The Police Station and The Polyclinic: Moving Towards Belizean Citizenship
I was born in the USA – the village of Ridgewood in New Jersey to be exact. And visited Belize for the first time in August 2006. I visited again in October and then in December, I returned in January for 2 months and then moved here full time in May of 2007. To try it for a year.
It worked. I had hoped it would but you never know…would I be able to work, would I run out of money before I could, would I feel comfortable as a 33-year-old, single foreigner…
In early 2008, I got my first work permit. And then in 2010, my Permanent Residency. (You can read more about those processes in my “Expat Series”)
Here is my passport stamp. Now Permanent Residents get an ID card. I need to go to Belmopan (our capital) to get that card. Immigration reminds me of that every time I fly in/cross the border.
The next step, for those who choose to take it, is Belizean Citizenship. The requirements:
- You have been a holder of Permanent Residence for a minimum of 5 years.
- You have been resident continuously in Belize, this means that upon being granted Permanent Residency you have not resided outside Belize for periods that exceed thirty consecutive days or accumulate to a total of three months in any twelve-month period.
So, yes to the first and yes to the second. I did go to the USA for over 3 months in 2013 but since then I have been in Belize full-time.
I consider Belize my home. When people ask (and they ask it often): Do you see yourself in Belize forever? I can’t answer that. If someone asked me at 25 if I saw myself in NY forever…I wouldn’t have been able to answer that either.
Belize turns 41 this year.
I can’t imagine leaving Belize. Our home is here…my dogs…my stuff (I am a person very attached to “stuff”). I love it here (most of the time). And I really really want to vote in Belize. I don’t want to be the one complaining about that I don’t have a real say in. I could just sit back and be a Perm. Resident. Forever. But it’s time to apply for Belizean citizenship. Actually…it’s been time for a while…this time I’m actually moving forward.
Our last election day in San Pedro – so colorful!
If you are curious, check out the USA’s N-400 Form – the form completed to apply for US citizenship. LOTS of it is ideology and…let’s call it previous employment history. Have you been part of a terrorist organization…the Community Party…worked for the Nazis…in a prison camp. Been involved in torture…genocide? It’s quite interesting. Have you ever been a “habitual drunkard” or a prostitute?
Belize’s form requirements are different. But require quite a few steps. Here is the check list required.
To crudely boil the process down, it is a bunch of photocopies – of passports, IDs, of my birth certificate – a recommendation of 2 Belizean citizens that I have known for at least 5 years (they must be available for interviews as well) – my police record (or proof of my lack of police record) and a Medical Evaluation.
Some quick advice: Don’t try to take shortcuts on this stuff. I’ve heard all the stories about expeditors and money slipped to this guy or that guy…and how it often comes back to bite you in the butt and leaves you beholden to some sketchy dude or seen as a person giving money. (And…just an aside…but isn’t it funny how these people are often the same ones who will complain about illegal aliens in the US?)
Just do it the right way – it’s not that hard.
Read: How to Be A Good Expat – I think it’s suggestion #1
It’s nice to have so much information and the forms available on the Belize Immigration website. When I first started visiting the Immigration office in 2007, there was no website – and you had to go buy copies of all forms at a different location (I think it was Sea Turtle Shop back then)
Make an error on the form – go back into town, buy a new one, return to immigration and get back in line.
Getting My Police Record for Belizean Citizenship
This is pretty easy. It also expires after 6 months, so once you get the results – the “all-clear” – you want to get moving.
The San Pedro Police Department has a small window on the south side of the building specifically designated for paperwork.
You can find the form on this page – and the requirements for submission. You will need 3 passport size photos (buy more than 3 when you get these taken…you will need a bunch during this entire application process) – copies from your passport (I need the residency page and my biometrics page) and a completed form. It costs $12bzd and takes 2-3 weeks right now.
Make sure to keep your receipt (for everything during this process!) – this is what you will use to pick up your report.
The final result. I blurred the Passport # because I always get lots of emails from you guys about ID thieves.
The date: May 30th. I have 6 months…let’s get MOVING.
The Polyclinic and the Medical Exam for Citizenship
There is a medical form that requires a physical, blood testing for HIV and syphilis, a urine test (I’m not sure what exactly this is for), and a TB test.
You can find the full forms (and all info) here.
The basics – height, weight, blood pressure, vision…and then all of the testing. The San Pedro polyclinic does this all for free. The blood testing, the physical, all of it. And everyone there is really lovely. BUT…it will take many trips to the polyclinic (located just south of town by the Tropic Air cargo office)
I went to the San Pedro Polyclinic on Thursday to meet with the nurse practitioner. (Masking is required) I waited with about 10 other people in the comfortable seating area…and went in when it was my turn. She explained to me that the first step would be blood and urine. Then sent me to the doctor who filled out a form and gave me a prescription so I could return the next day, Friday for the TB test.
So Thursday, they took my blood and urine. Time at Polyclinic: About 1 1/4 hours.
Friday I returned after lunch and joined a group of kids and parents at the MHC area of the polyclinic. Many of them were getting their second Pfizer jab. I was called in first for the TB test. A small amount of liquid was inserted under my skin and circled with a pen. I will return Monday morning to see my TB reaction. Total time: about 40 minutes
Monday I will return. And then Wednesday afternoon is the physical, the results from the blood tests, and officially filling out the official Medication Form for my citizenship application.
Wednesday Afternoon is the day for all Government Forms
Four trips. But free! The polyclinic has been very impressive so far.
Can you get this done with a private doctor? Sure you can. It will cost some money – around $300-400bzd is what I hear – and can probably be done in 2 trips. It is up to you.
Next week, I will have the “hard” work done. I’ll need to recruit some sponsors and make sure I have all my photocopies, 4 more photos to present with my application and then…I will approach the Immigration office.
How long will it take once it is accepted in San Pedro? I’ve heard 6-8 months from recent applicants but there is no real rush. I have waited this long so far….
If you have been through this process and have any recommendations or if you have any questions let me know – let me answer three quickies right now.
- I asked about the HIV test, TB test – if you are positive, does that mean you are not eligible? No, not necessarily. These #s are used for data and statistics.
- Does this mean you are going to give up your US citizenship? No, I will be a dual citizen.
- Do you know all of the words to the Belizean National Anthem? I…no. Not yet. But to be honest…even though I’ve heard the American National Anthem at many sporting events, I’m not sure i could sing it all the way through without an accompanying singer.
Fingers crossed – the next time we talk about this, I will be heading to my swearing-in ceremony!