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Will you need a passport for US Virgin Islands travel?

By March 31, 2009

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Headed to the US Virgin Islands for spring break? They're US territories and you won't need a passport, but note that you will need id (like a driver's license) and you may be asked to prove US citizenship (like a birth certificate if you don't have a passport -- more details below); reader Valora wrote recently, "I thought I was clear to travel to and from St Thomas with my driver's license. I got to the airport for my return flight and caught h*ll from the TSA agent for not having a passport or birth certificate."

Yeah, no, don't need h*ll from the TSA! While it's wonderfully true that St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John are US territories, meaning no passport is needed to travel to these Caribbean islands, the USVI is considered a "port of entry" -- and thus, you may be asked to prove you are a US citizen when you return to the mainland (as in with a birth certificate or, yeah, passport -- a passport, by itself, proves your citizenship; if you're traveling by sea, you can also use a PASS card). And remember that TSA agents sometimes have different interpretations of what the actual laws are... ask for a supervisor if you get given a hard time over your ID (back in the day when you could still cross the Mexican border with just a driver's license and birth certificate, I saw US residents given a very hard time for not having passports when re-entering the US -- those folks were fine with what ID they had, but government employees at borders and airports can be terrifically testy).

So: remember that you will need to prove who you are and may wish to be able to easily prove that you are a US citizen -- bring either one official government issued picture identification like a current driver's license or a photo ID card (which can be issued to non-drivers by your state's motor vehicles department), or two forms of non-photo identification (one needs to be state-issued), plus your birth certificate.... or (of course) a passport.

Learn more:

Related: Spring break hot spots you can hit without a passport | Do you need a passport to go to Mexico? | What documents do I need for student travel? | What kind of travel documents are needed for Mexico?

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April 8, 2009 at 8:05 pm
(1) Dawn says:

I just called NPIC and you DO need a passport if you are FLYING to St Thomas et al. I called because I am traveling in August and have I do need one, I don’t need one, over and over. Travelers Beware: If you don’t absolutely know for sure, contact NPIC or TSA, don’t rely on bloggers and wikis.

May 10, 2009 at 12:50 pm
(2) Thomas says:

All states do not have raised seals on official birth certificates copies. California, for example, has a purple stamp along with the statement “the purple ink stamp indicates official copy” or something like that.

January 18, 2010 at 3:34 pm
(3) Donna says:

I contacted TSA via phone today 1/18/2010 and spoke to a very friendly lady named Linda. She assured me that as a US Territory travel to and from the US Virgin Islands requires only a government issued ID card such as a driver license or Military ID card. Passports will also be accepted but are not required for re-entry to the US as you never left. Travelers are NOT required to have a birth certificate in addition to acceptable ID.

March 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm
(4) Shanna says:

So….one yes, one no and one not sure???!!!! Well, if I get there and they won’t allow me back in the US, guess I’ll just have to stay there!!!

May 29, 2010 at 9:51 am
(5) Tara says:

Aww….getting stuck in a tropical paradise. Sign me up!!!

October 18, 2010 at 1:55 am
(6) Sarah says:

Yeah if i get stuck there, LoL i wouldn’t be bitch’n i’ll be like oh yeah, I live in paradise now. Well got to worry about hurricanes and your screw. I want to go to Atlantis but passports are freak’n expensive. If I want to go to paradise I would go to key west florida or hawaii

October 27, 2010 at 10:35 pm
(7) donna says:

Kathleen – Your article is rather confusing. Either you do need a passport or you do not. Which is it exactly?

November 1, 2010 at 2:34 am
(8) Kathleen says:

Sorry for the confusion of my once-lamely-edited post, folks! No, you do not need a passport to go to and from the USA to the USA, and the US Virgin Islands are territories of the USA. You do not need a passport to travel to or within the Virgin Islands if you stay within the US Virgin ISlands during that travel. You do, though, need ID and you may wish to have a birth certificate to prove citizenship. US Customs and Border Patrol explains… http://studenttravel.about.com/od/uspassports/f/Do-You-Need-A-Passport-To-Go-To-The-Usvi.htm

April 2, 2011 at 12:33 am
(9) James says:

Virgin Ills oh Ya oho!

August 23, 2011 at 10:54 am
(10) Ion says:

Still is confusing. You do not need a passport to fly there but you need one to fly back, it si like going from Detroit to Canada and not from Detroit to N.Y.
So let’s put the question differently: there is a customs point in USVI when try to board a plane to mainland US? If yes, that is not a domestic flight , it is an international flight and need a passport. What about a Canadian who flies from USVI to US, has him the passport stamped?

January 10, 2012 at 11:10 am
(11) amanda says:

As a fairly experienced traveler I say bring a passport. Avoid hassle. Even if you don’t need it you’ll still be prepared just in case. Also one of those around the carriers for passports and money make it real easy to keep track of important documents and money and have it right on hand for those grumpy overworked TSA agents :-)

January 10, 2012 at 11:14 am
(12) amanda says:

Sorry I left out a word in my last advice. I meant around the neck holders. Sorry for the confusion

February 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm
(13) Airline employee says:

Its not that you’ll get stuck on a tropical island…. You won’t be able to board at your orgin city. The agent and Airlines get a hefty penalty. So imagine this, you’re packed, at the airport with a week of vacation and you can’t get checked in. That could happen. Does happen. And will happen. Bring a passport for STT.

March 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm
(14) Kamele says:

If you already have one take it anyway, just in case, better safe than sorry. If not get one. Eventually if you are traveler you are going to need it. There is no reason not to spend the money and then get stuck because you don’t have it. They last for years so you won’t have to redo it for ten years or so.

May 3, 2012 at 2:00 am
(15) Ronnye says:

Oh, the ignorance!! The US Virgin Islands are NOT International. They are a part of the UNITED STATES.

And you DO NOT need a passport to travel from the US mainland to the US Virgin Islands. Likewise, you DO NOT need a passport to travel from the US Virgin Island to the US Mainland!

The disadvantage of traveling to the US Virgin Islands without a passport is that you will be unable to explore some of the other nearby islands. A day trip to the Baths in Virgin Gorda is an awesome experience!! Passport needed!

With that said, in these times, every US citizen should be the bearer of a US passport.

June 7, 2012 at 4:13 am
(16) Warren says:

To set the record straight, as a traveller who’s been there multiple times…. There is no customs when you arrive in US Virgin Islands. However there IS a US customs in the St Thomas airport for passengers leaving US Virgin Islands to return to US mainland. Not sure why. Perhaps they think it’s too easy for illegal aliens to sneak in from the nearby British Virgin Islands. Apparently a US citizen does not need a passport but if the customs agent suspects that you are not a US citizen they will want to see proof in the form of a passport or birth certificate. Not sure what happens if you fail to produce it.

July 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm
(17) arim says:

I just spoke to TSA and you do not need a passport to go to st.thomas or st.croix virgin islands. you should know what you are telling people. I also spoke to security at my airport in St.thomas. Government issued is and a birth certificate is all that you need.

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