July 24, 2023 -Jamaican media reports have revealed that the United States Department of State has declined Jamaica’s request for a waiver to extend diplomatic visas for four personnel currently serving in America.
According to reports, one of the affected diplomats is Jamaica’s Consul General to Miami, Oliver Mair.
Mair is expected to depart from the US when his current five-year term concludes in October. Other persons impacted are individuals serving on diplomatic visas at various government agencies.
Oliver Mair, Jamaica’s Consul General to Miami among those affected
Sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, disclosed to the Jamaica Gleaner that the Jamaican government sought extensions for the visas but unfortunately had their request denied.
This group is said to include the Consul General in Miami.
According to reports, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, remains unaffected by the US State Department’s 5-year policy. Also not impacted is Jamaica’s Consul General in New York, Alsion Wilson, who commenced her posting in August 2019.
The issue of diplomatic visa renewals for high-ranking Jamaican diplomats in the US has been a subject of attention in the news, with recent reports suggesting that the US State Department’s decision is linked to the Jamaican government’s refusal to grant diplomatic immunity to the spouse of a gay diplomat being assigned to the US Embassy in Kingston.
Reports from Jamaican news outlets said that earlier this year, the United States government formally requested approval from the Jamaican government to extend diplomatic immunity and privileges to the married partner of a diplomat set to be posted in Jamaica.
Notably, the diplomat and their partner are in a same-sex relationship, which reportedly adds complexity to the situation since same-sex marriage is not recognized in Jamaica.
It was further reported that the Jamaican government did not respond promptly to the request from the U.S. It was then alleged that Jamaica eventually rejected the request.
The U.S. government was then believed to have denied a request from the Jamaican government to extend the stay of three of its diplomats.
More on allegations of ‘diplomatic row’ between Jamaica and the US
- Diplomatic tensions emerge as Jamaica denies accreditation to American diplomat’s same-sex spouse
- Update: Jamaican government refutes claims of ‘diplomatic row’ with US
Jamaican Government’s response and preparations for diplomatic transitions
In response to the allegations of a diplomatic row between Jamaica and the US, Jamaica’s Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said that, in alignment with diplomatic practice and Jamaica’s Constitution, Jamaica extends privileges and immunities to incoming diplomats, their staff, and families, allowing them to reside in or visit the country.
She stressed that all requests presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are considered within that context.
This was further reiterated by Information Minister Robert Morgan, who cited Johnson Smith’s statement at a media briefing, highlighting that “Members of staff from both countries continue to reside and work in each other’s territory and are expected to observe the laws of the host country.”
Morgan added that Johnson Smith emphasized Jamaica’s consistent compliance with procedures and defined term limits for the tenure of diplomats within the United States, maintaining its regular rotation practice.
Furthermore, the US State Department clarified its policy in a social media post, stating that as of August 2021, diplomats from all worldwide bilateral missions to the US are accredited for a maximum of 5 years. After the conclusion of this period, unless the Department approves a waiver, the diplomats are expected to conclude their tour and leave the United States.
This policy does not apply to Ambassadors, Charges D’Affaires, and Deputy Chiefs of Mission.
Despite the recent development, both the United States and Jamaica continue to maintain strong ties founded on shared values, culture, tourism, and the vibrant Caribbean Diaspora community in the United States, according to the US State Department’s social media post.