Monthly Archives: February 2012

Work Permit – Final

The title says it all – my work permit has been finalized. I have the approval letter in hand, I have the stamp in my passport and I have the official immigration form stating that I am authorized to work here in Belize for the next year. This means a few things:
1) no more going to immigration every month to have my passport stamped with a visitor’s visa stamp – savings $850 BZD ($425 USD)
2) now I can work openly without fear of reprisal from the local government
3) now I can get going on publicly setting up my real estate office
4) I am on my way to obtaining my residency permit

In all, even though I was extremely frustrated at times, the process hasn’t taken as long as I have heard that it took for others. My experience was 6 weeks. I heard of one individual today whose work permit took over 8 months to get taken care of. Another individual that I have spoken with received hers after starting the process 14 weeks ago. So, 6 weeks is good. On the downside though – it was only supposed to take 5 days. That is what I paid for-an expedited process. That is not what I got and this was a contributing factor in my frustration.

Additionally, I found it frustrating working with an individual who kept telling me that all the changes I was being told were protocol. It is obvious to me that this individual isn’t quite up to speed on what a protocol is. If this person was following protocol then I wouldn’t have been told day after day that yes my process will be done today and then receive another phone call later in the day to say that I needed to do something else. This is not a protocol – this is somebody learning as they go.

Suggestions I will make to others who are looking to obtain work permits include:
1) Stay in the same town/city/locale as your lawyer or your representative until the process is completely underway. Part of my issue is that I came to Punta Gorda after starting the process so communications were delayed by distance.
2) Make sure that your lawyer or representative knows exactly what you will be doing with your work permit. I believe there are different permits based on what work you will be doing. As well, will you be working for somebody or working for yourself? Since I will be opening a franchise I needed to have a letter indicating that my position was in good standing and I didn’t have it with me so time was spent waiting for this letter to arrive.
3) Make sure that you go over each and every detail on the requirements list. At one point I was informed I didn’t need a tuberculosis test and then further on into the process I was informed that I did. Fortunately, the lawyer and I had discussed that point specifically.

Next, I need to get a social security number. And I sure do hope the process is less frustrating and less time consuming.

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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Fresh in Belize


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Work Permit – Continued Again

So, I think it was Thursday when I made my way to the Social Security office only to be told there was no tax office in Punta Gorda. When I got out of the office I called my lawyer’s office and informed them about this. During this conversation I told her I would be going to Dangriga to obtain the letter and that I might as well head up to Belmopan myself to get my passport stamped. I requested she contact the official in Belmopan (capital city of Belize, and seat of government) to set up an appointment for me so that I could actually meet with somebody instead of just taking my chances. She informed me she would call and set up the appointment and would get back to me. I gave myself a break for the rest of Thursday from this dilemma – my brain was starting to hurt from all the things that now needed to be done every time I completed a step. It shouldn’t be this disorganized, but it is. I felt I could relax a little because I did have the permit approved letter in hand. So Friday morning, just after 8:00 a.m. I receive a call from the lawyer’s office informing me that the tax letter had been taken care of and that I didn’t need to obtain one myself. I was also informed that it was now possible for me to get my passport stamped at the immigration office here in Punta Gorda. This stamp informs officials that I have an approved work permit and means that I do not have to get my passport stamped every month at the immigration office. So the lawyer’s representative put the required fee onto the plane and sent it to me from Belize City to Punta Gorda. I am to take that cheque into the immigration office Monday morning. The paperwork is waiting on the desk of an official I went to see Friday morning and he is now just waiting for the fee.

This Should Be It!!!

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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Moving - in progress...



Work Permit – continued

I was really hoping that I would be writing this morning about successfully obtaining the tax information required. But no, bad luck or misinformation strikes again. I get to the Social Security office in the hopes of obtaining the tax letter either there or that they knew where I had to go. I was told there is no tax office in Punta Gorda and I need to go to Dangriga. Arrrgggghhhhh!!!!! can you say frustrating????
So now I need to find my way to Dangriga in the hopes of obtaining the required information there.
I will keep you posted… stay tuned!

