Find A Job
Jamaica is developing as a market for expats seeking employment in a number of ways and is moving beyond the traditional employers of hospitality and tourism. After major challenges to the economy, the nation is now beginning to bounce back, with a number of new government initiatives designed to attract investors.
The island’s service sector is still a major contributor to the country’s GDP, but mining (alumina and bauxite) are still significant, although the sector has declined somewhat. The music industry is also a major player, with a number of internationally recognized recording studios on the island. So if you are planning on seeking work here, you have some intriguing options to consider.
The Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Act seeks to ensure that qualified Jamaicans are given first consideration for employment vacancies. However, Jamaica does suffer from some skills shortages and thus also seeks to strike a balance between prioritizing local hire, and plugging any skills gaps.
You cannot work legally in Jamaica without a work permit, but you will need to have an offer of employment before you can apply for one via the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS). Note that if you are a Commonwealth citizen, you will be able to apply for a permit once you have arrived in the country. United States citizens, who are not Commonwealth citizens, need to ensure that they obtain a work permit before applying for work visas at either a Jamaican Embassy or Consulate.
The requirements means that your employer will do the bulk of the application for you, but you will still need to supply:
• a work permit application (you will need to fill out the first part of this and your employer must do the rest)
• a letter from your employer detailing the nature of the job and the reason why a Jamaican applicant could not be hired
• your CV/resume
• your qualifications (you will need to get any certificates or diplomas apostilled)
• an up to date police clearance check
• 2 photographs
• 2 copies of your passport
• a completed application for taxpayer registration in the form of a Tax Compliance Certificate
You will need to pay an application fee, the amount of which will depend on your profession: you can check this with the MLSS.
If you are self employed, you can apply for a work permit yourself via the MLSS. You will need the following documentation:
• the nature and duration of your work
• certified copies of your qualifications
• 2 x passport photographs
• your CV/resume
• an up to date police clearance record
You will need to pay a non-refundable processing fee of JMD$14,400 (US$109) but you will then need to pay for the permit itself (the cost of this depends on the duration of the permit).
You will also need an entrance visa in addition to a work permit: some countries have reciprocal visa arrangements with Jamaica and you will be permitted to stay on the island for a limited time before you need to formalize your arrangements.
If you have specialist qualifications and experience in the mining or music sectors, you might wish to consider Jamaica as an option. Tourism in Jamaica continues to be a booming area: the Tourism Minister has projected that the tourism sector will provide 41,000 new jobs on the island by 2022.
Construction is also expanding although the majority of jobs in this sector go to locals. If you have specialist skills in this sector, however, it is worth exploring the possibility of employment.
All 7 days of the week, including Sundays, are now considered to be working days. The working week is capped at 40 hours, and you can work up to 12 hours in a 24-hour period. You will be paid overtime if you work beyond these hours.
The minimum wage is JMD $7000 (US$52) for a 40-hour working week.
You will be entitled to sick pay, of up to 2 weeks: the amount will depend on how long you have been working for your employer. If you are pregnant, you will also be entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave if you have been working with an employer for 1 year but will only be paid for 8 weeks of this.
Vacation leave is complicated and depends on the length of time that you have worked, but on average you will be entitled to 2 weeks’ leave per year.
Your spouse will not need a work permit if you are a Jamaican national, but if you are not they will not be able to work under your visa, but will require a separate permit. If you are a Commonwealth citizen, your dependents (over 18) will be entitled to apply for work permits on arriving in Jamaica.
Speculative applications to companies in Jamaica are common and you can also apply online through one of the many jobs boards or recruitment agencies.
You will find a number of major jobs websites, both for Jamaica (Jamaican Medium is a major player) and the Caribbean as a whole.
Applying For A Job
A standard one page CV/resume is acceptable.
Currently Jamaica has no law preventing discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. If you are a member of a sexual minority, you need to be aware that you may encounter discrimination in Jamaica: sexual contact between men is illegal, although a change in the legislation is pending and it is legal between women. Gender equality, however, has been improving.
