Listen to a 60 minute telephone interview on tips for those considering a move to Jamaica.
New Kingston, is currnetly the main business center in Jamaica. It is where most of the International Banks and Insurance companies home offices are located.Years gone by many were located in Downtown Kingston, but at some point they all moved to what is referred to as uptown.
My pal John Casey is an Retired American living in Montego-bay Jamaica. John writes monthly for an on-line forum called Jamaicans.com, and often covers topics that I beleive are useful for people considering a move to Jamaica.
I get weekly emails from people who arrive in Jamaica for a Holiday, and for whatever reason go back to home countries with the intent that they will move to Jamaica and live in paradise forever. While nothing is wrong with such an idea, please then do your research wisely. Read, read and ask tons of questions, Jamaica while great for holiday is not as easy a place to live for many outsiders. Jamaica can be a very oral society and things may not be as organized as where you may be moving from, so keep this in mind.
My Jamaican Immigrations Experience – An American Retiree in Jamaica
By John Casey> Jamaicans.com
Published Aug 1, 2011
Immigration to Jamaica-2
Jamaican Immigrations is a very complex and bureaucratic ministry, like most government agencies anywhere in the world. It has been very frustrating for me my whole time in Jamaica. The process from the beginning was very slow and unpredictable. Nine years ago the process wasn’t as easy as it appears today. I say that because back then nothing seemed to be organized as both the system and the staff didn’t seem to be on the same page.
In my case, when I went to Kingston to apply for permanent residency, which is still today the only office that handles this procedure, there weren’t any forms to fill out either in person or on the internet. The interviewer first asked us why we wanted to move to Jamaica. She then instructed us to put it in writing before we could proceed any further. We did this with the paper and pen she supplied. Next we were handed a list of documents we needed to supply before permanent residency could be granted.
Some of the documents needed were easy to obtain while others took an extended period of time such as the police certificate from the state from which we were migrating. In Massachusetts, this can only be done through the mail or on the internet. It took months for us to get our reports due to a number of reasons. When we began our quest for this document it was free but by the time we obtained it there was a cost involved. So you can see, even in Massachusetts the bureaucracy is prevalent. The other time consuming documents to secure were everything to do with our finances. They not only wanted year-end statements of earnings but, in the case of my pensions, they wanted proof from the providers that these were life long benefits and not just for a certain term.
The other required documents were much easier to obtain such as valid passport, original birth certificate, marriage certificate, medical certificate of good general health, two passport size photos, and letters from two reputable Jamaican citizens. The latter could be difficult if one doesn’t know many people in Jamaica.
Today there is a form to be filled out and can be obtained from their website, which I will give you later. I noticed on the form that many of the documents I needed weren’t listed but it’s safe to assume they will be needed before the process is completed. There was one document on the form not mentioned on my list and that is a return ticket/itinerary. Other than the form itself, there is no indication on the site that I could find as to what the process entails or how long it takes. I was told it took three years but it actually took five years because of the much dreaded bureaucracy.
In the beginning I assumed once the process got started it would be smooth sailing until completion. After the normal three years had passed I started to contact immigrations periodically so they would know who I was plus I would be able to handle any problem that arose then rather than waiting to confront it at the annual visit to Kingston.
Some other things not noted on the website is the annual visit and multi-entry visas. Each year, while you are still in the process of obtaining permanent residency, you are required to return to immigrations in Kingston on or before your anniversary date on the extension they give you in your passport. You need to obtain the visa if you plan to travel off the island any time during the year. It is much easier to get the visa while you are there for your annual visit than to try to get one should you decide later to travel off the island. A change that has been made recently is that visas may now be obtained at the Montego Bay office. However, that office only acts as a free messenger as they send your passports to Kingston for the visas are only granted in Kingston.
Time seems to be moving faster than immigrations can cope with. Nine years ago a visa can be issued the same day as the annual visit but that changed several years later when we had to make the long eight hour round trip a week later to pick up the visa. Today the process is even longer. The Montego Bay office takes twice as long supposedly. But on June 22nd of this year, we went to the Montego Bay office as it was getting close for the time to renew our visas. We were given a receipt there for our passports which stated they would be returned on July 4th. On July 5th, we received a call from immigrations in Kingston that the visas were approved but they needed a copy of the document that proved we were in fact permanent residents, a procedure that the Montego Bay office knew nothing about. The Kingston copy is somewhere in immigrations’ archives which can’t be accessed for the visa renewal. The next day we took our letter to the Montego Bay office where the clerk made a copy and indicated it would be sent to Kingston. We have made several inquiries since then but as of this date, July 20th, the passports have not been returned.
