! Last week I had someone who just moved to the country message me because her Belizean “Fast Track Passport” had been delayed due to events elsewhere in the world, which was causing Belize Immigration to really crack down on these things. Instead of just getting a Belizean passport like she was supposed to, they gave her a Permanent Residency stamp in the back of her U.S. passport. She wanted to know if this would be a problem for the Fast Track program.
Now, folks, I have to tell you, I was a bit confused by what she was asking me. First of all, I don’t know of any official “Fast Track” program sanctioned by the Belize government where expats can come over here and by pass all of the residency laws and go straight to getting their Belize passport.
As a review, the way it normally works (if you’re not in the QRP) is you come live in Belize for one year on a tourist visa, during which time you are paying a monthly fee to stay in the country (anywhere from $50 bze to $100 bze depending on your length of stay). After one full year of living here and not leaving the country for more than 14 days, you can apply for Permanent Residency, and approval times vary, but normally within six months to a year you will have PR.
After living in here for five years as a PR, you can apply for your Belize citizenship. And only after you pass the tests, complete all the paperwork, pay the fees, and go through another waiting period, will you officially be a Belizean and given a passport. As you can see, this process can take anywhere from seven to eight years, start to finish.
The expat who messaged me told me what she was doing wasn’t illegal, but I told her I don’t see how it couldn’t be. And I told her that I don’t advocate side-stepping the processes in Belize. Every time an expat comes over here and pays someone a bribe or a fee to “expedite” things, they are now becoming part of the problem and not the solution, and it just burns me up.
For those of us who have done everything legally; who have patiently waited and “done our time;” who have done things by the book, to see others coming here and throwing their money around to get things done faster is really frustrating.
Is it any wonder why Belize has a reputation of being corrupt? How can you expect the government workers, who basically make peanuts for a salary, to turn down a bribe and not look the other way? The only way to put a stop to this type of thing is to stop paying bribes and follow the rules. When we as expats don’t do that, we are now just as much to blame as the corrupt officials.
So if anyone here in Belize offers “for a fee” to speed up your work permit, or help you cheat on a boat captain license test, or get your PR and/or citizenship faster (all things I’ve either seen or heard of being done since moving here), rise above the offer and follow the rules, because for every one of you that don’t, you are making it harder on those of us who do.
Do you think bribing officials is acceptable in a foreign country?