Getting Barbados Citizenship: Neither Easy Nor Quick

Getting Barbados Citizenship: Neither Easy Nor Quick

Despite being married to a Barbadian citizen, I am not allowed to spend more time in Barbados than a tourist: 30 days. The immigration officials at the Barbados airport check their computer screen each time I enter. They can see how often I visit Barbados (their term; I call it living here) and whether I’ve applied for residency or citizenship.

So far my to-ing and fro-ing hasn’t been a problem because I travel frequently. And of course, if I wish to stay longer than 30 days, I could zip down to the immigration office, stand in line, leave my passport, pay a fee, probably beg a bit … But after procrastinating a year and five months since Greg and I got married, I figured, Why not just make myself legal?

The Brooklyn Bridge in New York

I am a U.S. citizen and was in New York last week. From a cab I took this photo of the Brooklyn Bridge with Old Glory waving.

I hope I’m not jinxing things by saying this, but so far the process of getting citizenship here in Barbados has gone smoothly — only two trips to the Immigration Office were necessary to accomplish the first and perhaps most difficult step: turning in my forms filled out correctly. In fact, in the case of both visits I needn’t have taken the long-winded New Yorker; the wait was just Pleople-long.

I wasn’t sure which would be a faster process, citizenship or residency, so I filled forms for both. I went with all required items: the original and a copy of my birth certificate, divorce decree, and marriage certificate; medical forms filled out by my US doc; passport photos signed by a justice of the peace; passport, affidavits of good character, clean police record from the States; and Greg’s birth certificate and divorce decree; and $100.

The forms I filled out asked me if I’m blind, intend to overthrow the government, or have anal fissures. I’m not, I won’t, and I don’t think so … ahh, smooth sailing so far.

Sunset in St Lawrence Gap, Barbados

Home sweet home in Barbados; I took this photo the evening I returned from New York from the jetty behind our home that juts into the gorgeous Caribbean Sea.

Reading up on the process of citizenship in Barbados makes me think this could take a long time. The woman at Immigration said that I’d be called in for interviews “at some point” and the process overall could take one to three years (at which point I’ll have dual citizenship with the U.S.); Barbados Free Press indicates it could take pretty much forever … well, 12 years.

But at least the immigration folks with the rubber stamps (and the power) at the airport will perhaps look at their computer screen next time I come in … they’ll smile upon me and my good efforts.

Okay, right. That’s a bit much to hope for. But at least I’m on my way.



54 Responses to “Getting Barbados Citizenship: Neither Easy Nor Quick”

  1. […] … Jane of Planet Barbados writes Getting Barbados Citizenship: Neither easy nor quick […]

  2. Stephen says:

    Good luck; it will be well worth the wait. You need to ‘know’ someone in the department; that’ll save you a year! Just remember, once you’ve submitted every piece of paperwork they ask for, they’ll think of something else that won’t be easy to get hold of …

  3. Hants says:

    Good thing you didn’t immigrate to Canada.

    You would have had to be a “landed immigrant” for 3 years before you could become a citizen.

    You know,I know and Hoyos know that if you din broadcast dis story, yuh huzbun or even he bruddah Patrick cudduh talk to one uh de biggups we went school wid an tings wud get dun.

    An it wudden involve not one red cent.

    Just enjoy living in Paradise.

  4. Alas, I know no one at Immigration!

    Side note … The first day I went in with my folder of paperwork, I met with a nice lady in a pretty outfit. She sent me away (very nicely) for not having the exact right paperwork. The day I returned with the requisite papers, everyone was in uniform, complete with epaulets. I was instantly intimidated! In fact, I didn’t even recognize the woman I met with as the same woman I’d met with the previous time until she began talking to me. Then I realized that this officious sort was the same nice lady I’d met with before! I asked about the change of dress .. she said the time before had been “Casual Friday.” Funny how my perception of the process – and the kindness quotient – was influenced by how the Immigration employees were dressed. Or maybe being in more casual dress made them nicer. I don’t know, but it was an interesting social experiment nonetheless.

