$100,000 to stay in Ja
Three British women, each living in Jamaica for more than 50 years, have been turning to family and friends to find $100,000 each, which they will have to pay for the right to remain in the island.
The women are widows of Jamaicans and have spent more than half a century building Jamaica through education, administration, tourism, and charitable organisations.
In that time, they have had hassle-free trips to and from Jamaica until their problems started last year.
According to the women, they did not apply for Jamaican citizenship while their husbands were alive because they had a stamp in their passports that gave them unconditional entry into the island.
Now they are being told that they will have to fork out the $100,000 to apply for permanent residence status, up from $50,000 last year.
One of the three women, Ann Scott, told The Sunday Gleaner: "I have been living in Jamaica for 57 years and I'm afraid to travel to the United Kingdom because of uncertainty when I return to Jamaica. My passport is almost expired and I will need a new stamp. I cannot take the risk because my family are all Jamaican citizens."
Her fears arose out of the experience of her friend, Iris Harvey, who returned to Jamaica after a regional expedition.
Harvey claims she was told by an employee of the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), after perusing her documents that "you really have no right to be in Jamaica". She expressed shock and reported that the incident occurred only because her husband had died.
The third woman, Katherine White, said she had a similar experience.
"I was told the only way I could stay in Jamaica is to apply for permanent residence. Now, how does a retiree just fork up $100,000? After long deliberation, I eventually got a 90-day stamp in my passport," said White.
Harris has since gone through the process of applying for permanent residence status, and after paying her $100,000, was successful. But that was after family members and friends chipped in with some of the money.
White has started the process, also with money from family and friends, but Scott is yet to apply. "I am a retiree and I simply don't have that kind of money," declared Scott.
Public relations officer at PICA Angela Hamilton has defended the decision to ask the women to apply for permanent residence.
"People cannot live in Jamaica indefinitely. Citizenship applications must be made," declared Hamilton.
"If any of the women was granted unconditional landing due to marriage to a Jamaican, then we will continue to honour the status, though their husbands are now deceased.
"If any has been living in Jamaica without any status, then they need to regularise their stay on the island, and the possible options are permanent residence and citizenship," added Hamilton.
However, this does not sit well with the women.
"This is simply ridiculous as I was married to a Jamaican man for 37 years until his death, and having served the county, I should not have to go through this process!" argued Scott.
She charged that there were several other instances where members of the British community living in Jamaica faced these immigration concerns.
The British High Commission later confirmed that British nationals faced some immigration challenges.
"British nationals have sought assistance from the high commission for a number of immigration matters, including them wishing to remain as tourists beyond the visa-free periods of 90 days and persons wishing to reside and work in Jamaica."
The high commission noted that it had no authority to interfere in the immigration laws of Jamaica and advised British nationals to apply to PICA to obtain the necessary permission to remain in the island.