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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Moving - in progress...


Work Permit in 5 Days? – Not!

I have been waiting for my work permit now for over a month now. This whole process has been a test of my patience, to be sure. I don’t know if it’s because the process isn’t documented or because the process gets done so few times that the people involved really aren’t aware of the process themselves. Regardless of the reason you will need to have patience when working through the bureaucratic steps to obtain your work permit.
I had my lawyer’s appointment on January 12 and I thought the process was begun that day to obtain my permit. Here I went in thinking that the lawyer would spend time with me walking me through the paperwork that was necessary to be completed. When I left the lawyer’s office it was with additional steps that had to be completed by me. I had been sent some paperwork back in Canada, but was informed that most of the steps on the list didn’t need to be done so I came to Belize with, what I thought, was everything I needed, except the police check since it had to be done here.
So, I fill in the paperwork, have more pictures taken since I need to submit them with my police check request, send them to the lawyer’s office in Belize City from Punta Gorda by Tropic Air – $6.00 BZ – $3.00 US. I informed the lawyer’s office that the paperwork is on its way. This was the 17th of January.
The paperwork was submitted to the police department and a week went by without hearing anything. The police check doesn’t go outside the Belizean borders to see if I might be a high-risk expat and never having been a resident here I thought it was a waste of time and resources, but oh well. Time goes by and I call the lawyer’s office for a status update and I am informed that they need my mother’s maiden name and place of birth. What? You have got to be kidding? Why a week had to go by before this information was requested is outside my realm of comprehension. And, what is this going to show? But okay, if this is part of the process, then I send that information off. The police check was requested by the lawyer’s office and it was completed January 26, according to the stamp on the document. I received word on the 30th of January that it was done.
I was then informed that they were waiting for additional paperwork to be completed, and that I now needed a Tuberculosis test. On January 12th I was specifically told I did not need the Tb test and that the other items on the list that were being requested also was not correct.
So, another week or so goes by and I receive word that my paperwork is still required in Belize City. I informed the individual that everything had been sent, but apparently they didn’t have them in Belize City. Off to the airport I go to track down the documents. I got the information required that indicated my paperwork had been picked up by the lawyer’s office, by whom, and exactly when. It turns out that the individual who was working with me on this project was no longer working at this office and my paperwork had been left on her desk – more than a week went by before this information was relayed to me.
Okay, so now my paperwork has been found and I am being told that my paperwork has to go to the Ministry of Labour for approval of the permit. Days go by before I hear anything but finally I receive a call informing me that the work permit has been approved. But I still don’t have it in hand.

Now is where it gets really interesting.
In order to send off the permit request the lawyer needs a letter from my employer. Since I am going to be running a franchise office I contact head office to get a letter indicating that I am an agent in good standing. And of course, an email copy of this letter isn’t good enough so the original letter needs to be sent from Canada. I can count on a few more days going by. On the 13th of February the letter is put into the mail. It must have been sent air mail because it only took 2 days to get here.
Now the original copy is in the hands of the lawyer and I am told that the letter and my application need to go to the Ministry of Labour and we should be good to go – NOT! Next I am informed that I need to send my passport to the lawyer’s office to get it stamped. A courier would pick it up at the airport, drive with it to Belmopan, the capital city, get it stamped, drive it back to the lawyer’s and have it sent back out on Tropic Air to me. This was supposed to happen today. I didn’t get it on the first flight this morning so I contacted the lawyer’s office and informed the representative of this. So we decided to put it off until tomorrow morning.
At 4:45 p.m. I get a call indicating that before everything can go to Belmopan I need to get a letter from the Taxation department indicating that I have no outstanding taxes owing. Again, you have got to be kidding? I have been in the country for just over a month, I haven’t worked and they need a statement indicating that I don’t owe taxes? Something is just out of order here. I can see this being required if I am renewing my work permit, not getting the first one.
So, if I had sent my passport to Belize City this morning it would have sat in the lawyer’s office for at least one night and maybe two (the way things have been going it would be longer), while we wait to get this additional paperwork completed. I will get the paperwork completed tomorrow and sent off by Tropic Air to Belize City on Thursday to hopefully complete the process.
At least today, almost a week late, I received a scanned copy of the approval letter and a scanned copy of my police check.
And the best of it is this – you have to be in the country while the work permit application is being processed. No getting a head start on it while still in your home country. This has been a long drawn out process, and I think it has been compounded by personnel changes, as well as a lack of documentation on the process; in my case anyway.
When I tell my story to the people I have met here, I am told that I have gotten mine quickly. Another Canadian from Brockville has come to Punta Gorda to work and she has been waiting for over 3 months for her permit.
This story isn’t done yet – the papers aren’t in my hands and I have been informed I need a social security number. That is next so stay tuned!