Qualifications And Training
It is recommended that you get any copies of certificates and diplomas relating to your qualifications apostilled.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
The Caribbean island of Jamaica is very popular as a tourist destination. Tourism and hospitality are the country’s principal industries. It also holds appeal for adventurous expats looking for employment. If you are planning on visiting or working in Jamaica, you may need to apply for a visa. Read on to learn more about this process.
You may need a visa to visit Jamaica, depending on your nationality, the reason for your trip and how long you are planning to stay there. The Jamaican government website lists the visa requirements for nationals of each country.
Nationals of many countries do not need a visa for a stay of up to 30 days in Jamaica, so long as you have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your intended departure date and a round-trip or onward ticket.
If you are a British national, you don’t need a visa to visit Jamaica, and you will usually be granted entry for up to 90 days. The date by which you must leave Jamaica will be stamped in your passport. If you wish to extend your stay beyond this date, you will need to apply to the Jamaican immigration authorities, but the government says that Commonwealth citizens can be granted a period of up to a year.
If you are a US national, you will not need a visa for your first six months on the island, and you can apply for an extension to the immigration authorities.
If you are visiting the island as part of a cruise, you will not need a visa, although you should bring your passport / travel documents with you.
Visas for entry into Jamaica are issued by your local Jamaican embassy, high commission, consulate general or consulate.
You can only apply for a long-stay visa if you have also applied for a residence permit. For this kind of visa, you will need to submit your application in person. Children under the age of 18 must also apply in person.
To apply for a Jamaican visa, you will need to submit the following documentation:
• One photograph
• Your passport (with the relevant validity)
• Your return ticket / itinerary, with a re-entry visa (for those who are not nationals of their present country of residence), or onward ticket with a visa for another destination
• Your most recent bank statement (proving that sufficient funds are available for your visit)
• Your hotel booking confirmation (if staying in a hotel), or proof that adequate arrangements have been made for accommodation and maintenance during your visit
From the UK, your visa will cost £25, plus an additional £7 for return post. This should be payable in cash if you are applying in-person, or via postal orders. Personal cheques and card payments are not currently accepted.
The fee at entry, for if you come without a visa and you need one, is US$100.00.
There may be a penalty charge of US$350.00 for individuals who arrive at a port of entry without the requisite visa.
The cost if you want to extend your stay beyond the visa exemption period is JM$50,000 (US$357).
For applications delivered in person, you should allow at least three business days for processing. If the visa application has been referred to the Jamaican authorities for approval or has been submitted by post, please allow two to three weeks for processing.
You cannot work legally in Jamaica without a work permit, and you will need to have an offer of employment before you can apply for one via the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS). Note that if you are a Commonwealth citizen, you will be able to apply for a permit once you have arrived in the country. If you are a citizen of the United States, you need to ensure that you obtain a work permit before you apply for a work visa at either a Jamaican embassy or consulate.
The requirements means that your employer will do the bulk of the application for you, but you will still need to supply:
• A work permit application (you will need to fill out the first part of this, and your employer must do the rest)
• A letter from your employer detailing the nature of the job and the reason why a Jamaican applicant could not be hired
• Your CV/resume
• Your qualifications (you will need to get any certificates or diplomas apostilled)
• An up-to-date police clearance check
• Two photographs
• Two copies of your passport
• A completed application for taxpayer registration, in the form of a Tax Compliance Certificate
You will need to pay an application fee, the amount of which will depend on your profession. You can check this with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS).
If you are self-employed, you can apply for a work permit yourself via the MLSS. You will need the following documentation:
• Description of the nature and duration of your work
• Certified copies of your qualifications
• Two passport photographs
• Your CV/resume
• An up-to-date police clearance record
You will need to pay a non-refundable processing fee of JMD$14,400 (US$109), as well as a fee for the permit itself, the cost of which depends on how long the permit lasts for.
You will need an entrance visa in addition to a work permit. Some countries have reciprocal visa arrangements with Jamaica, and you will be permitted to stay on the island for a limited time before you need to formalise your own arrangements.
Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Rent Or Buy Property
Rental prices can vary considerably, depending on where you choose to live, but generally renting in Jamaica is very affordable. According to Numbeo, the average rent price for a one-bedroom apartment in central Kingston is JMD $71,818.18 (c. USD $512). In Montego Bay, the average cost is JMD $50,000 (c. USD $355); in Ocho Rios it’s JMD $74,000 (c. USD $532); and in Negril it’s JMD $30,000 (c. USD $215).
