Jamaica’s Work Permit System: The Application Process and Who’s Exempt


Almost every country in the world has a work permit system in some form or the other and understandably, these regulations are designed to control the influx of labour from outside of the country.
A work permit is a document or card bearing a number and a photograph that is issued to an expatriate, which authorizes that individual to work in a country for a specified period of time.
In Jamaica, work permits are issued at the discretion of the Minister of Labour and Social Security, and he will usually grant a permit after satisfying himself that the position was first advertised locally. This is to protect citizens, who should have first preference for jobs in Jamaica, explains Director of Industrial Relations and Allied Services in the Ministry, Errol Miller.
Work permits are granted to two categories of individuals: those who are seeking to be employed in Jamaica, and those who are seeking to invest, or to operate a business in the island.
Persons in both groups would need to complete an application form, which is available from the Ministry.
“Along with the application form, the applicant would be required to have a cover letter explaining the circumstances under which they require a work permit. They would also be required to have a section of the form completed by the proposed employer, and would be required to pay a non-refundable fee for the processing of the application, which is $1,000 Jamaican dollars,” Mr. Miller explains.
He notes further that, “that person would be required to submit proof of qualification and under the proof of qualification they would need certified copies of proof of academic or professional qualifications or letters of accreditation.
“They would require a letter of recommendation or written reference from the applicant’s previous employer or evidence of the applicant’s business, commercial or professional activity abroad,” Mr. Miller adds.
These documents, he tells JIS News, should be notarized or signed by a Justice of the Peace. The individual would also be required to submit a resume outlining his or her professional or business experience.
Also among the required documents is a police record issued by the appropriate security authority in the applicant’s homeland.
“They would also be required to submit certified copies of pages from the applicant’s passport, showing proof of identity, passport number, date of issue and expiry, landing status in Jamaica as applicable, and that’s really for the work permit renewal and relevant visa status,” Mr. Miller points out.
He also explains that the applicant is required to submit two photographs in the case of a work permit and in the case of a work permit exemption, one photograph.
Prospective investors do not need to submit proof of qualification, but they are required to submit proof of business experience, business registration, as well as the company’s Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN).
According to Mr. Miller, work permit applications must be submitted before the applicant enters the country.
“As a matter of fact, one should not be applying for an original work permit unless one is abroad. You shouldn’t be applying for a work permit while you’re in the island, so the proposed employer should really be assisting you to get together some of these documentation to submit to the Ministry,” Mr. Miller says.
The period for which the permit is granted will depend on the applicant’s skill and the time requested. “Generally it can go up to three years, but it depends. It could be three months, it could be a day, it could be two years, but the work permit is really issued at the discretion of the Minister,” Mr. Miller notes.
Penalties for work permit infringements include immediate deportation as well as a fine and or imprisonment. Penalties may also apply to the employer of the person, who is working without a valid permit.
In the meantime, there are certain categories of workers who are not required to apply for a work permit. The Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Exemptions Regulations 1964 lists the different categories of persons, who are eligible to receive exemptions from the requirements of work permits.
The request for an exemption is usually made by way of a letter from the relevant organization addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, providing details such as the full name of the applicant, his/her nationality, period for which exemption is being sought and an explanation of duties to be performed by the applicant.
“If the person is employed to the government, although they’re a foreign national that is one way that the person could be exempt,” explains Mr. Miller. “So for example, nurses, doctors employed to the Government of Jamaica, usually get an exemption,” he says.
He notes further that teachers are usually exempt, persons employed to the University of the West Indies, those employed in the fields of the arts, sports, education, entertainment or other form of cultural activity, approved by the Minister.”Persons employed to local charitable organizations and international organizations operating in Jamaica, such as the United Nations, will also receive work permit exemptions.

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