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Fresh in Belize


It Has Been Over a Month

Just like the title says, it has been just over a month since I have come to Belize. January 11 was our arrival date in Belize City. And a lot has happened since then.

Our first night was a stay at the Belize Best Western where our stay was of a mixed experience. The staff was really helpful rectifying a problem we had with the air conditioning but we shouldn’t have been given that room in the first place.

We went back to the car rental place 3 times because the rental vehicles each had something pretty significant wrong with them and with the distance we were driving we needed something we could depend upon for the entire round-trip journey.

We got lost looking for the lawyer’s office in Belize City. The streets all go criss-cross to each other and nobody carries street maps. When Even when we finally found the right street, we were directed the wrong way to the specific number of the building. 90 minutes late! It turns out that the “correct” name of the street is Newton Barracks Rd, but we were only given Barracks Rd as the address. So of course, my google search didn’t show the map properly. Stopping and asking – well that was not helpful. Most people did not know where this particular street was. Maybe because we were asking for Barracks Rd. and not Newton Barracks Rd.

Once we finished with the business in Belize City we started to make our way down the Hummingbird Highway towards Punta Gorda. It was a long drive, took just over 6 hours. The distances here aren’t so great, but there are a lot of speed bumps on the highway to slow traffic down. This is a country with very few stop lights and definitely none outside Belize and Belmopan Cities. So speed bumps are used on the highways at the various villages along the way to control the speed of vehicles. As well, pedestrian crossings are typically raised, similar to speed bumps. As a result, this all adds more time to the travel. And of course, we have to stop for pictures along the way. That will be for another blog – The Hummingbird Highway.

Okay, so we get here, to Punta Gorda. I learn that my apartment is more like a studio or bachelor’s apartment. Apparently my idea of fully furnished and the management’s idea of fully furnished differs. No dish soap, no tea towels, no drinking jugs, no dish cloths – nothing of what I needed to keep a kitchen clean. But okay I go get the stuff and just decided to bring it with me when I left. The view from the apartment was quite nice, generally. One way we overlooked someone else’s deck? but further out was the sea.

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And for the first three days at this “apartment” we lost hydro and water – water since it is dependent upon hydro for the pumps to work. The proprietor would tell us that it was like this in Belize but since moving out of there we have only lost hydro once and it was for about 20 minutes. In the apartment it was off for the entire afternoon.

One of the things I did while in Belize City was visit a lawyer to get my work permit in order. It was supposed to be ready in 5 days. That was on January 12. Here we are, on February 15 and I still don’t have it. Needless to say I am not pleased about this.

So far this blog entry has been about the downside of my experience here in Belize. That is not all there has been. Where I am living now, the hydro doesn’t go out on a regular basis, nor do we lose water pressure because of lack of hydro. My work permit will be processed in due time.

