Do I Need A Passport?

U.S. Passport Rules! 

This is one of the most frequent questions I’m asked.  And, it’s funny, because if someone asks me that questions, they usually ask me it three or more times.  Before they book, they ask me, “Do I need  a passport for this cruise?”  After their cruise is booked, they ask the same question again.  Then they go to work or church or anywhere and share their excitement about the cruise they’ve just booked.  A friend then reminds them that they now need a passport for cruises, which sends them back to me one more time with that same question. 

The US government created this confusion with their Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).  Most of the confusion was a result of deadlines that changed over and over again, with an eventual about face on the passport rule for some cruises.  Lots of folks heard and understood that they were going to need a passport for any travel by a certain date, and they repeat that information to anyone who will listen, even though that’s no longer true. 

These rules are only for U.S. citizens.  Everyone else has to check the rules in their own country.  And, the focus of WHTI is Canada, Mexico, and Canada.  We’ve always needed a passport to visit overseas.  Here are the rules as they stand today … who knows what the future will hold? 

  • US citizen boarding a flight to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean:  Passport required. 
  • US citizen traveling by land to Canada or Mexico, whether you’re in a car, train, bus, or by foot:  Passport required
  • US citizen cruising by ship:  There’s two separate rules for two distinct situations.  For a cruise sailing roundtrip to and from the same US port, a passport is not required … you can still use your state certified birth certificate plus your photo-ID driver’s license or other government issued photo ID that’s acceptable.  If your cruise begins in one port and ends in another port, a passport is required!
  • Children under 16 in all of these situations may still use their original birth certificatee to travel by air, land, or sea. 

You can still visit San Juan and St. Thomas without a passport, because those are both US territories.  I gave you the links to these rules on Homeland Security’s website, so you can verify this information for yourselves, and feel free to send a link for this blog post to your friends who argue that you must have a passport.  Let’s spread the truth. 

Here’s the rub to cruising without a passport.  What happens if you end up in a foreign port, as your ship travels on to it’s next port?  The rules state you need a passport to re-enter the US by flight.  If you’ve entered the foreign port legally by cruise, Customs will assist you in re-entering the US in such situations without a passport.  If you’re one of those people who worry about things like this, you need a passport for your peace of mind. 

My husband and I used to cruise with just our original birth certificates and driver’s licenses with no problem, but the Customs agents pass us through more quickly with our passports than they ever did when they were comparing those two documents against each other.  And, once we had our passports, we were ready to travel anywhere in the world the winds blow.  When we took our daughter on only her second cruise for her 16th birthday, we sent for her passport.  She was so glad she had it when she had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador as a foreign exchange student last summer. 

Folks in other countries just get passports.  They don’t ask if they HAVE to get a passport.  So, let me encourage you … just get a passport!  It’s the easiest and safest way to travel, whether you MUST have it or not.  Why not put a passport on your Christmas wish list?  Then let’s start building our bucket lists with all the places we want to travel with our new passports!

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