You can save a lot of money by renting a room in a shared property. There are many large villas in Jamaica, where you can get a room for a great price, so this can be a great way to save money if you are relocating alone and are willing to sacrifice some privacy. Many Jamaican properties, especially shared houses, are rented furnished, which in some cases can mean even crockery is provided. However, you can also find unfurnished options, if you would prefer to use your own furniture and appliances.
There is no shortage of short-term rentals in Jamaica, given its popularity as a holiday destination. However, if you want to sign an official lease agreement on a freehold property, this must be for at least one year, as specified by the Registration of Titles Act.
The easiest way to find a rental property in Jamaica is by enlisting the services of an estate agent. You can also search online, through sites such as Keller Williams, Remax Elite, Sagicor, and Coldwell Banker.
In recent years, there have been disputes between landlords and tenants over whether or not security deposits are lawful. In 2018, a court case found that landlords can legally request security deposits, because the sum is recoverable by the tenant at the end of the tenancy. Security deposits are commonplace now, and are usually equal to one month’s rent.
Jamaican law is generally in the tenant’s favour. Firstly, under the Rent Restriction Act, landlords cannot increase rent by more than 7.5% per year without getting approval from the Rent Board. Furthermore, even after the end of the tenancy term, landlords can only evict tenants if the tenant has failed to pay rent for 30 days, has breached the tenancy agreement, or if the landlord needs the property for residential purposes (for themselves or their family). The landlord has to give the tenant 30 days’ notice for any of these reasons, and the tenant can request an extension.
By law, landlords must register their property with the Rent Assessment Board. Make sure you check the landlord has done so before you sign your rental contract, to avoid any difficulties that may arise if the landlord is charged or convicted.
Jamaica is considered to be a buyer’s market, and there are no restrictions on foreigners buying property. The only thing you will need is a Tax Registration Number (TRN), which you can apply for on the Tax Administration Jamaica website.
Popular websites to search for property include Property Ads Jamaica, Century 21, Victoria Mutual and Keller Williams, and it is recommended that you work with a realtor/estate agent. You can find estate agents by looking at the members lists on the Real Estate Board of Jamaica and Realtors Association of Jamaica websites.
If you plan to obtain a mortgage, certain banks will offer mortgages to foreigners, but bear in mind that it may be considerably cheaper to borrow from a bank in your home country. The bank will want to see proof of your employment status, income and credit history, and will require that your monthly income is at least three times the cost of the monthly mortgage payment.
It is not a legal requirement in Jamaica that you engage a lawyer’s services, but it is strongly advised to have someone check over and approve contracts and title deeds. When you have had an offer accepted, you should arrange for your lawyer to carry out a land survey and title deed search, to clarify what you will be purchasing and to check for any conflicts of interest or other claims on the property.
Once everything is confirmed and you and your lawyer are satisfied, it is recommended that you register a caveat to ensure no other claims can be made against the property. The seller’s lawyer will prepare the Agreement of Sale, which both you and the seller must sign.
The signed agreement should be submitted to the Office of the Registrar of Titles, and the down payment (10% to 20% of the property value, as specified in the Agreement of Sale) must be sent to the seller’s lawyer. At this point, stamp duty (a flat fee of JMD $5,000 split equally between buyer and seller) and transfer tax (2% of the property value, which the seller must fund but the buyer must submit) must be paid and the agreement stamped by the government, within 30 days, to validate the conveyance of land and to avoid substantial penalties.
The deed can then be transferred and the sale is complete. If you have obtained a mortgage, you may have to wait up to 90 days from signing to complete the purchase.
The process of buying or renting property in Jamaica can be stressful for an expat not used to such a laid-back attitude, but once you have secured your home, you can really begin to settle into the relaxed Caribbean culture.
Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: Jamaica health insurance
Jamaica has a two-tier health insurance system, but healthcare in Jamaica is not of a high standard, and you may wish to consider a private policy with a medical evacuation clause, as more serious conditions may need to be treated off the island.
