This month John Casey, a US retiree living in Jamaica, tells us the steps to become a Jamaican Resident.
Jamaica Magazine

Becoming a Resident of Jamaica by American Retiree in Jamaica

Becoming a permanent resident takes a minimum of three years. There are several documents to acquire and annual trips to immigration in Kingston. This is the only place on the island that can do this procedure. To begin this process, a visa must be obtained from the Jamaican Embassy in your native land. You also need to have an address, such as a home or apt, where you will be living in Jamaica.

Another requirement is to have an open-end airline ticket for the return flight to your native land. You can not stay indefinitely unless or until immigrations approves of it. With the above three things, visa, Jamaican address, and return airline ticket, you will be allowed to stay for a short period of time until the process of permanent residency has started in Kingston. Jamaican law says you can stay up to 6 months. However, you will not be given anywhere near that amount of time by the immigrations officer at the airport. We were allowed just two weeks to go to Kingston and apply. If we didn’t go during that time frame, we would be considered illegal aliens subject to arrest, fines, jail, or deportation.

The “documents and particulars” for becoming a permanent resident are as follows:

1) Valid national passport;

2) Evidence of financial status and means of support – for example, particulars of pension, bank account, property owned and business investments;

3) Birth certificate;

4) Marital status – marriage certificate – particulars of spouse, children and other dependents;

5) Medical certificate – certificate of good health;

6) Police certificate from the state from which you are migrating;

7) Two (2) passport size photographs;

8) Reasons for seeking permanent residence in Jamaica;

9) Letters of references from two reputable citizens of Jamaica.

Permanent residence is usually granted to the following categories of persons:

A) Wives of Jamaican Nationals without meeting any residency requirements;

B) Adults and minors who have claim to Jamaican Nationality without meeting any residency requirements;

C) Retired persons who have resided in Jamaica for at least three years;

D) Persons employed in Jamaica after completing a period of residence of at least five years;

E) Minors who have no claim to Jamaican Nationality who have resided in the island for a period of 2-4 years.

At the end of each yearly visit, a multi entry visa is available. This allows you to travel, at will, any time during that year. The cost for each visa is $2,000 JA or about $33.00 US. The visa is not required if you do not plan to leave the island during that year.

That’s all it takes to become a permanent resident! Sounds simple enough! But things aren’t always what they seem to be, as you will see later.

Having never been to Kingston before, we had no idea how to get there or where to go once we arrived. There are four main ways to get to Kingston, fly, take a bus, hire a taxi, or drive yourself. In 2002, airplane tickets were $150.00 US per person round trip with several convenient flights during the day. The buses are the small 30 passenger type which are filled with people before they leave. These buses leave Montego Bay between 4:00-5:00 in the morning. Taxi fares are negotiable but are usually around $200.00 US round trip. Driving ourselves was out of the question mainly because road signs are hard to find. Also, the roads in Kingston have more one-way streets than in Boston, MA, if that’s possible. We opted for the taxi. The driver picked us up at our home, drove directly to immigration, waited for us, then drove us home. Very practical, I thought.

We left Mobay at 5:00 AM and arrived at immigrations at 9:00 AM just as they were opening. There was a short wait before we had our interview with the immigration officer. At last the process was about to begin!

We were given the two pages of requirements that I have listed above. They could be submitted then or any time during the process. The sooner they are submitted, the better off you are. My wife and I came reasonably prepared. We had our passports, birth certificates, marriage license, and financial statements. The first requirement was to write a letter stating why we wanted to become residents. We did this on a plain piece of paper provided by the officer. No standard forms, just a plain piece of paper. That’s 5 out of 9 requirements!

The passport photos and the medical certificate should be easy to obtain. All that would leave for us to do is get the police certificate from the state of MA and references from 2 reputable citizens.

The first task was to find 2 reputable citizens to write our letters of reference. Where do we start? Let’s see. How about the young man who sold us Jamaican bracelets downtown? He seemed reputable. Then there was that nice lady who had braided my wife’s hair for the past few years! This would be a difficult task for many folks just moving into a new country and not knowing many people, but we were fortunate.

Our neighbor across the street is a partner in a law firm. That’s a good start! The man down the street is a retired inspector with the Jamaican Constabulary Force. He must be a reputable citizen! Both of them gave us glowing letters of reference.

Passport size photos are widely used by other government agencies in Jamaica, such as a drivers license. It is a good idea to get 6 or 8 at one time thus saving time consuming trips to the photo shop.

This ends part one of “How to Become a Permanent Resident.” Next month you will see bureaucratic problems we had with both Jamaica and the state of MA. I will also share our second and third year visits to immigration.

About the author

John Casey