In the meantime, I have met some wonderful people. From Canada, from Denmark, from the United States, and of course from Belize. People here seem genuinely pleased to meet me and I have had a few people come up to me and introduce themselves to me. The amount of trust these people have is also amazing. When I decided to move out of the apartment the proprietor just assured me that we would get together to make arrangements for payment. This was at the end of my stay there so I could have just left. But I was trusted enough to make things right. My fellow Canadian walker, Dorie, needed something at a store and since it was the last item left she asked the shopkeeper to keep the item back for her and she would return with the money. Instead the shopkeeper told her to just take the item and it was even run through the cash register. We went and got the money right away but again, it was a trusting act that came first.

As well, the cell phone service here is better than back home too. I have unlimited data, and all calls as well as text messages in the country are free. No long distance charges inside the entire country of Belize. Here in Belize the Blackberry Messaging service is not included with the basic plan so with all included the cost of my phone to use here is the same as back home, but I get more for it.

Internet service here could be more affordable. I am using a 256k service which is not quite adequate for my needs. And this service costs $50 a month. Definitely below the standard at home. However, it seems that all areas are covered. If you don’t have DSL service you have stick service. So pretty much everywhere you can get cell phone coverage (which is pretty widespread) you can have internet service. It’s not always the quickest but it is available – almost everywhere.

And by far my favourite is the environment. The weather – even though it has rained almost every day since I have been here, the sea where I go to just veg, the forest, the trails. I love it here. My skin seems to have cleared up, I feel less stressed and I am actually getting up early!


Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Fresh in Belize


The “Wake” Experience

Thursday I came home from my walk with another fellow Canadian to the sounds of country and western music blaring from the speakers at a house on the street behind us. The sound coming to us is pretty much direct, as right behind the house I live in is an open lot and then across the street is the source of the sound.

They brought in dozens of chairs, built an extra comfort station, and of course, they brought in big-a** speakers, similar to what would be used at a public gathering. We, my housemates and I, weren’t sure what was going on so of course, we speculated. This week the Prime Minister is coming to town (general elections are scheduled for March 7) so it was thought that maybe this was a political rally. I was thinking, based on the type of music that we being played, that it was just a party. But it seemed odd that there would be a party of this magnitude on a Thursday night.

As the night went on, the music got louder, and definitely more varied in style. Hip hop, reggae, country (mostly old), contemporary, latin – music of all styles was played. And played loudly. Finally sometime after 2:00 a.m. the music stopped. I must have been able to fall asleep again to it because I don’t know exactly what time it was. Apparently, the party got rained out. At one point, according to one of my housemates who had a perfect view of the happenings, there were hundreds of people in the streets, visiting, socializing. And I believe it because in my room, with the door closed and facing 90 degrees away from the gathering, I could barely hear the tv program I was watching/listening to even though my computer was only about 18″ away from my face. Yet I could also still hear the din, the noise that is associated with voices of large groups. Every now and then one individual or two would get quite loud and they could be distinctly heard but generally it was just a low roar.

Friday morning when we awoke the street was littered with debris as a result of hundreds of people eating and drinking in the streets. But this was one of the first things the homeowner did – cleaned up the street. If I hadn’t experienced this first hand last night, I would never have known there was such a large gathering at that home yesterday.

Friday stayed pretty quiet. No music, very few people. However, I soon heard that more chairs were brought over which indicated more people were expected. The casket was also brought to the house this morning. Here in Punta Gorda, the people use pick up trucks to carry their dead, and they drive the person around in a procession throughout the community.

Apparently, this type of party a common occurrence with the Garifuna, a local cultural group, to have these loud functions. This merriment is the finish of, apparently, a Novena or 9 days of mourning which is accented by prayer and refection.

The merriment on the neighbour’s part made for a rough night of rest on our part and an even rougher next day, but it was easier to accept once we knew the reason behind the gaiety.

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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Fresh in Belize


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Belize Quiz

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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Polls and Quizzes

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