Here's how it works: when you arrive, your status is "tourist", which lasts a month as another poster said. Sometime before that month expires, generally during the first week of the semester, you will be given -- probably at student orientation -- a form to fill out attesting that you have enough money to avoid becoming a burden on the Belize government during your stay here. You take that form into town and have it notarized (they don't call them notaries here; they're called JP -- Justice of the Peace), which is a free service. I use the JP in Milo's, a payment center on Middle Street, because it is within walking distance of the other places you have to go.
Then you go to the Post Office on Front Street and get two 75-cent stamps (Belize), which the Immigration officer will ask you for. Then you go a couple of blocks away to BelliColor, a photography shop, and ask for four driver's license photos. You will need one for Immigation, and the other three you'll use as you renew your student visa in subsequent semesters (or for a driver's license -- but that's another post).
Then you go upstairs from BelliColor to the Immigration office where you will meet either Sheldon, the chief officer for San Pedro, or his sister, who normally does passports but fills in for Sheldon in his absence. You must have your passport, postage stamps, photograph, and JP'd financial letter with you. Sheldon will have received a letter from the school with your name on it saying that you are a current student; if the school hasn't sent it, he'll send you away, so you might want to check at the school office before doing all this stuff.
Sheldon will enter your name in his Big Book and give you a little slip of paper to take, with your passport, to the government cashier's office, about 20 feet from the Immigration office. You give the paper, your passport, and fifty Belizean dollars to the clerk and get a receipt, which you bring back to Sheldon who will then stamp your passport and give you a speech about what you're allowed and not allowed to do under the terms of your student visa. Then you can go home.
All of the places mentioned above close between noon and 1 PM, so plan accordingly. Also, you might want to ask office staff to call Immigration to determine the times when visas are processed; they change it occasionally.
Your student visa will expire on the last day of final exams for the current semester. You have three days to get off the island or apply for an extension, or Sheldon will come for you. To apply for an extension, go to Immigration when your student visa expires and tell Sheldon that you want to extend. You'll need your passport. He'll give you, yes -- another slip of paper for the cashier, but this time you'll pay $25 Belize dollars for the privilege of pumping money into their economy for a couple of weeks. The extension will overlap the beginning of the following semester by at least two weeks, so you'll have enough time to repeat everything.
Some students have tried to combine the extension with the next semester's student visa in order to avoid the $25 fee, but Sheldon won't allow it. (P.S. Sheldon is one of the few honest people in government and does things strictly by the book. He's someone you want on your side if something happens, so don't harrass him.)
The student visa and the extension stamp each occupy a full page in your passport, so if you don't have at least ten pages left, you'll wind up going to the mainland to the U.S. embassy for extra pages. Before doing so, be sure to have BelliColor photocopy your entire passport. The State Department doesn't always return cancelled passports, and you may someday need to prove you spent five semesters in San Pedro. It's also suggested by the State Department that you photocopy your passport before you leave home; it will speed replacement in case you lose it.
Brain surgeon to another: "Hey, this isn't rocket science".
Rocket scientist to another: "Hey, this isn't brain surgery".
Forum Moderator - Xavier Aruba