  5. Cookie says:

    Oh, what memories…. I married a wonderful Bajan man about 6 1/2 years ago. However, I immediately applied for legal status. At the time, I too left the island about every 3 months or so but I still hated the way I was treated with I would come back. About 6 months after I applied, I found I wasn’t traveling as often so I did the line up at immigration exercise every 3 months to get an extension. I won’t even go into that experience with you in view of the public eye.

    Jane, I was advised that citizenship takes a shorter time than residency, and at the time the paperwork was indeed shorter for for citizenship. (That may not be the case today.) I would have thought that residency would be shorter…but I am a dumb American.

    Anyway, after a about 17 months of nothing (I had by then become quite aggressive and successful at immigration getting up those stairs when the doors opened and getting a low number, I learned it all from getting on and off NYC subways for 15 years), well we went the Bajan way and knew a friend who knew someone who knew someone, who at least found my application on someone’s desk.

    18 months later I got the letter in the mail to hightail it down to the Office for my official interview. Then a few weeks later, I went in and got my official paperwork. I AM LEGAL!

    I got my ID card and keep putting off the passport (this will make coming and going easier.) When I travel without my husband, I always “walk with” my original citizenship paper and go through the local line at the airport without him as my support.

    Somehow I think it might be a nice smooth sail for you, especially if you travel and don’t have to go to get extensions every 3 months.

    Good luck!!

  6. Cookie, thank you for sharing your experience. Yes, like you, I’ve had a difficult time with the immigration officials at the airport. Of course, it’s their job to question me as they do, since, until now, I haven’t followed protocol. I’m glad to know that your process had a happy ending!

    Maybe I’ll see you in the Barbados passport line one of these days! I hope so :)

    I appreciate your writing.

  7. Cookie says:

    By the way, I made it seem like it took 35 months (!) to get “legal.” It was just a year and a half, and my better half said that it was more like 14 months. I think because it was so stressful my memory is exaggerating itself!

    Anyway, good luck. If you never need to vent to someone who has walked in your shoes, just yell! :-)

  8. sami says:

    hey my mother is married to a bajan and will be invisiting barbados this summer. during which she intends to file for citizenship for herself ,what documents are required ???

  9. Aqua says:

    I thought I could do it myself, (but I too didn’t know anyone in the Immigration Department). After my wife and I had our interviews I waited about 18 months. Had to go back for extensions every 3 months and pay the mandatory fees, queuing for hours and getting very fed up.

    After many unanswered letters and phone-calls, a friend then suggested an attorney (who did know someone in immigration). She was great. She told me I was entitled to full citizenship and called within two days saying to go and pay the money at Immigration and collect my citizenship papers. Not sure if it still happens this way, but I would definitely recommend that you get an attorney to complete the process for you. I wish I had done it in the beginning! I had to pay the attorney fees, and the $400 or whatever it was, but I was so glad to end the humiliation and stress of the immigration office, I did not care.

    The whole process is degrading, stressful and reminded me of the way things work in West Africa. I hope that one day there will be an efficient, modern facility where people are treated with respect, with clear procedures that are openly available to the public.

  10. Mike says:

    I completely agree with Aqua

  11. S Richardson says:

    Can Aqua or anyone from this forum recommend an attorney. I would greatly appreciate it.

  12. Jane says:

    Barbados attorney Beverly Franklin Brewer has been very helpful to me. Google her to find her contact info, S.

    Best of luck.

    xx Jane

  13. S Richardson says:

    Thanks Jane,I will be following your progress, I will be getting married in March and dread the fact that I will not be allowed to stay in Barbados with my husband after marriage. Leaving every three months can and will get costly for us. I am hoping that the whole process will take less than 18months. wishful thinking?

