PLEA: PICA's Carol Saunders-Hammond speaks with patrons at the JN Group Expo in Brampton, Canada, last month
AFTER several years living in Canada, Omar – who didn't want to give his full name – has decided he wants to ensure that he has all the documents he needs to prove his Jamaican citizenship, in a move that goes beyond mere nostalgia and maintaining a cultural tie to his country of birth.
Although he has lived in Canada for more than three decades, he maintains assets in Jamaica.
So, for Omar, ensuring that his family and children are properly documented as Jamaican citizens simply makes good economic sense.
“I have assets in Jamaica and, if and when my children are born, I want to leave it to them,” the meticulous planner said, as he milled around the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency’s (PICA) booth at the JN Group Expo in the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton, Ontario last month.
He was among some 5,000 Jamaicans living in Canada who poured into the Convention Centre to access information about the financial products being offered by the JN Group, and collected leaflets full of advice to secure investments in Jamaica.
Without Jamaican citizenship, Omar’s children would have no claim to his assets in Jamaica, and it would pass to his nearest kin or relatives living in Jamaica. Under Jamaican law, nationals living overseas can only will their estate in Jamaica to another Jamaican citizen.
Carol Saunders-Hammond, director of citizenship services at the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) said: “There are some people living overseas who have estate matters to be settled in Jamaica – however, when their children or grandchildren, who were born and live overseas make a claim, their verification of identity comes up for question.
“There is a document provided by PICA, which outlines the establishment of lineage, for Jamaicans to acquire citizenship by descent, so that it makes the inheritance process a lot easier."
However, beyond managing the estate process, confirming one’s Jamaican heritage also streamlines some processes for many Jamaicans living overseas. To do business in Jamaica, such as opening accounts with local financial institutions, proof of Jamaican citizenship is required, unless one is a foreign investor, to whom different options are available.
And, she adds, proof of citizenship also allows Jamaicans overseas an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process in Jamaica, when in the country. “You can identify yourself as a Jamaican, not just to be out there and say 'I have a claim', but to have a document to say you are Jamaican, so that your voice can carry more weight.
For example, you can be fully involved in the decision-making process, if you so desire, by coming home to vote,” Mrs Saunders-Hammond said, carefully noting that they would also need to undertake the voter registration process in Jamaica for the right to vote.
Getting more Jamaicans documented, she further explained, also positions the country to better identify the number of Jamaicans overseas to be able to harness their expertise, as well as assisting Jamaicans in the Canadian Diaspora to secure a national identification number, when that system eventually comes to fruition.
The national identification number should be maintained for life, and will allow Jamaicans, wherever they are, to receive benefits to which only Jamaicans citizens are entitled. “We have talented people in the Diaspora and we want to invite them home to make their contribution to our country – but, while some want to participate, there is a distance that they need to close between themselves and Jamaica.
“Confirming that you are a citizen of Jamaica can certainly bring you closer home,” Mrs Saunders- Hammond said.