One of the most asked questions of me is “How can I live and work in Jamaica?” For most people this is extremely hard, if not impossible. Unemployment is double digit with no signs of easing. All work is offered to Jamaicans first. Some fields in highly skilled professions are open to the world primarily because there aren’t enough Jamaicans with expertise in those areas.
The following is part of the two legal sized instruction sheets that accompany an application for a work permit or work permit exemption.
1. Eligibility for a work permit or work permit exemption in Jamaica
An application for a work permit or work permit exemption should be made by all non-Jamaican nationals who are: without diplomatic status desirous of engaging in any form of gainful employment while in Jamaica
Persons married to: Jamaican nationals, or CARICOM nationals who are covered under the Caribbean Community Act (1997) are not required to apply for work permits while working in Jamaica.
Jamaican law requires all non-Jamaican nationals who do not enjoy diplomatic status to have a work permit as long as they are engaged in gainful employment in the island whether or not the form of gainful employment is voluntary, commercial, business, professional, charitable or entertainment and sport related nature. A non-Jamaican national who engages in any form of gainful employment without a work permit or
while an application for a permit is pending, may be prosecuted.
This is a very strong statement and equally vague. The form is not only for a work permit but also for an exemption. The application, itself, has 51 questions. The applicant completes questions 1-29 while the prospective employer completes questions 30-51.
Employers should note carefully and provide the information required in questions
43-50 concerning the steps taken to recruit a Jamaican national for the job to be
undertaken by the applicant.
In addition to the completed application, which requires a non refundable fee of
about $50 US, there are many documents that must also be submitted with the
4. Documents to be submitted along with applications
(i) A cover letter addressed to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and
1F North Street, Kingston
a) The cover letter should be written by the local employer and should set out clearly the reasons for making the application.
b) The cover letter should also state the efforts made to recruit a
Jamaican national to
undertake the work contemplated and the expected duration of the
work to be
undertaken by the applicant.
(ii) Proof of qualification
a) Certified copies of proof of academic or professional qualifications or letters of accreditation.
b) A letter of recommendation or written reference from the applicant’s
previous employer, or evidence of the applicant’s business/commercial/professional activity abroad.
c) In cases where any of the above named documents are prepared in a
language other than English, a certified English translation of the relevant document should be supplied.
d) A Justice of the Peace or a Notary Public with a valid Commission should certify the documents. Authorises members of staff of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security may certify copies of the documents upon presentation of the original documents.
(iii) A resume outlining the applicant’s professional or business experience.
(iv) A police record
a) For new applications: The record should be issued by the appropriate Security Authority in the country of the applicant’s domicile. NB. Please note that the police record submitted should bear a date of investigation not greater than one year prior to the date of submission to this
(vii) Certified copies of pages from applicant’s passport showing, (a) proof of identity, (b) passport number, (c) date of issue and expiry, (d) landing status in Jamaica and (e) relevant visas (where applicable.)
(viii) Two photographs in the case of a work permit and one (1) in the case of a work permit exemption.
(ix) The attached Tax Payer Registration Number (TRN) form, completed and signed by the applicant.
As you can see, this is not an easy or quick process. What I have taken from the
instruction sheets is less than half of the very detailed instructions. Once this is
submitted, there is no guarantee it will be approved. The stronger your documents
are, the better your chances for approval. If it is approved, there is a yearly fee
of about $700 US. Some employers will pay all or part of this fee. After five
years of employment with a work permit, you will be eligible to become a permanent
resident thus allowing you to continue working without a work permit or associated fees.
The instruction sheets list an email address of [email protected] where you can get
I hope this has helped those of you who are interested in living and working in
Jamaica. Good luck!