  14. j-rock says:

    I was born in Canada to Barbadian parents, and my mother always said that my sister and I should apply for citizenship. So a few years ago we began the process. It was a long and frustrating process during which we were treated rather poorly by the officials responsible for processing the application (one woman in particular). According to the law, we are eligible for citizenship by descent, yet were still treated as though we were trying to pull some type of scam, and even had the authenticity of some photos and documents questioned. Despite having had them certified by a lawyer at one of the top law firms in Toronto. All in all, it was not an enjoyable experience, and if I don’t set foot in that office in Bridgetown ever again, it will be fine by me. I love Barbados, and am glad to be a (dual) citizen, but if I had to go through all of that again, I wouldn’t bother.

  15. I’m sorry you had such trouble with the employees in charge of your citizenship; maybe they come across enough “scam artists” to be skeptical of everyone, I don’t know. I do agree that they’re not a friendly group of people by any means. I’m delighted, though, that you have Barbados citizenship now and are a dual citizen. This will accord you some freedoms here in Barbados that you might really like having later on in life.

    Thanks for sharing. See you on the beach :) xx Jane

  16. kerri says:

    I am breathless. The first time I have the guts to find prices and means of escape I read all of this!? I have to marru someone in Barbados to even have a glimmer of a chance it seems. I have not the money nor the time to travel back and forth with attempts to live in a land I can only dream of being in. Guess I had to find out sooner or later. sigh.

  17. kerri says:

    “marry” that is… not “marru”

  18. Leroy says:

    Hi Guys,
    Interesting comments here. I think I need your help also. My girlfriend and I are hoping to be be married soon, possibly here in Bim.. Does anyone know for sure what is the process for her to get citizenship after being married?Please help.

  19. Rebecca says:

    I was born in Canada to a Bajan mother, and though my entire maternal side of my family lives in Barbados, I don’t think I am even eligible for citizenship through descent, as my father was Canadian.. if my father had been the Bajan instead of my mother I would be eligible. I keep hoping that one day this law will be amended, it does not make sense.

  20. Rebecca, you should be able to get citizenship-by-descent. It doesn’t matter whether your Bajan-ness comes from your mother or your father (although the form is confusing and seems to indicate it’s just through the father). Here is a link that might help, although the statement at the bottom of this information is untrue. I’m an American citizenship and, once granted Barbadian citizenship, will most definitely have dual citizenship. http://www.ehow.co.uk/how_6687146_apply-citizenship-barbados.html Also visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs site, although I didn’t find this terribly helpful myself. Good luck!!

    Dual Citizenship – Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade …
    http://www.foreign.gov.bb › Travel Advice › Travelling Abroad

    Barbados recognises that many people apply for foreign citizenship because of the rights and benefits that accrue to them.

  21. Leroy, please inquire of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Barbados. Prepare for lots of bureaucracy and red tape … goes with the territory, but worth the bother. Obviously, you’ll need to be Barbadian for your new bride to be able to apply. Good luck! Jane

  22. Caribe says:

    Would love to know the attorney who helped you, AQUA.

  23. Beverley Brewer is her name. Good luck. Jane

  24. Larry says:

    How long is the process if I marry my fiance in Barbados, before i get any kind of paper work?

  25. Donna says:

    I applied for citizenship-by-descent today and it went smoothly, although this was my second time at immigration because my name was not spelled correctly on my birth certificate. The employee that took my paperwork and information was very nice and everything went well. It only took an hour and a half to be seen then another 30 minutes to get the paperwork in order and pay the cashier. He told me this process will take three to six months. Is this true? Does anyone know whether I will be required to come back for an interview or do they just mail the citizenship paperwork to the home? My mother has dementia and this is the reason I am applying for citizenship as I will eventually have to make Barbados my permanent residence. I gave the employee my mother’s telephone to contact me but if I am not in the country, she will probably forget to tell me that someone has called for me. Should I go back to the immigration office and give them another contact telephone number or do you think it will be ok? I will be in Barbados every three months or so to check on my mom and her affairs, should I go to the immigration office when I am here to check the status of my citizenship?

  26. Ekemmie says:

    I am writing to you to gather information on the process for a non Barbadian woman who is desirous of being married in Barbados.
    I have visited the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Barbados and it seems the information there is not updated.
    What is the required process? They told me I have to go all the way back to Africa and ask for a kind of “marriage visa procedure”. Anyone know what it is?

