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So You Want To Live In Jamaica – An American Retiree in Jamaica

There are probably countless numbers of people who would love to live on this island paradise. With warm friendly people, lush tropical flora, and cool tropical breezes, who could resist. But, alas, it isn’t as easy as you might think. This article will explore two main ways of accomplishing your dream.

I will start with permanent residency which is primarily for persons who want to enjoy the twilight years of their lives in relatively stress free style. The following is a list of “documents and particulars” to become a permanent resident:

1)      Valid National passport- This requirement is easy as everyone should have a passport.

2)      Evidence of financial status and means of support- This is the hardest requirement to fulfill. You must be able to prove that you are financially secure the rest of your life.

3)      Birth certificate- Everyone should have one of these.

4)      Marital status- Yet another document that should be readily available.

5)      Medical certificate- My suggestion is for you to obtain this one in Jamaica as it would be much easier to verify. You don’t need a complete physical, just a letter from the doctor stating you are in general good health.

6)      Police certificate from the state which you are migrating- Prepare for a long wait and a fee for this one. You should apply for this as soon as possible. The certificate will list any criminal and/or moving traffic violation.

7)      Two (2) passport size photos- There are many places here that can provide this service in under an hour. Instead of getting two photos get 5 or 6 as you will need 3 for your Jamaican driver’s license.

8)      Reasons for seeking permanent residence in Jamaica- I don’t understand why this is listed next to last when it is the first document to be submitted on your initial visit to immigrations in Kingston. This document is nothing more than a written statement on why you want to live in Jamaica.

9)      Letters of reference from two reputable citizens of Jamaica- This one might take some time as you need to know these reputable citizens for a period of time. I used a lawyer and retired police inspector from my community for my references. Be assured they and your neighbors will all be contacted by the police to verify you’re a good citizen. Part of this police investigation includes an unannounced visit from them to further substantiate your worthiness of becoming a citizen.

I strongly suggest you have as many of the above items as possible on your first visit to immigrations in Kingston. It is my belief that your file won’t be investigated until all 9 items have been submitted. All of these documents and particulars should be hand delivered instead of relying on the postal service. It eliminates documents being lost by either the post office or immigrations.

The process of becoming a permanent resident takes a minimum of three years with trips to Kingston for yearly extensions. It took me five years. As of October 1’st 2009 there is a non refundable application fee of $30,000 Jamaican. Multi entry visas can be obtained for a fee of $2,000 JA per year.

The other procedure for living in Jamaica is through work permits. This process is obviously for those who haven’t reached retirement age. The key here is to have a job offer before trying to come to Jamaica to live. The law does not allow you to work until your permit has been approved.

This process in part is listed below:

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 Jamaica 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 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 sports 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.

 The application itself has 51 questions. The applicant completes 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, there are other documents that must be submitted with application.

Documents to be submitted along with application

(i)   A cover letter addressed to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Social Security,     

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 Republic with a valid Commission should certify the documents.

(iii)             A resume outlining the professional’s or business experience

(iv)             A police record

 a)      For new applicants:

The record should be issued by the appropriate security authority in the country of the applicant’s domicile.
(vii)            Certified copies of pages of applicant’s passport.

(viii)          Two photos in the case of a work permit and one in case of a work permit exemption.

(ix)              The attached Tax Payer Registration Number form completed and signed by the applicant.

As you can see, this not an easy or quick process. What I have taken from the instruction sheet is less than half of the very detailed instructions. The fees associated with a work permit are $14,400 JA for a non refundable application fee. When the permit is approved the yearly fee is $108,000 JA. Some or all of these fees can be paid by the prospective employer.

Further information on either of these processes can be obtained by emailing the government at [email protected]



About the author

John Casey