Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Immigration Corner: Am I a Jamaican?

Published:Tuesday | June 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I was born in Jamaica. I worked in Jamaica for several years, but I came to the United States (US) and obtained residency and will be eligible for citizenship in 2016. I am wondering if my new US status will affect me living or working in Jamaica in the future. How will I prove that I am still a Jamaican? Would I have to give up my US citizenship or since my parents are still Jamaican, am I, by default, still Jamaican with US citizenship? I am not sure if I also could be considered a dual citizen. If I should visit Jamaica, would there be a time limit on how long I could stay in the country?

- LS

Dear LS,

The short answer is yes, you are still a Jamaican.

Jamaica allows dual citizenship, so by becoming a US citizen, you do not lose your Jamaican citizenship. In recent years, litigation has revealed that if you are an American citizen and a Jamaican citizen, you cannot hold certain constitutional jobs/positions in Jamaica, e.g., become a member of parliament. So, unless you plan to run for elected office in Jamaica or take certain constitutional positions, becoming a US citizen will not hurt you as a Jamaican.

Once you become a US citizen, you will be entitled to a US passport. You are still entitled to a Jamaican passport as a Jamaican citizen. If you enter Jamaica on a US passport, the Jamaican immigration officer will treat you as an American, and you will be given a specific amount of time to remain in Jamaica and you would not be authorised to work without further permission.

On the other hand, if you enter Jamaica as a Jamaican on your Jamaican passport, you can remain in Jamaica for as long as you wish and you may work or conduct any legal activity - except hold a constitutional office.

- Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Justice.