Jamaica Magazine

"What is a custom broker?" by American Retiree in Jamaica

What is a custom broker? A custom broker is someone who acts as a facilitator between the customer and the customs agent of the government. This helps assure unnecessary fees aren’t assessed to you. This is similar to a lawyer who represents you in important matters. The fees charged by brokers for their services vary from broker to broker. Be sure to get several estimates before making a final decision. How can personal items be shipped to Jamaica? The first step is to hire a freight forwarder. A good one will take care of everything except customs fees, if any. They will arrange for everything from the time the goods leave your house until they reach your new home. This is called “door-to-door” service. Once they quote you a price, that’s it. No hidden extras. Without this service, you would have to negotiate each step along the way. That would include a moving company, shipping company, customs broker in Jamaica, and a moving company in Jamaica. It would be very time consuming to do all this yourself. By hiring a good agent to represent you, it would save you a lot of headaches. This was something I didn’t do because I was unaware of all the help that was available to me. My freight forwarder did not provide those extra services, as not all of them do. Thus, I had to deal with three different companies instead of just one. Containers are used to move your personal goods and furniture.

There are generally two sizes, 20′ and 40′, sometimes you can find a 45′. You are allowed to bring into the country, as a returning resident, one household of goods. This consists of the normal furniture needed to furnish a two bedroom house, including a living room, dining room, and kitchen. It also includes one refrigerator, one freezer, one microwave, one washer and dryer, and one dishwasher. Anything above and beyond is subject to a duty tax of 40%. If you have receipts for these excess items, your broker will be able to assure you of a fair duty fee. Besides the items mentioned above, I was able to bring in a lawnmower, a roto-tiller, a chipper shredder, and a large assortment of hand garden tools. All the motorized garden equipment had to be fumigated. The only thing I was not allowed to bring in was my freezer. It was very old and didn’t have the correct type of gas installed. I tried, in vain, to find someone to change the gas, but being in the middle of July, everyone was busy repairing air conditioners.

When deciding on what size containers to best suit your needs, it is best to overestimate rather than underestimate as I did. I got one 20′ container and nearly filled a second one. Another thing to consider is where the container will be parked at your house for loading. Most companies won’t put the container in your driveway because of the weight when fully loaded. You may have to get permission from your city or town to park the container on the street. As it turned out, I could only do two 20′ containers because of the frontage of my house lot. Enlisting the services of a professional mover experienced in loading containers is important to ensure your goods will arrive in the same condition as when they were packed. I packed all my boxes personally. All the movers had to do was to put everything in the containers. Be very generous with newspaper when wrapping all your items. Pack things snug but not too tight. Each packed box should be clearly marked as to its contents and securely taped. Don’t pack your old blankets and sheets. They are great for covering furniture. When everything was unpacked at the new house only four items were broken. Remember, containers traveling for days on the ocean are subject to more motion than a truck going across the country. Before moving, I decided to purchase new furniture instead of acquiring it in Jamaica. My inexperience told me to leave the furniture in its original cartons thinking they would be better protected. This was a true assumption on my behalf. The problem arose going through Jamaican customs. It was very difficult convincing them that all the new furniture was for my own use and not being sold without paying duty. Another difficulty came when I had to convince them I was actually going to live here. Even with all the paperwork that goes with buying a house they still weren’t convinced. They insisted I go to immigrations in Kingston to become a resident before they would allow me in duty free. That was a waste of time and money. Immigrations said I had to live in Jamaica for three years before I could become a “permanent resident.”

Back in Montego Bay, customs finally believed I was going to live here. Two hours later, all my goods were in my house. It would be helpful if you visited immigrations in Kingston prior to moving to Jamaica. You will need to enter customs at the airport as residents and retain a copy of the immigrations card. You will also need a (P.D. form), an unaccompanied baggage declaration. Caution! Don’t try to hide anything illegal in your container! Each container goes through an inspection similar to a suitcase at the airport. Other ways of shipping goods to Jamaica include barrels and boxes. Barrels are very popular for Jamaicans to obtain goods from the US. It is very important to include a packing list and receipts, if available. Boxes of goods can be shipped by boat or airplane also with a list and receipts. Each resident is allowed $500.00 US duty free and should be household items and clothes for personal use only. The information for this article was provided by K.K.D. Customs Brokers of Montego Bay. If you have any more specific questions, please contact me via “feedback.”

About the author

John Casey