10 Things You Need To Know Before Returning To Live In Jamaica


The process of moving home can be daunting and exhausting but armed with the necessary information and a firm plan of action, the process can go fairly smoothly.

Having worked in the shipping industry for several years, and personally taking charge of the relocation efforts of scores of returning residents, we tapped Besco Shippers Inc. CEO, Anthony Harding for some practical advice on relocating to Jamaica. What can they expect, what are the requirements and what are the main questions returning residents usually want answered.

1. Who is eligible to be a returning resident?

  • Jamaican national over 18 years of age living in a foreign country for more than three years.
  • Student living in a foreign country for more than a year.
  • Jamaicans who have US, UK or Canadian citizenship and who desire to return home.
  • Deportees who have lived overseas for more than three years (Must provide proof of residency from country deported).
  • Non Jamaican spouses also qualify for returning resident status.

2. How long do I have to ship all my goods?

Within six months. An extension of this grace period may be granted in special circumstances.

3. Do I need a custom broker to clear my goods?

Yes, a licensed custom broker knows the requirements and procedures and can facilitate faster clearance and delivery of your goods.

4. How do I go about shipping my furniture or tools of trade?

  • If returning with furniture or tools of trade it is best to use a 20/40 ft container.
  • Use an established shipping company or freight forwarder who will pack your items and arrange for transportation and will issue a Bill of Lading.
  • Make a comprehensive list of items you wish to take. This is called a manifest.

5. How long can I keep my cargo at the wharf before storage is incurred?

Once the cargo has arrived, the cargo is ready for processing. You have approximately seven days to claim your cargo before storage is applied.

6. Special cases

  • Non-Jamaican male spouses or persons who qualify for returning resident status are afforded the same concessions as their Jamaican partner. This provision applied previously only to non-Jamaican female spouses of returning residents.
  • A couple will be treated as one family if they return together
  • Spouses who do not return together but do so within three years of each other are treated as one family and are entitled to only one concession.

7. Mandatory interview

It is necessary to attend an interview at the Returning Residents Unit of the Customs Department at the head office in Kingston or Montego Bay. The following documents must be presented at the interview:

  • Valid passport; if recently issued, expired passport must also be presented.
  • Documentary evidence to substantiate residence outside of Jamaica for more than the last three (3) consecutive years (Short visits to Jamaica for vacation do not affect eligibility).
  • Documentary evidence to substantiate intention to re-establish permanent residence in Jamaica.
  • In the case of students, a letter from the university, college or educational institution attended, confirming the duration of the course of study or time spent at the institution.
  • The Unaccompanied Baggage Declaration Form (C27) (obtainable at the airport/seaport on arrival in Jamaica);
  • Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN) card
  • Validated Bill of Lading

8. Importation of motor vehicles

  • Any Jamaican over 18 years old may import two motor vehicles, whether a motor car and a light commercial unit or two light commercial units.
  • Used vehicles should not be more than three years old in the case of motor cars, or four years old in the case of light commercial vehicles, at the time of importation.

9. Importation of personal property

  • Animals  The importation of pets and other animals into the country requires a permit from the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture. This permit, which must be obtained prior to importation, attracts a fee. Certain conditions, as well as other customs, quarantine and veterinary fees are also applicable. It should be noted that in the case of dogs and cats, only those that are born and bred in the United Kingdom may be imported into Jamaica.
  • Plants & plant products – A phyto-sanitary permit is required for the importation of plants and plant products. The application for such permit should be submitted in writing to the Chief Quarantine Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and should indicate the items, quantities and country of origin.
  • Prohibited or banned substances – The importation of equipment and appliances containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is prohibited. Equipment such as, refrigerators/freezers and air-conditioners for domestic, commercial and motor vehicular use may fall in this category.
  • General goods – Returning residents should also be aware of the possibility that certain goods might require an import permit or other certification. Therefore, it is advisable to clarify the status of a particular item with the Trade Board in the event of any doubt.

10. Penalties for noncompliance with import regulations

It is anticipated that most persons will comply with the various regulations and conditions relating to the concessions and assistance given to Returning Residents. In cases of abuse of any concessions, the law provides for a number of stiff penalties for non-compliance with the regulations and conditions. Penalties include: Punitive customs duty; fines and confiscation of illegally imported items.

Read more from our Returning Residents Guide.