Knowing Murphy’s Law all too well, we applied for the visa renewals two months in advance of their expiration and our annual trip to the states figuring that would be ample time even if there were some kind of snafu. So, instead of 7-10 working day, it has been 20 working days and counting. The good thing about the new renewal is instead of the visa expiring every two years it now lasts for the life of our passports and at the same cost as a one year renewal was nine years ago.
Ministry of National Security and Justice
Immigration, Citizenship and Passport Division
So there you have it folks, onward John and Ann his wife goes.
Before the coffin leaves the house, the husband or wife of the deceased must put on a piece of black cloth with a white cross made of chalk. This is to be worn for the next four to five months.
Buttons must be removed from the clothes of the deceased and the clothes must be pinned or sewn without knots or the ghost will return. Pockets must also be sewn up or the ghost will return and fill it with stones and harm those left alive.
If you leave a wake, simply touch a person who is to leave with you – do not announce it – so that the duppy does not follow you home. You should also walk backwards and turn around three times since duppies walk in a straight line.
The body must be taken out feet first and through the front door. If the back door is used, the spirit of the dead will not leave the house.
As soon as the body leaves, the room must be swept out.
* Either one man or an odd number of men should dig the grave. After the digger makes the first dig, he should drink some rum.
* The grave must be dug east to west and the body placed to face the sun.
* When filling the grave, the diggers must stand with their backs to the grave and throw dirt in backwards through their legs to prevent the ghost from following them home.
* A calabash tree should be planted at the head and foot of the grave.
Duppies are said to live in the roots of cotton trees, bamboo thickets or in abandoned buildings. They eat bamboo roots, fig leaves and the fruit of a vine called the ‘duppy pumpkin’. Although generally believed to be harmful (especially when used by an obeah-man), there are good and bad duppies.
Duppies can take on the shape of humans or animals and are also able to change themselves into different forms. They can talk, laugh, sing, cook, smoke, ride horses and generally do anything a human can. When they do ride, however, they are said to use the animal’s tail as a bridle.
Interestingly, a number of Jamaican plant names feature the word ‘duppy’. This use of the term ‘duppy’ in plant names to distinguish between edible and inedible plants shows how superstition helps to direct the relationship between Jamaicans and their environment. Generally, what is good for the duppy is bad for humans – this is an important lesson to learn from a young age. For example, there is the real chocho and the duppy chocho, the real coconut and the duppy coconut. There is the real tomato and the duppy tomato, the real soursop and the duppy soursop and the real cherry and the duppy cherry, etc. Similarly, certain plants like night-blooming jasmine are known to attract duppies and Jamaicans know to keep them away from their homes (Resford, J.,1984, p. 69). According to noted historian Edward Long, this belief in the good and bad qualities of certain plants and trees comes from Africa. (as cited, ibid., 1984, p. 69).
Again, the information included in these folk customs about duppies is consistently specific. The following are noted by JIS (1991):
If you are followed by a duppy, stop and mark an X on the ground and since they can only count to nine they will spend the night trying to count to X.
Do not speak to a duppy immediately or it will hurt you. If he is wearing black, he is harmless. But if he is wearing white, he is dangerous.
Use your left hand to strike a duppy.
Do not kill any green lizards in a graveyard as they are believed to be duppies.
If you are in the bushes and hear a stick break, it is a warning from a dead relative that the area is unsafe.
If you feel a sudden gust of warm air, it means that a duppy is present.
While there is no official recognition of the role of superstition in everyday Jamaican life, it is clearly holding on strong as generation after generation share these ideas and continue to act on these beliefs.
Sources: Author unknown. (1991) Jamaica Folk Customs and Beliefs. Kingston: Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Hopwood, A. (2003). “Jamaican ‘Dead Yard’ Cultures and Customs throughout the Years,” in “J. D. Morgan and P. Laungani (eds). Death and Bereavement Around the World. Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Co.; pp. 77-94., Folk-Lore of the Negroes of Jamaica: (Continued) Folklore, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Mar. 25, 1905), pp. 68-77 http://links.jstor.org
Jack Fruit, Hmmmmm.. I remember my husband showing me how to cut this huge fruit apart and eat the sweet pods with my hands. No way were my taste buds which are generally way open to new taste handling this new “Jack Fruit”.
Fast forward 4 years later I found myself yesterday being most upset that my husband ate (nyamed as is said here) all of this precious fruit which I purchased from a man on the street…
Nothing stays the same for sure.
Guineps another fruit I have acquired a taste for.
Paw Paw ( papaya) & Water melons. Fresh fruit is a true treasure to be had on the Island year round and they are plentiful..
