Sun | Mar 18, 2018

Immigration Corner: I want to retire in Jamaica

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I'm currently living in the United States (US) and have been here since the 1980s. Now that I'm 65 and retired, I'm thinking of returning to my home in Jamaica, but I'm unsure what to do since I would not be able to satisfy the residency requirement for my green card.

How do I ensure that I would be able to visit my doctor and family once I give up my green card? I'm currently receiving my Social Security benefits. Will I be able to receive the same once I move to Jamaica? I am being pushed to take US citizenship. Is this something I must do to ensure access to the US and to my full benefits?

- D.W.


Dear D.W.,

You are wise to be exploring this situation before actually returning to live in Jamaica. So many others who, like yourself, lived in the US for decades, return to Jamaica to retire without exploring the consequences and are then disappointed.

As a green-card holder, you are supposed to live in the US. When you remain outside the US for extended periods or for the majority of time, you jeopardise your permanent residency status. As a green-card holder, if you remain outside the US for a year or more, you will be considered to have abandoned your residency. Additionally, and more important, even if you make one or two visits to the US for short periods, but are not really living in the US, you can still lose your green card.

In your situation, you should certainly obtain US citizenship before returning to live in Jamaica in order to preserve your access to the US. You should not surrender your green card without obtaining US citizenship. As a 65-year-old US retiree, you are entitled to monthly Social Security payments and Medicare: doctor/hospital/prescription/vision/dental benefits. If you lose your residency, you will jeopardise your benefits that you have obviously worked for over the years.

Becoming a US citizen will not deprive you of your Jamaican citizenship. You would only be impacted if you wish to hold a constitutional office in Jamaica and/or run for Parliament.

- 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. Email: