Not Quite Jamaican
Alert - You May Not Be as Jamaican as You Think
It has recently come to my attention that I am not as Jamaican as I thought. Specifically, I learned that in the eyes of the law I am considered to be somewhere between a fully fledged citizen and an illegal alien of some kind.
How did this happen? When did I, a heavily accented, patty-loving, football playing, 3rd generation Wolmerian, West Indies cricket cussing "Yard-man" come to be regarded in this way? Was it the 20 years I spent living in the US? Was it the fact that I divorced a Jamaican and later married a Trini? Or was it all that time I spent at Trini Carnival sampling the local delights?
No - it was none of the above.
In fact, it was because a Jamaican law changed in 2001.
As long as anyone can remember, there has been a law on the books in Jamaica that the child of a Jamaican parent or grand-parent is automatically granted Jamaican citizenship.
It's a wonderful law, allowing us to do useful things like supplementing our national team, The Reggae Boyz. Black English players began scouring their family trees for traces of Jamaican blood, especially when they did the maths and realized that they had a better shot at making the Jamaican team than the English.
My parents did what was, at the time, the right thing. When we returned to Jamaica after I was born in the US, they claimed my Jamaican citizenship and I received my passport and, many years later, my voters card.
Recently, however, when I went to start the process of gaining my wife legal, landed, resident, legally-money-earning status I was told that first I needed to be given official status as a citizen.
A very pleasant lady on the phone at the Ministry of National Justice explained that a recent law was created which made things not quite so "automatic." Instead, Jamaican citizenship required an application, proof of a parent's or grandparent's birth in Jamaica and some six months wait.
Once I got over the shock (and believe me, this was what it was) I tried explaining that I already had a Jamaican passport. That didn't really matter, she said. I still needed to "claim it."
Ah vex, ah vex, ah vex.
But she was so pleasant, it allowed me to go with the flow, and write down the process she outlined. It entailed heading down to the Ministry of Labour to get my wife a work-permit exemption. Then, a short trip to the Ministry of Justice would complete the entire process in one day.
A full 7 days later, we did indeed finish the entire process.
It took 3 separate trips to the Ministry of Labour, 2 trips to Spanish Town to the Registrar General, one trip to the bank, two trips to the Ministry of Justice and an emergency trip by my mother to a safety deposit box for her 65+ year old original birth certificate.
All this while the country was suffering from floods related to a passing hurricane.
And, yes, my wife is a legal resident who can legally work, and legally pay too much taxes for the services received. I submitted my application...