Caymanian nationals will require visas to enter Jamaica as from Thursday.
The move comes into effect exactly a month after Cayman introduced visa requirements for Jamaicans.
Cayman’s government said then that the visas were being brought in to strengthen border controls.
Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson gave a veiled warning to Cayman last month that he could invoke a reciprocal arrangement if Cayman went ahead with its controversial visa plan.
He spoke out on the issue at the Chamber of Commerce 40th anniversary dinner which he was attending as guest of honour.
Mr. Patterson also said that Jamaicans who had gone through the proper immigration controls should not be treated with discrimination.
As tensions rise, Honorary Jamaican Consul Robert Hamaty said this weekend that he personally blamed the latest move on the fact that the Cayman Islands Government back-tracked on an agreement over the visa issue.
During negotiations it had been agreed that Jamaicans holding US, UK or Canadian visas would be exempt from requiring a visa to enter Cayman, he said.
However, when the announcement was made – six days before the visas came into force – there was no such exemption in place.
The Cayman Islands Government later admitted it had not informed the Jamaican government of the change.
‘I believe, in hindsight, they should have been notified,’ Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts told a Cabinet press briefing just over two weeks ago.
The reason given for not exempting US, UK and Canadian visas holders was that Cayman authorities were worried Jamaicans could falsify such documents.
‘Up until the point that the Caymanian government changed its mind on this exemption matter, I personally do not think the Jamaican government was looking at reciprocity,’ Mr. Hamaty said.
‘The first we knew of it was when they (the Caymanian government) made the public announcement on visas. We were shocked that there had been no further consultation on the matter.’
Mr. Hamaty pointed out that it would be easier for business travellers, investors and the clergy to travel between the islands if the original agreement on the US, UK and Canadian visa holders was adhered to.
Last week, Cabinet announced it was willing to send a diplomatic delegation to Jamaica to discuss the visa issue.
Mr. Hamaty told the Caymanian Compass he would be happy to join in the talks in an attempt to smooth the situation.
Announcing the new visa requirement for Caymanians, Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said on Friday that it was considering Cayman’s proposal to send a delegation to Kingston.
Deputy Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks said the Cayman Islands Government remained committed to maintaining a positive relationship with Jamaica.
And he added that they would facilitate the introduction of the visa requirement in every reasonable way.
‘We are conscious that Caymanians seeking US visas are currently required to visit the Jamaican-based US Embassy to pursue their applications,’ he said.
‘While government will be looking at the feasibility of making alternative arrangements, in the interim, we remind Caymanian passport holders that it is possible to travel to the US on a waiver issued by our own Passport Office.’
He also reminded Caymanians who hold British passports that they can enter the US without obtaining either an entry waiver or a visitor’s visa.
Cayman was a dependency of Jamaica until 1962, administered from the parish of Westmoreland.
There are strong historical, business, social, church and family links between the two countries.
Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is currently preparing a review of all other countries which require entry visas for Jamaican nationals.
Applications for a visa to enter Jamaica must be made in person at the Jamaican Consulate, Dot Com Centre, Second Floor, 342A Dorcy Drive, Industrial Park, George Town. Tel: 949 9526. Email: [email protected]
Office hours are 8.30am-2.30pm, Monday to Friday.
The required documents will be:
• Completed application form.
• One recent full face colour photograph with a white background.
• Passport with validity of no less than three months.
• Police record for applicants 18 years and older.
• Fee of US$102.44.
Visa applications will normally be processed within 24 hours.