Jamaica has a two-tier system of health insurance, with both public and private cover. However, it is in the process of overhauling the national health insurance scheme, run by the National Health Fund (NHF), an agency of the Ministry of Health (established in 2003 by the National Health Fund Act) and is aiming to provide the Jamaican population with universal coverage.
Jamaica is also pouring money into hospitals and other medical infrastructures, in line with WHO guidelines. Thus the standard of public healthcare in Jamaica can be anticipated to undergo improvement, but at present you can expect to find advanced facilities only in Kingston and Montego Bay and these may not be up to the standard that you would expect in, for instance, the US.
The NHF Card Programme provides subsidies to every person living in Jamaica at any age for the treatment of 17 chronic illnesses including epilepsy, asthma, arthritis, diabetes and depression, and will also allow you to access prescriptions. It works on a co-payment system, in which the NHF pays the bulk of the cost and you must cover the rest.
Your employer should register you with the national scheme or a private provider, depending on your employment package.
If you wish to sign up with the NHF yourself, you will need to follow this procedure:
• collect an NHF Application Form from your doctor, hospital, health clinic, pharmacy, NHF Head Office or NHF Helpdesk locations
• take it to your doctor, who will fill in your medical history
• the doctor must sign the card, including their registration number
• complete the relevant sections of the card – name address, date of birth, gender and your Tax Registration Number (TRN). If you do not have a TRN card, apply to your nearest Tax Office
• ensure that you copy the number correctly on your application or attach a photocopy to the completed application form, and mail or take them to the NHF office
• an adult or a legal guardian must sign the application card for children under the age of 18
Open A Bank Account
Many of the hotels, restaurants and shops serving the tourist trade in Jamaica will accept US dollar bills. If you are living and working in Jamaica, this is a useful way to use up your spare cash. However, the reality is that you’ll need to get to grips with the local currency sooner or later.
The Jamaican dollar has the currency symbol J$. It can be divided into a hundred cents, although cents as legal tender coins have been withdrawn as they are worth so little. One Jamaican dollar is worth less than a hundredth of a US dollar or British pound, so you will need time to acclimatise to the prices.
Many items are imported into Jamaica and therefore cost more to buy, so it’s important to understand the purchasing power of the Jamaican dollar. Currency fluctuations and an inflation rate which is typically higher than that in the US and UK also impacts the relative amounts you will pay if your income arrives from abroad.
You don’t want to be walking away from a bargain thinking it is too expensive, but at the same time, you need to quickly identify when you are buying something with a premium price tag. Wages are low in Jamaica and large retirement incomes cannot be replenished. Translating the cost of a meal into your home currency will distract you from understanding the true impact on your new financial situation. This means that whatever your circumstances, learning to think in Jamaican currency terms and work out what your budget does and does not stretch to will be beneficial.
Notes And Coins Used In Jamaica
Jamaican legal tender is supervised by the country’s central bank, which is the Bank of Jamaica.
In 2018, the Bank of Jamaica withdrew the remaining cent coins. There had been a steep reduction in demand for these coins because of their insignificant value, which meant the manufacturing and monitoring costs were not worthwhile.
As a result, the smallest denomination of coin that is now accepted as legal tender is the $1 coin. Interestingly, the cost of manufacturing a $1 coin is more than double its face value. The only reason it remains in circulation is to meet consumer demand for it.
Businesses have been asked to round their prices up or down so all goods and services would only cost a round number of Jamaican dollars, with no cents.
This means that today only the J$1, J$5, J$10, and J$20 coins are legal tender in Jamaica. The Jamaican banknotes in circulation are J$50, J$100, J$500, J$1000 and J$5000.
Using Debit And Credit Cards In Jamaica
Large companies and retailers will accept payment by debit and credit cards, including American Express. However, if you are making small purchases from a roadside seller or marketplace, expect to pay cash.
Expats living in a foreign country for any length of time should investigate the credit cards that are available in their new home. If you continue to use the card issued in your home country, you will be charged a foreign transaction fee and currency conversion rate for every transaction. The higher your monthly spend, the more these charges build up.
Debit cards are normally issued when you open a bank account. Again, currency conversion and foreign currency fees can chip away at your monthly budget.
