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Rejected on return - No concessions for some heading back home after living illegally overseas

Published:Friday | December 11, 2015 | 1:08 PM

Several Jamaicans, who have been living illegally in foreign lands for many years, are being denied important concessions and other benefits offered to returning residents when they decide to come back home because they do not meet the established requirements.
Loi Hinds-McKay, manager of the Returning Residents Unit at the Jamaica Customs Agency, said this is one of the major challenges facing persons who contact the agency seeking information prior to their return to the island.
“A lot of persons may have been away for many years but they have not been there legally. They might work but it is not above board, and one of our required documentation is that they must provide us with their tax returns. How are you going to provide that if you are not working legally?” said Hinds-McKay.
“It is a matter of showing us that you have severed ties with the country in which you are now residing, and you providing us also with documentation to say that you are setting up house here in Jamaica.
“Persons lack the documentation required and they are not able to show to us that they are indeed returning,” added Hinds-McKay.
The Returning Residents Unit which operates out of the Jamaica Customs Agency, processes, investigates and provides information to returning residents wishing to access entitlements offered to the group.
These include the importation of specific amounts of household items, tools for trade and certain music instruments free of customs duty.
In order to qualify, individuals must submit to the RRU, a valid Jamaican or foreign passport endorsed with an unconditional landing stamp, a Validated Bill of Landing or Airway bill, a Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN), and documentary evidence that will substantiate residency outside of Jamaica for three or more years, among other items.
Hinds-McKay said, however, that many of the more than 1,300 persons seeking information from the RRU in the last two years, particularly during the Christmas and summer periods, are being turned away red-faced, even though many have been residing overseas for decades, and fulfil some of the other requirements.
She explained that in addition, the Unit is seeing a significant number or returning residents falsifying documents in an effort to qualify for the entitlements.
This, she warned, is a breach of the Customs Act and persons can be fined up to $500,000 or three times the value of the items.