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What you should know about Belize banking?
Popular types of banking institutions in Belize
Typically, there are three main types of banking institutions in Belize:
- domestic commercial banks;
- offshore banks; and
- credit unions
Each type of institution has its own unique features and benefits that it can offer customers.
Domestic commercial banks are the most common type of financial institution in Belize, providing a range of services to both individuals and businesses such as loan products for consumers and companies, foreign currency exchange, credit cards, savings accounts, checking accounts, and term deposits. These services help you manage your business finances and make investments for the future.
A Credit Union is a not-for-profit cooperative that provides its members with access to financial services like savings accounts, consumer loans, educational loans, and residential loans at lower costs than banks. Interest rates on savings accounts are typically higher than those offered by banks, while interest rates on loans are usually lower. Credit Unions also tend to have fewer fees and services associated with them when compared to traditional banking institutions.
Offshore banks are financial institutions located outside the jurisdiction of a depositor’s home country, offering financial services to non-residents. Offshore banks can be categorized into different classes, including Class A and Class B. We will provide further clarification of these two categories in the following section.
Differences between Class A and Class B offshore banks
Below are the key highlights you should know:
Regulations and licensing
Class A offshore banks are typically located in countries with well-established financial regulatory systems, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. These banks are subject to stringent regulatory requirements and are licensed by well-respected regulatory bodies.
Class B offshore banks are located in countries with less stringent financial regulatory systems and may be licensed by less reputable regulatory bodies.
Account holders of a Class A bank are free to conduct global transactions, wire transfers, currency exchange, and investments through the bank’s business office in Belize.
A Class B bank account holder, on the other hand, is restricted to certain transactions, investments, and financial services and may have a lower transaction volume.
The minimum capital requirement for each category is as follows:
Class A local bank: US$3 million
Class A foreign bank: US$25 million
Class B local bank: US$1 million
Class B foreign bank: US$15 million
Business office requirement
Both classes require account holders to establish, maintain and operate a physical presence in Belize.
There are only three Class A offshore banks in Belize, including
- Belize Bank International;
- Caye International Bank; and
- Heritage International Bank.
Among these, Belize Bank is the largest one but Caye International Bank is the most popular for foreigners, thanks to its leveraged services and relaxed regulatory compliance.
Benefits of banking in Belize
Offshore banking is highly coveted among international investors because of how secure and easy it is to manage their finance remotely. Belize is a good option for those looking for a more accessible banking option to diversify their funding or save up some money for retirement. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you should choose Belize for offshore banking.
Liquidity simply refers to a bank’s ability to provide immediate cash or other equivalent assets to handle certain financial obligations or short-term business goals. The higher the number, the more reputable and stable the bank appears in the eyes of investors and the less likely the bank is going to fail.
In Belize, all banks have the same liquidity rate of at least 24% which is significantly higher than what you’ll find in typical American banks. And since the majority of banks in Belize are statutorily required to adopt the same liquidity rate, the odds of one bank’s failure dragging down the rest is extremely low.
This means that there won’t be a massive hysteria where depositors would withdraw their funding in fear of a bank being insolvent leading to a chain reaction. This gives investors peace of mind in knowing that their funding is highly secured and safeguarded from insolvency.
The Belize dollar is pegged at a ratio of 2:1 to the US dollar which serves as a deterrent against unexpected fluctuations. This introduces more flexibility in terms of asset holding as it’s possible to open a bank account in Belize if you want to hedge against inflation. Although volatility will always exist in the market, it’s good to know that you can always count on a stable currency like the Belizean dollar.
Enhanced privacy and asset protection
For the longest time ever, offshore banking was widely stigmatized and considered a vehicle for illicit financial activities. However, times have changed and now there are more international regulations in place to make sure every transaction is done in the most transparent way possible.
The International Financial Services Commission (IFSC) is the current governing body in Belize that is actively regulating and supervising the international financial services sector. One of the more prominent legislative reforms Belize has made throughout the years is the signing of the Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA).
In short, it is a bilateral agreement between the US and more than 100 other countries to freely disclose financial tax information with each other which effectively puts an end to the world of shadow banking and propagate complete transparency within the international financial sector.
Opening a corporate bank account under a Belize LLC can further protect your assets from potential litigations and government seizures. Another good route to go would be setting up a Belize trust that owns the LLC, and the result is an ironclad asset protection structure.
Potential challenges and risks when opening a bank account in Belize
It is a matter of concern that people tend to feel uncertain about a choice that they do not get familiar with. And the same case goes for deciding whether they should start as Belize offshore companies and go banking in Belize.
De-risking is one of the common challenges when it comes to Belize offshore banking. De-risking refers to the situation that global financial institutions carry out implementations to control and restrict possible risks incurred from many illegal activities in their banking systems.
De-risking has recently become a trend in offshore banks (Belize is not excluded) are often supposed to be “ideal” places for such risks. While the de-risking trend may contribute to enhancing transparency and eliminating tax evasion or money laundering, the fact that the US has tighter oversight on such problems has put great pressure on the renewal of correspondent banking relationships.
