International banking laws were first introduced in Belize with the passing of the Offshore Banking Act, 1996. In October 2002, the Offshore Banking (Amendments) Act 2002 was enacted. Among other things, the name of the Offshore Banking Act and the term “offshore banks” were changed to International Banking Act (IBA) and international banks, respectively.
The IBA establishes two categories of international banking licence in Belize: an “A” Class – Unrestricted licence and a “B” Class – Restricted licence. Both “A” Class and “B” Class licences require the holder to establish, maintain and operate a business office (physical presence) in Belize. The holder of an “A” Class licence is permitted to transact international banking business through its business office in Belize without restrictions on that business. The holder of a “B” Class licence is limited to transacting only such international banking business as is specified in its licence.
The minimum capital standards established by the IBA for starting an international bank include:
- “A” Class-Unrestricted licence - US$3,000,000 for a local company, and US$25,000,000 for a foreign bank
- “B” Class-Restricted licence - US$1,000,000 for a local company, and US$15,000,000 for a foreign bank
The following circulars were issued in conjunction with the IBA by the Central Bank of Belize. The circulars apply to all international banks licensed under the IBA and are intended to assist them in complying with relevant laws and regulations. The circulars contain guidelines on how international banks should operate, as well as how the Central Bank of Belize will assess banks’ compliance.