Happy Birthday Bob Marley
I remember being age 12 in New York City, and absolutely loving his music. Many of the kids on my block wanted to dance like Bob the Rasta as we sang ” I Shot the Sheriff”. Fast forward some 30 years later and my visiting the Bob Marley Museum here in Kingston was awesome, as my love for his music continues. Hearing his 15mins voice interview was amazing as well. Your memory lives on Bob
I recently read the attached article in the newspaper about Work Permits, and since I get several emails about this topic, I concluded I would share this with you the readers.
Please note that most people arriving for employment to the Island generally need to secure a job and have the future employer apply for the work permit before arriving to the country. This new rule however should now give persons some additional time.
Please do your research wisely, as the unemployment rate in Jamaica is extremely high and most jobs generally go to locals first. Unless you have a skill that is needed for a particular job, the going could be tedious… read more:
The Jamaican Gleaner
January 30th, 2011
The Jamaican Government has removed the need for a work permit for overseas technicians required to carry out urgent work on the island not exceeding 30 days.
“If your machine is down and you need a man from anywhere in the world, you won’t have to wait six weeks anymore to apply and to get medical and police records. In fact, you are authorized to get him by computer – technology can bring him here instantly,” said Labour Minister Pearnel Charles.
“If you need the person for more than 30 days, you are going to have to apply for a work permit. Now this time, you are permitted to apply for that permit while the person is in Jamaica; under normal circumstances you would have to apply while he was at home,” he told the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association.
He urged employers not to exploit the system.
Persons seeking employment here are required to obtain a work permit by making an application to the labour and social security ministry.
Recently, the first TedxJamaica was conducted here in Kingston. The event was a stunner, as you can see from this video recorded at the event.
John Casey a great pal of mine has been living in Montegobay Jamaica for eight years now. He is retired and has been writing about his life in Jamaica for the online forum,(Jamaicans.com) for several years now. Ever so often I enjoy sharing his stories with my readers, as he is always great about answering questions for people who move to that side of the Island.
My Eight Years In Jamaica by American Retiree in Jamaica
Before I begin let me give you a little background. My wife and I honeymooned at the then Sandals Inn in 1994. I fell in love with Jamaica right from the beginning. The love grew deeper and deeper each time I came back. At the same time, I also knew I was approaching the age of retirement and had to start making plans. By the year 2000 that desire to retire to Jamaica was overwhelming. With the help of a few of the Sandals staff, we found several real estate agents to show us properties, a lawyer to handle the sale, and a custom broker to assist with the move. Just about every house we saw had helper’s quarters for either the maid or the gardener to live in. We didn’t find it necessary to hire help for the house or the yard which left few homes to choose from. The first home we liked and put a deposit on didn’t work out because the owners decided not to sell after all. This turned out good for us as we found a house that we liked better and was actually in a better area.
Now that the house was all set, the next thing to do was to start the moving process. We packed two twenty foot containers with everything we owned. And off we went to Jamaica to meet up with our goods and to start enjoying our retirement years. Well, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Unknown to us our containers were delayed because of miscommunication within the shipping company. No problem! We had booked Sandals for a week figuring it would take that long to get settled in the new house. Because of the delay we extended our stay for two more weeks. If I had to get stranded somewhere in Jamaica, Sandals would be the best place.
When our goods finally arrived, customs advised us to go to immigrations in Kingston to prove that we were actually going to live here. The next day we flew to Kingston to straighten out our difficulties. When we left immigrations in Kingston to catch our flight back to Montego Bay, we encountered another problem. The taxi driver asked us where we wanted to go and I said, ‘To the airport.” For anyone familiar with Kingston they would know there are two airports but not us. After awhile I started to wonder if we were being kidnapped because I didn’t recognize any of the places we were passing. Timidly, I asked the driver where we were going. When he said the airport I said, “I didn’t remember coming this way before.” He then asked where we were flying to and he got a little upset when I told him Montego Bay. By this time we were half way to Norman Manley airport when we should have been going to Tinson Pen which is on the other side of town. When he dropped us off at the correct airport I made him happy by giving him a big tip. I’m sure he now questions his passengers before going to the airport.
During that trip to immigrations they informed us that we needed to go back to the Jamaican Consulate in Boston to obtain a single entry visa. This wasn’t too much of a problem as we intended to head back to Boston for a week shortly after moving to Jamaica anyway to tie up loose ends. When we arrived back with the visa, immigrations would only allow us two weeks to go to Kingston to apply for permanent residency. We hired a driver to take us to Kingston to begin the process for becoming permanent residents. Immigrations gave us a list of requirements and an explanation for the process. Each year we were required to return to immigrations for our yearly renewal and get a multi-entry visa. This had to be done yearly until permanent residency was obtained.
