Jamaica Observer:– MORE than 3,000 people applied to the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) to become Jamaican citizens last year.
The majority of the applications, according to director of citizenship at PICA Carol Hammond, were from the United States of America, Cuba and Nigeria. Along with five other PICA representatives, she was addressing Jamaica Observer journalists and editors at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters in St Andrew on Monday.
“We received approximately 3,350 applications last year. Most of them are from America, and there are Cubans, British, Canadian, Bahamian, Cayman, and Dutch nationals… those account for persons who are descendants.
“For those who are just desiring of acquiring citizenship for Jamaica, we find the highest number coming out of Cuba, followed by the Americans, then Nigerians,” she revealed.
Hammond said that people usually qualify for citizenship based on requirements established by law, for persons to apply for consideration at the minister’s discretion.
“We check their antecedents, so if they say they are doctors and employed somewhere, we do look into that. We look into the background of where they live, where they work, and the qualifications given to us supported by any professional organisation that govern their employment or their profession — we ask for their comments,” Hammond explained.
She said that a small percentage of applicants are refused entry, but did not provide exact numbers. A small number, too, were refused citizenship, Hammond said.
According to PICA’s Director of Immigration Ezra Whittock, the numbers for unconditional landing — which is where a person has a claim to Jamaican citizenship and wants that status in their foreign passport — keep rising.
“The figures [for the unconditional landing] have always been going up. A lot of people are claiming unconditional landing… landing by descent, so the figures have not gone down at all,” he emphasised.
Hammond concurred: “We are having similar experiences where the number of persons who claim citizenship by descent is constantly increasing. It gives an option and the option is basically to travel on your natural passport and to be allowed to pass through the border unconditionally.
“However, should you need a document to confirm citizenship of Jamaica to derive any other benefit, you would then have to come to us for the certificate of citizenship because that is what would be required by the entity. So we have not experienced any decline in the numbers that are coming in by citizenship by descent,” she said.
Meanwhile, PICA’s Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wynter said that some people who hold dual citizenship sometimes face challenges.
“Sometimes you have to appreciate that with some countries, because they don’t recognise dual citizenship of the person even though they are entitled or can apply and have the benefit of becoming a citizen of Jamaica by descent, they can’t hold dual nationality… like certain European countries, you cannot have dual nationality but they still want to retain the ability to enter, live and remain in Jamaica, so they get the unconditional landing stamp.
“Some other Commonwealth countries facilitate dual nationality, so that will enable them to get the citizenship by descent and have the passport so it’s not just simply one or the other sometimes, but the countries to which the persons of descent are nationality of may dictate which option they choose,” said Wynter.