Belize has been operating an offshore financial centre since the 90s with the enactment of the Offshore Banking Act, 1996.
The aforementioned Act provided the legal base for the establishment of offshore banks in Belize, which provide services mostly to nonresident individuals, companies and other legal entities and arrangements in foreign currency.
The Act was amended back in 2002 through the Offshore Banking (Amendments) Act 2002, changing the name of the Offshore Banking Act to International Banking Act, and replacing the term “offshore bank” to “international bank”.
In Belize, the domestic banking sector is segregated from the international banking sector - the establishment and operation of domestic banks are governed by the Domestic Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 2012. Domestic banks generally provide services to residents, and in Belizean dollars, the local currency in Belize.
The Central Bank of Belize is the regulator of both the international and the domestic banking sector. As they mostly deal in foreign currency, the Central Bank of Belize imposes higher capital and liquidity requirements to international banks in Belize.
Offshore companies, including Belize companies limited by shares and international limited liability companies, as well as foreign companies, not having any business presence, or conducting any business in Belize, generally bank in international banks.
Currently, there are three banks with Class A unrestricted international banking licence:
- Caye International Bank - Heritage International Bank and Trust - Belize Bank International
Heritage International Bank and Trust operates both, in domestic and international banking sectors.
It is the oldest international banking institution operating in Belize. The bank was incorporated back and received its banking licence in late 90s as Provident Bank & Trust of Belize to serve non resident clients. In the early 00s, Alliance Bank of Belize Limited was incorporated under common ownership with Provident Bank & Trust to serve domestic clients. Both banks merged operations in 2008, and re-named to Heritage Group. The size of the bank increased substantially when in 2016, it acquired all the Belize business of FirstCaribbean International Bank, one of the largest banks in the Caribbean.
Caye International Bank (CIB) is a well-known player in the offshore banking industry in the Caribbean. The bank has been operating and serving international clients for more than two decades. CIB only operates as an international bank, meaning that its domestic business with resident clients is limited.
Belize Bank International was established in 2008 as the international banking arm of Belize Bank, one of the oldest domestic banks in Belize.
Belize offshore banks tend to be favoured by small offshore businesses that prefer opening accounts that do not require substantial financial commitments. For instance, the initial deposit required for opening an account in Caye Bank International is only USD 1,000, whereas Heritage International Bank and Belize Bank International, require USD 3,000 and USD 4,000, only. The aforementioned amounts are considered low in the offshore banking sector, which, due to higher compliance costs, banks generally require much higher initial deposit or average balance amounts.
The offshore financial sector in Belize has also been traditionally open to businesses, which are considered of ‘higher risk’ by industry standards. However, although there is still a certain degree of flexibility and a higher risk appetite than in other jurisdictions, offshore banks in Belize have gone through a ‘de-risking’ process, and the risk tolerance has decreased in recent years.
All three banks offer call accounts in foreign currencies, including major currencies such as USD, EUR and GBP, and offer card products such as prepaid cards and credit cards. International payments are executed through SWIFT.
All three banks also offer commercial lending, generally secured by receivables, as well as mortgage lending to both individuals and investment holding companies.
The scope of services of Belizean offshore banks is not broad. For instance, services related to trade financing or investments in publicly traded securities are not a specialty of offshore banks in Belize. Other than call deposit accounts, cards, and commercials, they also offer simple savings products such as fixed deposits.
In conclusion, offshore banking in Belize is generally considered by small businesses and individuals, who are attracted by the low initial deposit requirements, as well as by their low fees compared to other international financial centres, and for businesses, that are looking for banks with a relatively high risk appetite.
We can help you open business and personal accounts with several international banks in Belize.
We work with 3 different banks in Belize, each bank has different eligibility requirements, types of accounts available and onboarding processes.
We invite you to carefully review each banks requirements and services to better understand if their banking services meet your needs.
Belize, formerly British Honduras, is a CARICOM and SICA member. Located in the northeastern corner of Central America, bordering to the north with Mexico and to the south and the west with Guatemala. The capital is the city of Belmopan and the most populated city is Belize City, which has the main port of the country.
Although is the only Central American country with English as the official language, it is just over 380,000 inhabitants speak predominantly Spanish and Creole. Its currency is the Belize Dollar (BZD), which is currently pegged to the US$ (2:1), but most commercial establishments accept US dollars.
Belize is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. The Head of State is King Charles III, who is represented in the country by the Governor General.
The executive power is headed by a Prime Minister, who heads the Cabinet of 13 ministers, plus 5 deputy ministers, who represent the majority political force of the Belizean Parliament.
The legislative power is bicameral, composed of a House of Representatives of 31 members democratically elected for a period of five years and a Senate of 12 members appointed by the Governor General from proposals of the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition and of Various religious, economic and social institutions.
The Belizean economy is the smallest in the Central American region, but it is the third largest in GDP per capita, only after Panama and Costa Rica.
Belize has an economy based primarily on agriculture and services. Domestic industry is limited, constrained by relatively high-cost labor and energy, and a small domestic market.
Tourism attracts the most foreign direct investment although significant foreign investment is also found in the energy, telecommunications, and agricultural sectors. The stability of the currency is one of the attractions for foreign investment.
Belize's exports of goods and services account for over half of its GDP. The export products mainly consist of seafood such as shrimp, followed by sugar, citrus products, bananas and small manufactures.
Its Barrier Reef (longest in the Western Hemisphere), 127 islands, excellent fishing, safe waters for boating, scuba diving, and snorkeling, abundant jungle flora and fauna, and numerous Mayan ruins has bolstered tourism and ecotourism industry.
Belize is a well-known offshore jurisdiction for its privacy policies, tax advantages for non-residents and its full tax exemption for its domiciled International Companies. Although its banking sector is not as large as other offshore financial centers, it is gaining popularity in recent years.
Our banking support service is not just a mere introduction to the bank. We assist you in filling out the business questionnaires appropriately and help you understand and provide business details, commercial information and purpose/use of the bank account that a given bank wants to know in order to approve your account application. Banks want certainty and clarity on how the account will be used. Everything must be watertight. We will work with you to make sure there is minimal 'back and forth' and a smooth account opening process.
Bank Account opening requirements are subject to change at the discretion of the bank. There might be additional fees charged by the bank itself. Bank account opening is not guaranteed and is subject to the bank policies and compliance department. There might be restrictions on UBO nationalities, business activities and/or jurisdictions. A refund is available if the account is not successfully opened subject to our terms of service (20% to partly cover service and payment processing and administrative costs apply).