A Comprehensive Guide on Moving to Jamaica
Relocating to Jamaica
An Island Overview
Jamaica is one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful and well-known islands. It is popular among expats, who might move to Jamaica for a few years to further their careers or work on one of the many ongoing economic projects there, for example in the tourism sector. It is also a hotspot for retirees, who arrive in Jamaica in significant numbers every year to spend their golden years in the Caribbean.
Jamaica is a small island nation, and distances between the large tourist centers on the northern and western shores and the capital Kingston — one of the prime expat locations in Jamaica — are almost negligible. Even if you are living in the heart of Kingston, a weekend trip to the beach will only take you a few hours.
With only a few hundred kilometers between Jamaica and the southern USA, as well as Central America, it’s easy to hop on an international flight from one of Jamaica’s two main airports and travel to Havana, the Bahamas, Panama, Miami, or even New York. Moving to Jamaica will give you the chance to discover the rest of the Americas — just in case you ever get tired of life in a tropical paradise!
Kingston and Its Metro Area
As an expat, it is likely that you will settle either in Kingston, the nation’s capital, or somewhere in its metro area. Located in the southeast of the island and encompassing most of the parishes (Jamaican administrative areas) of both Kingston and St. Andrew, Kingston is undoubtedly the cultural and economic hotspot of the country, and understandably popular among expats moving to Jamaica. The city and its metropolitan area are home to a fifth of the nation’s population, with around 600,000 residents (according to the 2011 census). Of course, not everyone enjoys the hustle and bustle of a large capital city, and expats who prefer a quieter life often opt for Portmore, a smaller residential town less than 15 km from Kingston, making it popular among commuters. Spanish Town, historically the island’s capital and now the capital of the St. Catherine parish, is another possible expat destination, with its beautiful historical buildings and excellent location, only around 20 km from Kingston.
Finding Your New Home
Jamaica’s real estate market is booming. It is currently as a “buyer’s market”: supply exceeds demand and buyers can take their pick, although with tourism to the island reaching a record high in 2016 and many countries recovering from the recession, this may change. The numbers of gated communities — closed neighborhoods which often feature their own security guards and fences or walls surrounding the premises — are on the rise and available in most cities in Jamaica, although this is naturally a more expensive option.
If you are new to the country and not sure where to start, you might want to hire a realtor to help you find a suitable new home — check out the accredited member databases on the websites of either the Realtors Association of Jamaica or the Real Estate Board of Jamaica. If you know already what you are looking for and where you want to live, take a look at online housing portals like Property Ads Jamaica or the Housing Agency of Jamaica.
Jamaica: Visa and Admin Issues
How to Enter Jamaica
Many expats looking to go on a fact-finding mission to Jamaica before relocating there will not require a visa, as the country has abolished visa requirements for citizens from a number of countries — check out the Jamaican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade for a helpful overview.
If your country of origin means you need a visa before entering Jamaica, or if you would like to stay for longer than the permitted duration of your visit (which ranges from two weeks to six months, depending on your nationality), you have to apply for a visa at the nearest Jamaican mission. If there is none in your country, contact the nearest one to find out whether other missions, most commonly the British ones, handle visa matters for Jamaica in your area.
Please note that while a Jamaican entry visa is also sufficient for short business trips, provided you have a letter from your employer stating the purpose of your visit, expats who relocate to Jamaica and take up gainful employment need a work permit as well.
To obtain a visa, you usually need to produce the following:
- application form, a pdf of which can be found on the pages of the Jamaican High Commission:
- a passport-sized photograph
- your passport, valid for at least six months after your application
- your travel itinerary or a return ticket
- recent bank statement as proof of funds
- proof of accommodation arrangements
- (for business purposes) a letter from your employer
- application fees: these vary from one nationality to the other, see this list on the website of the Jamaican mission in New York
Processing times may range from a few business days to two or three weeks.
Retrieving Your Work Permit
As previously stated, obtaining a work permit is crucial for any foreign national who would like to take up employment anywhere on the island — the sole exception being if you are married to a Jamaican national. Check out our article on working in Jamaica for a closer look at the application process.
Remember that you will not be able to enter Jamaica with your work permit alone — you need to apply for a work visa as well. The requirements are very similar to those listed above for the entry visa. However, you generally need to include an original letter from your future employer in Jamaica confirming the job offer, and your original work permit approval.
Becoming a Permanent Resident
Expats who have worked in Jamaica for an uninterrupted period of three or more years can apply for permanent residency in the country. The same applies to spouses of Jamaican nationals or retirees with sufficient funds. Check out the Jamaican Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) website for a helpful overview of the application process.
Connect with like-minded expatriates
Discover our welcoming community of expats! You’ll find many ways to network, socialize, and make new friends. Attend online and in-person events that bring global minds together.