We finally moved into our retirement home but it took some time for the dust to clear. My wife had a million things to do in the house and I had almost as many projects in the yard. The former owner had so many bushes, shrubs, and trees in the front yard it was hard to see the house through them. One thing I found out from the beginning is if you want to get rid of anything growing you have to take it out by the roots. Even that isn’t a guarantee it will never spring back. When I finished all my projects I was surprised I had lost about 15 lbs. The yard and I were now in good shape.
Getting adjusted to this new culture was made easier because we had spent a lot of time and energy exploring the island all those years before we moved here plus reading many books. The hardest change to make was adjusting to the endless long lines wherever we went. These lines could be found just about everywhere like the bank, utility offices, and even downtown traffic. What amazed me back then was all the patience the Jamaican people had. My stress level went way down in no time by following their example. I have since learned that most of my bills can be paid online or on the phone through a service provided by several different banks.
Grocery shopping was another adjustment that took some getting used to. Most of the grocery stores say they are wholesale and retail but that is far from my understanding of what wholesale means. Wholesale in Jamaica means if you buy three or more of an item you get a small discount. Another difficult area I had to overcome was the numerous out of stock of basic goods for weeks at a time. I combat this now by keeping my pantry well stocked of things I know have a tendency to disappear from the shelves frequently. One such item is 1 liter boxed milk which is the most popular way to buy milk. Another product is dried prunes, no snickering please. Prunes were recommended to me by my family doctor to help maintain my healthy heart, as well as the other well known advantage to these dried prunes.
About a year later we decided to find a church to attend. Before long we became directors of the church’s Mission of Mercy program. This was and is an outreach to one of the squatter communities in town. The church provides much needed food items to over a hundred families on a weekly basis. Used clothing is also donated frequently. During the Christmas season a huge party is given to the community in their courtyard where toys are distributed to all the children. In addition to this outreach there was also a school lunch program. Through the generosity of a local businesswoman, the church provided over 500 lunches to seven different schools in Montego Bay every Friday. We were truly blessed in this ministry by seeing all the happy faces and hearing all the thanks and we knew that we were making a difference in the lives of those people. An added blessing that came out of the school lunch feeding program came to us by way of one of the school’s principals. He told us the less fortunate children often didn’t attend school on Friday because they didn’t have any money for lunch. So these children not only got a full belly but also another day of education.
Another school, Jamaica Christian School For The Deaf, invited us to attend a graduation ceremony one year, but we only went because we felt obligated to. I had never been around handicapped children before and was apprehensive about attending this function. Boy was I in for a big surprise! During the program these deaf children signed to a song being played on a CD and later danced a complicated number to perfection. I was totally dumbfounded. I learned then that their school motto was, “Not disabled, but differently abled.” That was then. Today we are strong supporters of the school and sit on the board of directors.
Continued next month. Later…. See Jamaicans.com
I remember seeing yams for sale while driving around the Island on several of my initial road trips in Jamaica. For some reason I was never eager to try them, until one day we stopped in a place called Mandiville where they sold them roasted at outdoor stalls.
It was amazing to witness the roasting process, as the process was clearly not one I had experienced before. The yams were sold with a piece of roasted saltfish, which is basically salt cod. From that day onward I was hooked on yams, and have since found that I prefer them boiled. When they are good, they are nice, soft and not bitter, with a texture similar to that of a boiled potatoe.( Its’ been rumored that the worlds fastest man Usain Bolt, grew up eating these very same Jamaican yams)
This past weekend I was able to eat yet another prize winning piece, which I purchased at a small country market after purchasing 4lbs of the best tuna steak ever. So our dinner consisted of yams, freshly broiled Tuna steak, fresh cucumbers & tomatoes with basil….Divine indeed.
I encourage all newcomers to the Island to explore the various yams, and you will learn that there are several different types as well. The food in Jamaica is good when one is creative.
- 3 lbs. Yam Teaspoon
- Salt or a small piece Salt fish (cod fish)
- Put gloves on your hand as touching raw can will irritate the skin and cause it to itch. If you do not have gloves rub oil on your hands.
- Boil water in pot on a high fire.
- Peel the skin off the yam. The peel should be approximately ¼ inch
- Cut yam in small serving portions
- Rinse the pieces in cold water.
- Place the salt or salt fish in the boiling water
- Add the pieces of yam
- Cook for approximately 32 minutes until tender
- Serve warm