    My husband to be, is a Barbadian national, what would be his requirements, under the laws of Barbados?

    Is the process of evaluation different for each country and how long will the process take?

    Thank you for your help.

  27. Bruce says:

    Dec 2007 . Married to Bajan
    Still no citizenship . I own 2 businesses here.
    My wife got here status in Canada in two years.
    Maybe lucky 6. Should have let my lawyer do it

  28. Bruce, the problem with citizenship is that the system in Barbados is backed up several years. If you have two businesses you obviously have your Residency papers, which allows you to be on the island at will. If you’ve applied for citizenship it will come …. I’m waiting as well.

    Best of luck,
    Jane

  29. collina says:

    I’ve been married 4 years now can I return to barbados alone and file for my husband or does he have to be there with me during the interview, we live in jamaica

  30. Anthony says:

    Hi wonder if anyone knows whether i meet the criteria for citizenship. Both my parents are Bajan but I was born in the UK and I have just discovered that my parents were not married when I was born although they subsequently married 2 years later. How do I stand in terms of applying for citizenship by descent?

  31. Dew says:

    Urgent help required, I and my husband living in Saudi Arabia for work, we are Pakistani nationals. We are very much interested to get the Barbaidian Passport. We know that we have to show the good amount to get the passport, that’s not a problem.
    My question is how long do we have to stay in Barbados to get our passport. Can we come and go in intervals or we have to stay the on the stretch?
    Please reply. Thanks

  32. Please contact Barbados immigration – here is a site giving contact info for Barbados immigration: http://immigration.gov.bb/pages/Contactus.aspx Or contact an attorney in Barbados specializing in immigration issues; here are some: http://www.hg.org/law-firms/immigration/barbados.html

    Here is some info that may be useful to you as well: http://www.barbados.org/relocate.htm#.Ukx0whbWqK0

    It is not easy to emigrate to Barbados. Good luck to you,

    Jane

  33. joanna says:

    hello,
    i’m Polish. im gonna marry a bajan man soon. i have 3 children from previous marriage. what should i apply for for me and my kids? for residence or citizenship? what takes shorter? and during process i must leave islan every 3 months or is there any posibility to stay there legal?

  34. Joanna, hi. Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. I wish you and your Bajan well :)

    I’m sorry, I don’t know how Barbados handles children from a previous marriage. Please contact the government agency that handles these matters: http://www.immigration.gov.bb/pages/Citizenship.aspx

    From my experience I can tell you that I still await citizenship even though my Bajan husband and I married nearly six years ago. The system is quite backed up. However, I have been given provisional status in this regard while I wait.

    Best of luck to you and your children. Enjoy life in beautiful Barbados!

    Jane

  35. George says:

    My question is how long do we have to stay in Barbados to get our passport. Can we come and go in intervals or we have to stay the on the stretch?

  36. Please contact Barbados immigration for answers to questions like this. Good luck to you.

    Jane

  37. simone says:

    Hi there, just need some info.. I’m Jamaican and I marry a bajan man. I been married for 5 years now, I applied for citizenship over 4years now, and the immigration had given me a reside a work permit which had expired a year and two months now. I went in for my interview and has not received any letter or phone call yet, I’m still on extensions meaning I can’t work. I’m a visitor after living here for so long… what can I do…. some people had better luck….

  38. I’m so sorry … I don’t have any additional information for you. The system for citizenship is very slow in Barbados. You have to keep calling the department asking for updates to your status. Good luck to you. I’ve been married to a Barbadian citizen for six years and still don’t have citizenship, either. Mine seems to be held up in part by the US, which is having trouble processing my fingerprints, of all things. Good luck to you and I hope you get resolution soon! xxJane

  39. Chateau says:

    How do I find out if my Bajan husband is divorced… Is there a Government Office that I may contact in Barbados for that Information or could you recommend an Attorney .
    Thank you

  40. Oh my, I don’t know the answer to your question. Yes, call an attorney! Good luck to you. Jane

  41. Miss Temba says:

    Hi everyone, I would like help on the following: My fiance is Bajan by birth and resides there, and I’m African. We plan to get married within the next month or 2. So:

    1. After we do get married, how do I go about extending my stay after the one month a visitor is allowed? ( Too expensive to keep travelling back and forth every 3 months)

    2. How long might it take to apply, soon after after our wedding, within the 1 month period so I don’t have to leave the country and return later?