In particular, de-risking practices by the US often send Belize offshore accounts into freeze, which leads to limited access to other banking services like international money transfers. In addition, this trend also affects Belize offshore banks, causing higher due diligence. The risk is even pushed higher as to the heavy reliance of Belize banks on very few correspondent banks and the proximity of Belize to the US.
What may be the consequences? It is quite apparent that most depositors and bank account holders raise their concerns about the implementation of money transfer and withdrawal as well as the quality of other banking services, or even worse, the possibility of abrupt business disruption and the ability to recoup their money.
Regarding how the US’s de-risking practices can affect Belize offshore banks, you can take a look at the case study of the US Federal Trade Commission which sued Belize’s Atlantic International Bank Limited for real estate fraud.
Another challenge worth mentioning is the absence of high-end services to high-net-worth individuals by Belize banks. However, if you do not intend to place a lot of money in your offshore bank account, then you are good to go.
Procedure to open a bank account in Belize online
The possibility of challenges is unavoidable in any offshore banking jurisdiction, and Belize will also not lie beyond this fact. That said, opening offshore bank accounts remotely and a set of other privileges has attracted a large number of businessmen and investors flocking to Belize for offshore banking.
Should it be the case that Belize is your best-suited destination to go after long-listed considerations, then you should start to learn what should be done to register your account with the chosen Belizean bank.
Step 1: Choose your bank
Apart from the top 4 best banks in Belize, there are several types of banks for investors to choose from, namely local banks, credit unions, Offshore Class A banks, and Offshore Class B banks.
If you’re a non-resident, then it’s probably best to go with an Offshore class-A bank since they typically deal with offshore banking cases. Those who wish to redomicile to Belize might have more use from a local bank instead.
Caye bank is best for those looking for a robust investment account. They offer a zero-tax rate on deposits on many personal and corporate accounts. However, their online wire transfer system is still a bit outdated, making daily transactions highly unviable.
For those looking for a more premium option, the Atlantic international bank is by far the most high-quality banking institution in Belize. And with such a reputation comes stringent compliance procedures. You have to submit a reference letter from another bank you’ve been with for at least 2 years to open an account at their bank.
Are you looking for a great banking experience in Belize? BBCIncorp has put together a list of the offering low deposits, diverse currency options, privacy & asset protection, and much more. Learn more about each bank and find the perfect one to suit your financial needs!
Step 2: Check the minimum requirements
Once you have determined an appropriate bank and type of offshore account in Belize, you will need to fulfill the minimum requirements for registering your account. Please note that each financial institution may be varied in its requirements for opening a bank account for non-resident clients. In most cases, however, the following documents are needed to take into account:
- Bank account application forms
- Bank statement
- Bank reference letter
- Certified copies of passports, address proofs of all directors/ shareholders
- Business plan
- Business trading proofs (sales/ purchase orders, invoice…)
- Certified copies of Belize company incorporation documents
- Government certification of company good standing status
- Other additional documents may be required by the bank
Step 3: Submit your application
The next step is to proceed to open a Belize bank account. Unlike many other jurisdictions where depositors must show their presence and sit down with the banker to get an account registered, most Belizean banks relieve your burden with remote registration. Everything can be done via email.
You just need to fill out an online application form and then go through a couple of back-and-forth emails for submitting the required documents. After waiting for the bank to process your documents and grant approval, the final result will be sent to your email.
Alternatively, you can opt for our Belize bank account opening service which includes initial consultation on what type of bank account suits your business needs as well as actual documentation filing.
Should you choose Belize for offshore banking?
We hope you find out useful details concerning offshore banking in Belize and get the answer to whether Belize is the best choice for you. Though going offshore banking in Belize can offer a range of benefits, there are still certain challenges that may require good preparation from account holders.
Our advice is that if you plan to put just a few thousand into your offshore bank account for the transaction, a Belize bank account is worth consideration as the process is simple, can be done online and there is no exchange control. But, if you are looking for an ideal place to harbor your hard-earned assets, then opening an offshore bank account in some financial hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong will be a much brighter choice.
Feel free to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org if you are still uncertain about your decision on Belize offshore bank accounts!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the required documents to open a Belize bank account?
Depending on the size and industry of your business, you may need to have certain documents in order to open a bank account in Belize.
Typically, you will need the following documents:
- proof of identity(e.g., your passport, birth certificate, or driver’s license);
- proof of residence (e.g., a utility bill or rental agreement); and
- bank reference – this is optional, but getting a reference letter from a Belizean who has an account with your chosen bank may increase your chance to set up a bank account there.
Make sure you check with the specific bank for any additional requirements they may have.
Can a foreigner open a Belize bank account?
Yes, foreigners are not restricted from opening a bank account in Belize, including offshore bank accounts. You typically need to provide a range of documentation, which may vary depending on the bank and the type of account being opened.
It’s important to note that while opening a bank account in Belize as a foreigner is generally straightforward, the country has very strict banking regulations that are designed to prevent financial crimes and protect the integrity of the financial system. You should be prepared to comply with these laws and regulations and may be subject to additional scrutiny or report requirements.
Disclaimer: While BBCIncorp strives to make the information on this website as timely and accurate as possible, the information itself is for reference purposes only. You should not substitute the information provided in this article for competent legal advice. Feel free to contact BBCIncorp’s customer services for advice on your specific cases.
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