Moving To Jamaica by American Retiree in Jamaica

It is hard to resist. The warmth of the people no matter their skin color, the Blue Mountains with it’s world famous coffee, the lush forests with exotic flora and fauna, and the lure of the hot sun and the white sand beaches. All this and more is what draws people from around the world. To enjoy these wonders daily
throughout the year is not for everyone.

I will try to give you the most important steps it takes to move to Jamaica. The very first thing you must do is come and explore the island as much as possible. From time to time readers ask me about retiring here without ever having been on the island. Moving to Jamaica is not like moving across town. This is a third world country with a culture all its own. You need to come and see for yourself what Jamaica has to offer you. It is very important to see the country and its people away from the tourist spots. Taking advantage of the numerous tours that will take you to plantations, historical sites, and deep into the countryside will help with your decision. Once you have done this, you are ready for the next step.

To buy or to build? Most people buy a house already built. If you choose to build, you should have expertise in home construction and be able to live nearby while the house is being built. Then you can be assured that the house is built to your specifications. The real estate market extends from one end of the island to the other.
Prices, sizes, and styles are available for everyone’s budget. Real estate agents can be found in small offices or even large international companies such as Century 21. Once you have found the part of the island you want to settle in, finding a house or lot can be found through one of these agents. It will also be a good idea to enlist the services of an attorney. The services provided assure you of properly handled transactions while you are still living abroad.

So ends the somewhat easy and fun part of the move. Once all the paperwork is done for your new home, it is time for the next step, planning your move. Your first project is to obtain the services of a freight forwarder. They will help with details of the move as well as the move itself. Legally, you are allowed to bring into Jamaica one household worth of goods. Basically what that means is a two bedroom house with all the furnishings. Customs officers can be lenient or very strict in this matter. Technically, there is a list, which I have a copy of, that gives in detail what items are considered as part of a two bedroom household. As an example, the list allows for only two TV’s. Thus, if you have a TV in each bedroom and one in the living room, you would have to pay duty on one of them. Which one and how much? This is a very gray area. The duty would be based on 38% of the cost of the item. If you don’t have a receipt for that item, you are at the mercy of a customs inspector. This example would only become reality if the customs inspector was suspicious of
the goods and your intent or if the inspector was given a hard time by the owner of the goods.

Now for the next step. Freight forwarder services may end at the freighter which carries the goods to Jamaica. Seaboard Marine, based in Miami, provides services from Canada, the east coast of the United States, and ports in the eastern Caribbean. All their ships arrive in Kingston and are unloaded for distribution later to other ports. There is an eight day delay, for instance, once the ship arrives in Kingston until it arrives in Montego Bay.

Proper packing of boxes is very important for the long voyage to Jamaica. I found using as many boxes of the same size as possible allows for easier and more compact packing of a container. Don’t skimp on packing materials either. It is better to have too much than too little. When it came time to pack the container, I hired a
container packing specialist. Use plenty of blankets when packing bulky items. You won’t have much use for blankets in Jamaica anyway.

Now for the final step. Once your goods arrive, they have to be inspected by one of the customs agents. All goods in value of over US $1,000 must go through a customs broker. They act as your agent in securing your goods in the least amount of time. These brokers can also arrange for your goods to be transported to your new home. I was able to clear two 20′ containers and have the goods placed in the proper rooms
of my home all in the same day.

That’s all there is to moving to Jamaica! It may sound easy but it takes a lot of time to accomplish each step. It took me nearly a year to find and secure my home. The first house we wanted was taken off of the market which meant another house hunting trip. Through all of this, there were countless emails back and forth with our attorney. It was very similar with the customs broker making sure that we did everything correctly before we moved. One thing that caused me a problem was buying three rooms of new furniture and leaving them in the original cartons. The customs agent thought we were going to sell them instead of use them for ourselves. This was where the customs broker really earned their money.

Once all this is accomplished then you need to get permission from the Government of Jamaica to live here. This involves obtaining a visa from the Jamaican Embassy in your country of origin. Once here, you must apply for permanent residency which is a three year process.

In closing, there are a lot of things to consider before deciding to migrate to Jamaica. I can help by answering your many questions. In doing so, please bear in mind, I am not a professional in any area but I do have enough expertise to help you over the hurdles you might have.