    3. Will I have ‘legal’ problems during my extension as I await citizenship? I wouldn’t want deportation as I wouldn’t want to taint my very clean record!:-)

    4. What would I be ‘allowed’ to do considering I can’t work until granted legal status? (Stay at home wife??)

    5. In the extension of stay form, what would be ideal to fill in as “reasons for extension’ that wouldn’t cause us issues?

    Thanks in advance for your assistance!
    Hope to see you at the beach soon! :-D

  42. Miss Temba, good evening from Barbados.

    You have very good questions but I don’t feel qualified to answer them with any authority.

    For questions about extending your stay in Barbados, please visit here for answers to a couple of your questions: http://www.barbados.org/relocate.htm#.VRXLZpPF-8k

    For citizenship questions, please visit here to start on your process: http://www.immigration.gov.bb/pages/Citizenship.aspx

    To answer other questions, please consult a Barbados attorney. Good luck to you. I really hope everything works out for you and your husband.

    Best to you both,
    Jane

  43. Miss Temba says:

    Thank you for your quick response, Jane.
    I was wondering, would you be able to assist us with some advice when I get there? (Considering your experience) or perhaps my fiancee can ring you for afew general questions? If that would be possible, it would be great and immensely appreciated. We are both green to all this and confused about where to even start, and want to follow the right processes to avoid future problems. All we know is we are getting married and I alreadystarted procedure of permission from my home country to marry a foreigner(Certificate of no impediment just to be safe all round). Kindly also advice what general cost it would be to get help from an attorney?
    Thanks in advance!

  44. Miss Temba … I have no qualifications at all to answer your and your fiance’s questions. I’m sorry; I don’t want to mislead you, so please don’t call me for advice! As an American I have different considerations than you do coming from a country in Africa. Everyone’s situations is different and you need advice specific to yours. I urge you to contact a government employee at one of the agencies I suggested you contact. When you speak with them, take notes, then contact an immigration attorney with the additional questions you will have. You are smart to start this process early so that you’re not floundering once you’re here in Barbados. Good luck to you! Wishing you both all the best,

    Jane

  45. Miss Temba says:

    Jane,
    Thank you for all your insight. Very much appreciated!I’ve done my research extensively and no know what procedures to follow. Have a great day! :-D

  46. Miss Temba says:

    *now know what procedures to follow.

  47. Miss Temba, I wish you all good luck. My current hold-up for citizenship here in Barbados has nothing to do with Barbados Immigration. My issue is that my fingerprints are no good so the FBI hasn’t yet given me the clearance I require to proceed with the Barbados authorities. I tell ya, it’s always something! I’m working to sort that out but it’s not easy.

    Best of luck and enjoy life with your sweetheart .. I hope you’ll be enjoying it here, together, in beautiful Barbados!! Jane

  48. John Reyes Freeman says:

    Jane,
    Would that be the original Letter of good conduct/no criminal record certificate needed for the application (per the list of required docs) or did they ask you to do it again?

  49. John, hello. I have not been asked by Barbados immigration to submit documents repeatedly. Right now I’m waiting on the FBI in the US to approve my fingerprint submission. Apparently, I have barely visible fingerprints … they’ve asked me four times to have my fingerprints re-taken and each time they’ve been rejected. I’m awaiting on the current submission, both electronic and on paper, to be accepted by the FBI so that I can continue my application for citizenship in Barbados. The Barbados government employees have been very difficult to reach on the phone but when I do I find them helpful and polite. Jane

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