Credit cards can often be a better financial product for making purchases because of the insurance offered over specified transaction values. That said, be careful to keep your credit card spend within a set budget and pay the balance off in full each month. Interest rates charged on outstanding credit card balances are significantly higher than you would obtain from taking out a bank loan.
As explained in the ExpatFocus Article ‘Here Are Five Things Expats Love About Living In Jamaica, And Five Things They Hate’, customer services across the island often fail to live up to the standards expected in the UK and particularly the US. Poor pay and an easy-going attitude to life as well as inefficient bureaucracy and systems can make the process of getting things done slow and painful. So don’t be surprised if you find teething problems when you are opening an account or trying to get something sorted quickly.
Opening A Bank Account In Jamaica
When choosing a bank account, some of the factors you can consider are:
● The charges for different bank account transactions
● Any monthly fees that may be levied
● The level of initial deposit required
● The rate of interest offered for credit balances
● Online services
● The proximity of the bank’s branches to your home or work
● The opening hours of the bank branch
● The proximity of the bank’s ATMs to your home and work
● The local reputation of the bank
The Bank of Jamaica publishes a list of the commercial banks which are licensed to operate in Jamaica. This includes the contact details and the website links for each bank.
Documents Required To Open A Bank Account In Jamaica
Each bank is required to confirm the identity of every bank account applicant, as well as to check their source of income.
Cybercrime is a significant global issue. According to the Insurance Information Institute, based in New York, the scale of the problem is breath-taking. They tell us that: “McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) estimated the likely annual cost to the global economy from cybercrime is $445 billion a year, with a range of between $375 billion and $575 billion”.
For cybercrime to happen, bank accounts in false names are required somewhere in the money transfer chain.
Even on a smaller scale, bank accounts can facilitate crime. Drug dealers and other criminals accumulating large cash stocks need somewhere safe to keep them, while officials accepting bribes rarely want piles of cash sitting in their homes. Bank staff are supposed to check the level of income an individual has and what their source of money is. If suspicious cash deposits or higher than expected transactions take place, these workers are supposed to investigate and, if appropriate, report the situation.
In 2015, Barclays PLC withdrew its operations in a number of countries including Jamaica. Reasons cited for this decision included the risk of money laundering through local accounts.
All of this means that when you are asked for your birth certificate, documents confirming where you live and your right to stay in Jamaica, along with copies of your payslips and other income documentation, you will know why these checks are necessary. You’ll also be asked to supply your most recent bank statements from your current bank account.
It’s likely that you will be asked for references. One will be your employer, if you have one.
Paying Taxes In Jamaica
Your bank will ask for your tax reference number. You can find out more about the range of taxes levied in Jamaica in the Taxes section of this country guide.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Learn The Language
Jamaica is a fascinating island nation with a rich linguistic heritage. If you are moving there, you may wonder how easy it will be for you, as an English-speaking expat, to communicate during your time in the country.
The official languages of Jamaica are English and Jamaican Patois. The language here reflects the history of the island: British colonialism combined with the slave trade and an emergence of nationalism. The language used in government and administration is standard English, based on British English grammar and pronunciation. If you are a native speaker in English, then you will be able to communicate very effectively in Jamaica.
However, Jamaican Patois (also termed Jamaican Creole or Patwa) is also an official language of the island. This is an English Creole which was developed during the slave trade: it is a combination of African languages and English, influenced by Aboriginal tongues such as Arawak (spoken by the indigenous Taino people), Irish, Scottish, and Spanish. It is primarily an oral rather than a written language and has had a rich influence on the culture of the island, including the music of Reggae. There are also minority languages such as Kromanti, which is based on West African languages and is spoken by a very small section of the population.
Other languages are spoken by immigrant communities in Jamaica, such as Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic.
Jamaican Patois is more widely spoken by the local population, but you will be able to make yourself understood in English. It is advisable to brush up on some terms in Jamaican Patois but not try to speak it yourself, especially if you are a white Westerner. Historical power differentials may mean that you inadvertently give offence and since English is the official tongue there is no practical reason for trying to speak Patois. If you have a genuine interest in the language and wish to know more about it, then there are some language apps in Jamaican Patois.
