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Sep 13, 2017

Guats Get Away with Free Residence in Belize

Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse has been on record commending the high number of Chinese seeking visas to “visit” Belize. Of course, these persons pay as much as two thousand per visa in addition to whatever is paid to agents and so on. But flying under the radar are visitors from neighboring Central America, particularly El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Guatemalans in particular have been taking advantage of Immigration policy that allows them to stay in Belize after thirty days on an initial visa, without applying for an extension as others must do. The result is costly for revenue and appears to undercut the fact that Guatemala is claiming Belizean territory and ought not to be given preferential treatment for its citizens unless they renounce their ties to Guatemala.

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“If I understood you a short while ago, Guatemalans come in under the visa waiver and that visa is valid for thirty days, but you are saying that the Guatemalans do not apply for a new visa then to remain in Belize, or a permit to remain in Belize, which they will have to pay for?”

 

Diana Locke, Director of Immigration

“That is correct; I’m not sure why that policy was put in place. It’s something that we are trying to find out more about. I’m not aware that it’s under any of the confidence building measures or the agreements we have, but it’s a matter that has been discussed.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“The Guatemalans know this, that they don’t have to do anything after the thirty days?”

 

Diana Locke

“That is correct. And apparently it’s a practice at Immigration for years.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And there are no steps to pick up these people who are illegally in this country?”

 

Diana Locke

“They’re not illegal; they come in to get…”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Oh, so you issue extensions?”

 

Diana Locke

“Yes, they can come in and apply for extensions if they want to stay.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“After the thirty days what happens?”

 

Diana Locke

“They don’t apply for a visa, but they should come in and apply for extensions if they want to stay; they are the only ones that are not required to get a visa in order to get an extension.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And that is by policy rather than law?”

 

Diana Locke

“Yes, I would think so. That is a practice that has been at the Department for a substantial number of years; not sure why, trying to find out what made that happen.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And how much revenue are we losing?”

 

Diana Locke

“That I can’t say, I have no idea.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And if they were to apply what would be the fee?”

 

Diana Locke

“A hundred dollars. I’m sure we are losing revenue from it, btu that is a decision that has to be taken at another level.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“So you are saying that those persons are not illegally in Belize?”

 

Diana Locke

“No; once they get their extensions they are not illegal.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And they routinely come in for their extensions?”

 

Diana Locke

“To the best of my knowledge, from the cases that I have come in contact with, through permanent residence applications, yes.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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