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!