Jamaican Immigration Experience> Shared

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.

John Shares:

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
Website: www.pica.gov.jm

So there you have it folks, onward John and Ann his wife goes.

Questions Being Asked by a Future Expat Manager

See Answers under each question: as I am answering directly from an email sent to me.

I need to decide over the next 5 days to take a job offer (to move to Kingston Jamaica as an expat with a foreign company,  in a role as company manager) or to not move and take up another European offer. So unfortunately I cannot wait for the 6 day or so delivery of the paid for information( books)  and need it all in one quick delivery so it can help me make up my mind.

Please visit: Why Workers Won’t Work> http://fwconsulting.com/ideas.php?sub=downloads

It’s from a company called  FrameworkConsulting.

This paper summarizes the book Why Workers Won’t Work: The worker in a developing economy. A case study of Jamaica by Kenneth L. Carter. It’s a seminal work and acts as a powerful guide to both new and experienced managers. This paper may be useful in understanding the Jamaican employee.
The second download on the same page is ” The Trinidadian Executive.” It describes managers who came to work here in Jamaica thinking that they’d have “no problem” as they, too, were from the Caribbean.  The paper describes the shock they experienced and what can be learned from the experience.

I have 3 burning questions though & if you can help me with a response I would be very grateful;

The world of WORK!!!!!!

Ouestion:1. I hear that renting a house and electricity bills are unusually high, so I want to make sure the company allowance limit (for rent and utilities) is realistic. So  for a comfortable 2 bedroom house / flat for my wife & myself in a secure community e.g. for expats (maybe with access to sports facilities / pool etc ?) what\’s the current typical monthly rental range and utilities bill (we have no children only my wife & myself)?

Answer: I will quote in US. as 98% rental fees are pegged to US due to Jamaica’s  economy. You will spend  maybe $2000 a month for something very nice, as a  town house or Apartment. If it’s furnished, then prepare to spend abit more. Lately however bargains can be had, as a great deal of people have rental properties simply sitting unoccupied due to the worldwide economic slump. Realtors  will however try to close a deal as more commissioned is gained if they put you in a more expensive places.

So if your company does not have a Realtor for you to work with let me know I can recommend one, or our book mentions a few reputable companies.
Make certain you do not move into any housing that is without grills on ALL doors and windows. Are you sure that you will be based in Kingston, as it’s the most expensive area. Rents  prices are less outside on Kingston corporate area, but Kingston is also where 95% of Expats live. Are you not allowed to come on a pre-arrival trip to have a look see? Really push for this if it’s an option. There is an International community here, representing several countries, as my neighbors are from Columbia and I know women from Wales, New Zealand, Thailand, Venezuela, Ireland & Chile. So your wife will certainly find company if she so desires. I will share more in this area if you decide to move here.

Rarely are gyms in living communities here, only two or three places for rent have as much, and they may cost US$2500 to $3000. a Month. A few good gyms in the Kingston areas are mentioned in our book. I have one pal who works at the EU and they live in a great area called Russell Heights, the complex is called Durie Estates and it has a good, small, reliable gym on the premises.

Even ask if the company has temporary Corporate housing, as you can come then  have a look see, and ship your things say 6 months later. Rushing this sort of a move is not encouraged. I would  also attempt to bargain for a company car for 6 months or driver and corporate housing, bargain hard, as it will make your  choices easier.

Electricity bills here are un-usually high, and it has been escalating the last 4-6 months. Many of the local Jamaicans are complaining like mad. Our last two months bills averaged US $200 ( Oct. Nov. 2008) Then December was US $150. and we have zero children nor do we run Air Conditioning. We work from home, so who knows? Telephone is about $50 to $60 US with internet another US$55.00  month.

Continue reading “Questions Being Asked by a Future Expat Manager”

Charitable or Educational Institutions and Organisations

The Tax Administration maintains a list of approved institutions and organizations established and operated for charitable or educational purposes:


Visit the Online Telephone Directory for making contact with these organizations.

Education/ Schools Links

Ministry of Education & Youth
2 National Heroes Circle
Jamaica, West Indies

This information may be helpful for individuals researching schools in Jamaica. I strongly recommend doing a pre-arrival trip where you visit the schools or facilities, before you fully relocate and enroll your children.

I have had clients tell me, that their children cried for months. If your child is timid or quiet, the culture shock may be alarming. Some individuals have mentioned the idea of perhaps allowing your child to sit out a term while adapting to the new cultural norms and then having them begin school the following term.

There are more schools in Kingston for Expat families than say Ocho Rios, Mobay or Negril, so this must be considered. It is recommended that you contact your home country’s Embassy in Jamaica for an extensive school listing.

Two popular private Schools in Kingston are:

Hillel Academy
Shelia Purdom (Director)
51 Upper Markway
Kingston 8, Jamaica
Tel: (876) 925-1980; 941-2912
E-mail: hilleldirector@cwjamaica.com

American International School of Kingston (AISK)
Principal: Bruce Goforth
1a Oliver Road
Tel: (876) 755-2634-6
Fax: (876) 925-4749
E-mail: office@aisk.com

Online Telephone Directory

I find this site to be extremely helpful and utilize it almost daily. Once you arrive at the home page, click on the the link to the Online Telephone Directory in the left hand side bar. This will then show a listing of many businesses across the island, with phone numbers included.