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Immigration Corner: Can I overstay in Jamaica?

Published:Tuesday | November 3, 2015 | 11:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington, I am Jamaican by birth but a naturalised United States (US) citizen. I recently came back to Jamaica and, at the airport, they stamped 'landed until Nov 4, 2015' in my passport. Can I stay past that time? Will I lose my US citizenship if I stay too long out the country?

-KAD

Dear KAD,

If you land in Jamaica and are admitted with a US passport, you are present in Jamaica as a US citizen. As such, the Jamaican government can limit your period of stay in Jamaica. Like all countries, Jamaica has its own system of immigration and limits how long visitors can remain in the country.

The fact that you landed using the passport of another country makes you a visitor to Jamaica. As hard as that is for many Jamaicans who hold foreign citizenship to accept, it is the law. Having landed as a visitor and being also a Jamaican citizen by birth, you can apply for a status known as 'unconditional landing' that will allow you to remain in Jamaica indefinitely. Please contact the Passport, Immigration & Citizenship Agency in Jamaica to find out about obtaining that status.

In the future, to avoid such a situation you should obtain a Jamaican passport, and when you land in Jamaica use your Jamaican passport to enter and to leave; and when you re-enter the US, use your US passport to enter the States. You may be asked to show your US passport, on leaving Jamaica, to demonstrate that you have legal status in the US.

As a US citizen, you can remain outside the US for as long as you wish and never lose your US citizenship. However, as a US citizen (or green-card holder), you are required to file your US income taxes every year, based on your worldwide income. Some persons believe that, because they do not earn any money in the US, they are not required to file US taxes - this is not so. For tax compliance information, please contact a US-licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for guidance.

- 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.

info@walkerhuntington.com