Sun | Jun 20, 2021

Seeking to claim my Jamaican roots

Published:Tuesday | March 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Hello Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I was born and raised in the United States (US). My parents are Jamaica-born and have been US citizens for decades. I am married and have my own children and I am in the process of claiming dual citizenship through my Jamaican parents. I don't ever plan on living in Jamaica. I would like to obtain dual citizenship to keep myself and my children connected to our heritage. I have a few questions.

1. Once I obtain Jamaican citizenship will I be able to obtain Jamaican citizenship for my children?

2. Will I be able to obtain a Jamaican passport at the Jamaican consulate in New York or the Jamaican embassy in Washington, DC?

3. In the US, irrespective of where you live in the world you have to pay income taxes. Does Jamaica have any similar tax laws?

4. Are there any drawbacks on either the US or Jamaican side to holding dual citizenship?

- LLH

Dear LLH,

It is heart-warming to learn that you want to claim your Jamaican heritage for yourself and your children. Jamaica is certainly the 'biggest little county in the world' in my estimation. Jamaica is a country of almost three million citizens living on its shores and an almost equal number living in the diaspora. It is wonderful when first- and second-generation Jamaicans claim their birthright.

Both you and your children are able to claim Jamaican citizenship through your parents. The government of Jamaica will want to prove your lineage to Jamaica and, in addition to proving who you are, you will need to prove your connection to your parents (and grandparents) and they in turn will have to prove they are Jamaicans. The Jamaica Information Service has an excellent website with all things Jamaican and have an informative link that breaks down all that is required to claim Jamaican citizenship (http://www.jis.gov.jm/faq/applying-for-jamaican-citizenship). A person is able to claim Jamaican citizenship through descent, marriage, naturalisation, and registration.

Length of stay

Jamaican citizenship, among other things, allows you to bear a Jamaican passport. When travelling to Jamaica with a Jamaican passport you are allowed to remain in Jamaica indefinitely, as opposed to if you enter Jamaica with a foreign passport and are allotted a specific period of stay. The Jamaican Consulate in New York should be your point of contact to process your application for Jamaican citizenship. For other Jamaicans in the diaspora, all of the Jamaican embassies, high commissions, and consulates are prepared to help all Jamaicans claim their birthright.

To be subject to income tax in Jamaica you must be domiciled in Jamaica. If this applies, you should contact an accountant who is familiar with both US and Jamaican income tax laws. A green-card holder and a US citizen are required to file US tax returns on their worldwide income - no matter where you live and work.

Drawbacks and limitation

The drawbacks and limitation to holding both Jamaican and US citizenship are really individualised. Dual citizenship has been a hot-button topic in Jamaica for the last few years because of the limitation that a Jamaican who is also a US citizen cannot hold public office, but a commonwealth citizen with certain requirements can. On the US side of the coin, there are limitations to certain sensitive government jobs that dual citizenship may prevent you from obtaining.

Good luck to you and your children as you learn more about Jamaica and her history. This year (2012) is Jamaica's jubilee and a wonderful opportunity for first- and second-generation members of the Jamaican diaspora to delve into the rich history and culture that is Jamaica, land we love.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises law in Florida in the areas of immigration, family, corporate & personal injury law. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. Email: info@walkerhuntington.com. Leary Mullings, Certified Public Accountant & Chartered Accountant contributed to this article. leary.mullings@crichtonmullings.com