Work Permits Revisited

One of the most asked questions of me is “How can I get a job 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.

It has been well over two years since I wrote about the requirements for obtaining a work permit. Nothing during this time period has changed regarding the form and the documentation needed to apply for the permit. However, the fees have increased considerably. The non-refundable application fee has been raised from JA1,000 to JA14,400, while the permit itself has more than doubled from JA40,000 to JA108,000. This is equivalent, in US dollars, to $202.82 for the application fee and $1521.13 for the permit, for a total of $17,023.95 per year.

These fees have been in effect since this past April 28th. This is a given. However, the government is planning on making three year restrictions for foreigners working in Jamaica. One big issue to be addressed is what fields and levels of work are to be covered by the three year restriction. The theory is for an employer to hire a Jamaican apprentice who would be trained during this period for the job being filled by the foreigner. Surely this will cover the lower end of the work spectrum as it wouldn’t be feasible to train anyone for a position requiring a college degree(s) without the trainee actually obtaining the degree(s).

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, there are many documents that must also be submitted with the application.

4. Documents to be submitted along with applications


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

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


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 ministry.

(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


(ix) The attached Tax Payer Registration Number (TRN) form, completed and signed by the



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. The good news in all this is some employers will pay part or all of these fees. The instruction sheets list an email address of [email protected] where you can get further information.


I hope this has helped those of you who are interested in living and working in Jamaica. Good luck!

About the author

John Casey