You may wish to travel to Jamaica to teach English. Although the island is English-speaking, there is still a demand for qualified English teachers and students may come from elsewhere to learn English on the island. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality.
Teaching jobs are mainly in urban areas such as Kingston. You will need a work visa, but your employer may be able to assist you with this.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Average monthly salaries run between US$540 – 870.
Choose A School
Education in Jamaica is heavily influenced by the British educational system, a legacy of colonialism. English is thus one of the official languages here.
Public education in Jamaica runs at primary level from the ages of 6-12 and is both free and compulsory. You can enrol your child at pre-school before this if you choose; if so, you will need to pay school fees. Children are taught in English, so if you intend to enrol your child in a state primary school and are a native English speaker, you should be reassured that your child will be able to understand classes. Expect a degree of rigour and strictness, and a high level of homework. At 9-10, children will sit national Grade 4 Literacy and Numeracy tests, and following this the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), comprised of the following subjects:
• social studies (including civics, geography and history)
• language arts
Marking is overseen on a national basis by the Ministry of Education. Your child will then need to choose a list of five high schools. Competition for the top ranked schools is fierce and there is a local preference for ‘traditional’ high schools, usually with an academic focus and often a prowess in sports.
The secondary level in Jamaican schools is divided into stages:
• Lower School: Forms 1-3 (ages 13-15) or grades 7-9
• Upper School: Forms 4 & 5 or grades 10-11
• Sixth Form: upper and lower sixth, or grades 12 (lower) and 13 (upper). At the end of sixth form students take the CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exams). A Levels were standard until the early 2000s and some students also take these, although they are now more closely tied into CAPE.
Some students choose vocational programmes after the first few years of high school. After high school, students may enrol in university. Some American universities have campuses in Jamaica.
The public educational standard in Jamaica is rigorous but has been criticised for being too focused on exams, enabling students to pass on to the next stage, but not actually to equip them with the skills that they need. There have been issues with students emerging from the compulsory six years of education with only very basic literacy and numeracy skills.
The World Bank reports that education here still faces a number of challenges, such as sector governance, shortcomings in teaching and the quality of learning, equality of access, and enrollment at the higher levels of the secondary system. Large class sizes may also contribute to the relatively low educational outcomes here. However, the Jamaican government has approved Jamaica to participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2021 and are focusing on the development and improvement of educational standards in the country.
The country has thus launched an Education System Transformation Program (ESTP), starting with the restructuring of the Ministry of Education itself.
You may also wish to consider having your children educated privately. There are a number of private schools on the island, mainly in the urban areas: around 500 independent schools are available in total. An example is the American International School of Kingston, which runs a Spend A Day programme inviting prospective students and their families to visit the school. Its curriculum follows that of a US college-preparatory school and teaching is in English.
You will need to check with the individual school regarding supporting documentation: they may, for instance, ask for previous school reports or run placement tests. Your child will normally be expected to have an interview with the headteacher. Most schools will need an admissions form: this may ask, for instance, what your educational expectations are for your child.
Early years fees in the private sector are likely to be in the region of US$10K per annum, rising to:
• Grades 1-5: US$15–16K
• Grades 6-8: US$17-18K
• Grades 9-12: US$19–20K
You may also need to pay capitalisation and enrolment fees, but your fees will not include transportation: you may wish to consider the location of your selected school, therefore. Some schools do have boarding facilities but most are day schools. The school year usually runs from September to June, divided into three terms: September to December, January to March, and April to June. At AISK, the school year consists of two semesters extending from late August to mid-January and from mid-January to early June. The school day generally starts at 8:00 am and lasts until 2:00/2.30 pm.
Some private schools, such as AISK, run international curricula, following the educational systems of the UK, USA or France and culminating in internationally accredited examinations such as the International Baccalaureate. They may also prepare students for CAPE and the US SAT test.
The Hillel Academy, situated in the Blue Mountains and established by the Jewish community, is the largest international school on the island, with 700 students. It offers the International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC), International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). Here, students are invited to visit and will be required to sit an Entrance Examination in English, Mathematics and Non-Verbal Reasoning, held in April or May.
You can homeschool your child but this must be approved by the Ministry of Education.