Moving to Jamaica Can Be Problematic – An American Retiree in Jamaica

Moving to Jamaica can be problematic. This is not something you can do overnight or in a few weeks. It takes months of planning to finalize all the necessary steps.

If you are seeking employment, a work permit must be approved before you can start to work in Jamaica. A work permit is a long form to be filled out by both you and the prospective employer. The employer must first advertise your position in the local newspaper. If a Jamaican national is equally qualified, the national must be offered the position first. If no Jamaican applicant is as qualified as you, the employer must document the steps taken in trying to recruit a local person. The next step is to complete the work permit form and submit it to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for approval. The approval time can be lengthy as with any government bureaucracy. They may be emailed for further information at: [email protected].

Perhaps you want to start your own business. You would still need a work permit. JAMPRO is the government agency that facilitates the start of your business. As with the work permit, there are considerable tasks that must be accomplished before granting of licenses, permits, etc. JAMPRO may be contacted through their website at:

If retiring to Jamaica, as I did, is what you want to do, the process is somewhat easier. Unlike work permits and starting a business, applying for permanent residency begins once you arrive in Jamaica. This process takes a minimum of three years. There is a list of documents and particulars that must be submitted. The sooner they are submitted, the better. All the documents are verified by immigrations before granting permanent residency. During those three years you must report to immigrations in Kingston annually. Approval/disapproval for another year is given during those visits.

Obtaining the relevant visa should be accomplished before the move. It cost me round trip tickets to Boston to obtain my visa from the Jamaican Consulate. Now I purchase a multi – entry visa each year I go to immigrations in Kingston. This allows me to travel at will and get back into Jamaica without any problems. Once I become a permanent resident, I will be able to purchase a two year multi – entry visa.

Shipping of goods also requires planning well in advance. You need to ask the following questions:

  1. What do you want to bring?
  2. What is allowed?
  3. Should you purchase some items locally to bring with you or buy them in Jamaica?
  4. Should a professional be hired to pack the boxes/container?
  5. How do I find a freight forwarder?

These are just a few of the many more questions you are likely to encounter throughout your planning. There is an official list of items allowed duty free, basically a two bedroom household. I purchased a dining room, living room, bedroom, and kitchen appliances before I moved. Furniture in the Montego Bay area is generally geared to middle to low income people. The much larger populated Kingston has many premium furniture outlets. What must be weighed is the cost difference between what it would cost to purchase goods in your country, as opposed to in Jamaica, taking into account the cost of shipping a container.

When it came to packing, I packed my own boxes but hired a moving company experienced with packing containers. In hindsight, I could have packed the containers myself with the help of family or friends. My concern was the rolling of the ship on the high seas tossing my goods around. If you have moved often, securely packing a container shouldn’t be a problem. I used two 20′ containers for my move. There were only two broken dishes and two glass picture frames broken.

All major cities have telephone listings for freight forwarders. To my knowledge most cargo vessels stop in Kingston first. About a week later, a smaller vessel brings the containers to Montego Bay. Whichever port you accept your goods, you must be present on the day they arrive. If a friend or relative accepts your goods in your place duty of 38% will have to paid on the total amount of the goods. Upon your arrival in Jamaica you must be sure to obtain an “unaccompanied goods form” at the airport. This is needed to waive the duty on your allowable goods. For instance, if you ship four refrigerators, you would pay duty on three of them. One is all that’s allowed duty free. The assumption is that you would sell the other three, thus the duty tax.

What you need to do is check prices locally and upon your next visit to Jamaica. Analyze these figures with the cost of shipping them in a container. Keep in mind that you will need a container for your other goods, which means that cost will be there anyway. Should you need a larger container, that cost would have to be factored in. There is also custom broker’s fees which usually include transporting everything to your new home.

This may seem like a difficult process but by starting well in advance you will have ample time to make any necessary adjustments. In the end, it will all be worth it as you sit back and enjoy the tropical paradise.