I TOTALLY understand. Totally. You visit Belize – the cayes or the mainland – and you love it. Your first thought…I’d like to come back. A few days later, after having some drinks with a few Americans or Canadians or Brits living here full-time, you think…I would love to do that. Everyone speaks English…it’s beautiful and friendly and not that far from home.
I could run a beach bar or be a bartender…perhaps be a snorkel guide? Open a small gift shop…I mean…I’ve always been pretty artsy.
I don’t want to be a dream crusher but here is the truth: GETTING EMPLOYMENT IN BELIZE IS NOT EASY. And especially employment that is going to pay all of your bills.
There are many reasons it’s going to be tough:
- Local unemployment is about 30%…the current rate in the US is 5.1% with cities that are considered struggling (like Detroit) at 6.1%
- Belizean jobs are for Belizeans and Belizean residents first and foremost. That makes total sense. Businesses, technically, must prove that they have tried to employ a Belizean and there was no one qualified. Only then can you be hired.
- Tour guides (fishing, snorkeling, diving, etc) must be Belize citizens.
- Wages are low. Minimum wage is $3.30bzd ($1.65US) for manual workers and averages about $5 to 10bzd in more touristy areas. (You can look at my cost of living to know that things might be very different for you at those levels. And please remember you always support the Scoop 🙂 )
I don’t want to totally demoralize you. Obviously some people have done it, are doing it. First let me start with a brief recap of how I got employment in 2007 (the entire story is in this earlier blog)
Single, 32, with no kids, I put everything in storage, sold my car and moved to San Pedro, Belize in early 2007. I was ready to take a year off and enjoy my new country. I had met lots of Brits, Canadians and Americans who had moved here. So what if I was one of the youngest ones or one of the only single ones? So what if lots of them seemed a little bit wacky and a bit full of shit?
All I wanted to do for one full year was relax and have fun. Get acclimated to the island. I had some money saved.
I was young and carefree.
But then my former employer, Lehman Brothers, who had partially paid me in stock, went bankrupt.
And it was time to get a job. One of the oldest and more popular bars in town, The Tacklebox, has had many owners since it opened in the late 1970s. In the summer of 2007, the previous American owners (who had done some pretty big renovations) closed the doors and put the place up for sale. It was purchased at the end of December, someone I had met a few times recommended me to the new owner, I met him and had a 4 minute interview and we hired one bartender and opened the bar two days later.
Luck? Yes…certainly that. I had never managed a bar before but from this…and from observations over the last 9 years, here are some tips that I would give anyone looking to move down to Belize THAT MUST WORK. And to work and be paid in Belize, in ANY capacity, as an immigrant you MUST have a work permit.
- Open or buy a business. (You can check this site for an idea of what’s out there.) It is much MUCH easier to get a work permit if you are going to invest in Belize and hire employees from Belize. But because you love Belize and had an amazing time, don’t be tricked into thinking making money is EASY here. (For more on that, you can read my 15 Things No One Told You About Living in Belize.) Summary: DUE DILIGENCE.
- Best answer: Figure it out before you leave. See if you can work remotely with your current employer, or look at the many on-line employment agencies for work. Though I have never sought employment this way, there are a shocking amount of listings out there. This will avoid the issue of a Belize work permit (which costs $2000bzd a year and can take months or longer to process) and make your life SO much easier)
- Sleep around. (I’m just kidding and here’s why aside from the obvious reasons)
- If you are set on moving to Belize to figure it out, I totally understand…that’s what I did. I suggest networking. Stick with the winners – those who are doing things you would like to do. Try volunteering. You can have fun…for sure. But try not to be out all night every night, the last at each and every karaoke microphone.
Jobs do come up. Not often.
They are usually passed along by business owners talking to friends. And why not get your name in the mix for a reliable, ready to work, FLEXIBLE go-getter. It is great that you were a qualified vet technician or a human resources compensation expert…it’s time to be flexible.
Opportunities that may come up: Bar or restaurant manager, hotel manager, property management, real estate (though remember that it often is commission based)…
I know the idea of moving to Belize is compelling…I’ve felt the pull. But it is extremely hard to get any job…especially well paying job in Belize if you are an immigrant.
All you need to do is try picturing someone from another country coming to the US to find a similar job to picture just how hard.
PLEASE let me know if you have any questions or if you had a different experience. Obviously, as with most of this blog, these are my opinions. Mine all mine 🙂