Visiting Jamaica from the U.S., Americans will soon be encouraged to fill out a new travel form online prior to their flight, even though the country has no health-related entry requirements in place. Earlier this year, the paradise island took a U-turn and ceased demanding vaccination or pre-departure tests of incoming tourists, and while the darker days of Covid are well behind us, some bureaucratic measures look set to remain in place.
If you’ve ever forgotten to fill out an immigration form prior to flying to a new country during the peak of the health crisis, you know how unpleasant it is to be kept from boarding the aircraft until your registration is complete, and how delays have become more common as a result of these new mandatory documentation.
However, Jamaica is of the opinion these forms have the power to speed up border control and ensure visitors have a smoother experience, and has chosen to introduce its own permanent entry declaration:
Jamaica Is Introducing A New Digital Entry Form
Although it reopened for tourism much sooner than most other Northern Hemisphere destinations, Jamaica enacted some strict curbs to stem the import of Covid variants. These involved an entry authorization scheme, testing for the unvaccinated, and quarantine for those testing positive while on vacation.
Fortunately, most of these have since been lifted, and all Americans can return to the Caribbean gem with no requirement other than a valid passport. In spite of being freedom-loving and having fully returned to normal, Jamaica believes some pandemic-era rules have proven useful in the long-term and could stand the test of time.
Yes, we’re talking about digital entry platforms, where up until recently, tourists had been expected include their personal information and travel details. These forms have been around for much longer than Covid, being used in places like Mexico and the U.K. for years, but they became more popular after being repurposed as a digital health screening method.
With Covid gone, so were the health forms, and the de-bureaucratization trend in international travel has seen many countries where the document was required prior to 2020 even abandon it for good. Conversely, other destinations like Jamaica, where forms were not routinely required, are bringing them in as a means to improve border security.
Instead of pushing for a digital border, Jamaica’s solution for 2022’s travel woes, due to extend into 2023, has been to side with IT provider SITA in developing a new Digital Travel Declaration (DTD) for pre-departure screening of tourists. Judging by the Aviation Pros report, Americans might in fact benefit from the novelty – contrary to popular belief.
What Information Will The DTD Require?
Apparently, the newly-announced DTD will reduce long wait times at the airport by automatizing identity checks and assisting Jamaica’s Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) in screening arrivals. While the public entity has not confirmed the DTD will be mandatory, it has given strong indication this will be the case in the end:
It is very unlikely a declaration form designed to improve the influx of tourism will be optional, especially when it has already been announced passengers must upload ‘all immigration, customs, and health documentation required for entry’ on the online system once it’s operational.
As things stand, there are no health mandates in place affecting tourists, such as immunization or testing, but it is worth noting Jamaica does require Americans to have sufficient means of subsistence while vacationing, as well as a return or outbound ticket, and proof of these are required for entry into the country.
The only way we can see how Jamaica’s DTD might ease travel is the possibility of including all of the necessary non-health documentation in the online form, as opposed to having to print it out and show it to border agents once landing in Jamaica. This is, of course, mere speculation and more precise details are still lacking while the platform isn’t launched.
What we can confirm is that the DTD will apply to air travel only at first. Still, it has the ‘potential’ to be introduced in ports, which have played a key role in Jamaica’s tourism revival. This year, the World Travel Awards recognized Port of Falmouth as the Caribbean’s leading cruise port, proving it rivals Montego Bay International as an entry point.
Is Jamaica About To Roll Out An Entry Fee?
At the same time, authorities have confirmed the DTD has the aim to certify travelers have the right documents ‘before they even arrive at the airport’, serving as further evidence of our previous conjecture. Andrew Wynter, the head of PICA, added SITA provides Jamaica with an opportunity to ‘streamline entry to the country and offer a simpler experience’:
‘We want to welcome visitors to Jamaica in the friendliest, safest, and most straightforward way possible‘, he reiterated before concluding that the new (potentially) mandatory step ‘will be of great benefit’ to Jamaica. We do not know, at this point, whether the DTD constitutes a Travel Authorization Form in the model of Europe’s ETIAS or the U.S.’s own ESTA.
Visiting Europe from 2023, Americans and all other visa-exempt nationals, such as Canadians, Brits and Mexicans will need to apply for an Electronic Visa Waver costing roughly $8. The U.K. is also introducing its own travel authorization scheme in 2024, while Japan has been the latest major destination to roll out an e-Visa/entry fee for Americans.
Jamaica has not implied, at any point, that the DTD form is an entry fee or e-Visa, deeming it simply a ‘validation’ process where identities are checked and travel purposes confirmed: ‘PICA will be able to easily adapt and reconfigure the Digital Travel Declaration solution when entry requirements to Jamaica shift‘.
Is Jamaica Tightening Rules In The Future?
Regarding the above statement, Jamaica has consistently stood by its relaxed tourism approach since it lifted all restrictions earlier this year, going as far as ruling out more lockdowns when faced with viral surges. To the best of our knowledge, the country isn’t planning on tightening rules anytime soon, but tourists should keep up to date with any developments.
That includes the new Digital Travel Declaration, and the implementation of SITA’s automated security kiosks in both Montego Bay and Kingston’s airports. In a statement, the President of SITA Americas applauded ‘the ways Jamaica has endeavored to continually refine its border processes with the help of new technologies‘, though as of now, filling out a DTD is not yet required already.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com