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Do You Need a Passport to Go To The Caribbean?

If you live in one of the areas of the US that is currently buried in snow, taking off to the sunny Caribbean probably sounds perfect right about now.  However, before you book that Caribbean cruise, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the new passport requirements.

Up until June 01, 2009, you could visit the Caribbean with just your state-issued photo ID and  a birth certificate as long you were traveling by  sea. You only needed a passport if you were flying. However, on June 01 of last year, the final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) went into effect.

The WHTI requires US citizens traveling by sea to the Caribbean to carry one of the following documents:

  • A US passport book
  • A US passport card
  • A “trusted traveler” identification card, such as a NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST card
  • An enhanced driver’s license or EDL (these have an RFID chip in the back like a passport, and only certain states issue them)

There are, however, a couple of exceptions.  First, cruise ship passengers who are taking a closed-loop cruise, one that begins and ends at the same US port, can use a state-issued photo ID along with a copy of their birth certificate.

Second, children under the age of 16 can use a birth certificate, as can children under the age of 19 if they are traveling with an organized group chaperoned by an adult, like a school group, sports team or church group.

However,  air travelers of any age are required to have a US passport book, no exceptions. Additionally, the passport card is no good for air travel-you can only use it if you are traveling by sea.

The new passport requirements apply to travel to the following countries:

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • Montserrat
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Turks and Caicos

Even if you are on a closed-loop cruise, it’s a good idea to have a passport book with you just in case you have to fly back unexpectedly. For the same reason, if you are traveling with children or sending your kids off on a trip with their church or school, it’s a good idea to send them with a passport, as well.

If the new passport requirements have caught you off guard, RushMyPassport can help. We’ll hand-deliver your application to the Department of State, resulting in processing times as fast as 24 hours!

Get ready to explore the Caribbean-apply for your passport today!

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33 Responses to “Do You Need a Passport to Go To The Caribbean?”

  1. Do You Need a Passport to Go to the Caribbean? - RushMyPassport.com Blog

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  4. Marcia Nupa

    Hello, I’m a little confused about the closed loop thing. I realize it means it you depart and end up at the same US port you dont need a passport. What if you depart and end up in the same port, but are visiting Italy or Greece or the Caribean? I just want to make sure I’m clear on this as my fiance and I are going to elope in 2 weeks and want to go on a cruise for our honeymoon. We don’t have passports.
    Marcia Nupa

  5. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Marcia,

    First of all- congratulations! I totally wished my husband and I had eloped. Skip the hassle of planning a ceremony and get right to the honeymoon! ;)

    Now, about the closed-loop thing: the rule allowing you to travel with a birth certificate and your driver’s license only works if you’re cruising to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. If the cruise ship stops anywhere else, including Greece and Italy, you will need a passport.

    Additionally, if your cruise itinerary includes spending the night on land at one of the ports, you might need a passport anyway. The best thing to do is contact the cruise line and see what documentation they want you to have. Have fun!

  6. Dana

    Does passport have to be valid for 6 months ?

  7. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Dana,

    Which country are you visiting?

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  10. lee

    i am sending my folks on a cruise that stops in bahamas, puerto rico and a couple other small areas. i am wantin this to be a suprise but i dont know if they might need a passport and i dont think either of them got one. what do you think should i go ahead and try to have them get passports or you think i will be ok with just supprising them? deployed guy just wondering.

  11. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Lee,

    I would contact the cruise line to verify the documents they need, and then I would go ahead and “surprise” them a little early. Even if you don’t end up getting them passports, you still need to make sure they can locate their birth certificates, after all! That said, if you get them passports, they’ll be covered if something comes up and they miss the boat and need to meet it at another port, or if they need to fly home early for any reason. So, getting them passports would be a good thing to do even if it’s not required.

    You are a wonderful son, and I hope your parents enjoy their trip!

  12. jen

    If i go on a cruise leaving tampa florida, visiting cayman islands and cozmel, do I need a passport or is my license and bc enough?

  13. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Jen,

    Your license and BC should be enough, as long as the cruise begins and ends in Tampa. That said, please check with your cruise line to be sure.

    Have a wonderful trip!

  14. Misty

    I just want to be 100% sure about this… if I am going on a cruise out of Miami to Jamaica and Cayman Islands, I am able to get off the ship with just my birth certificate and drivers license when we are docked in those countries? People keep telling me I can board the ship in the US without a passport, but I would not be able to get off the ship in Jamaica or the Cayman Islands.

  15. Thomas

    I plan on taking a cruise with my better half to pop the question…we are looking at a western Carribean cruise to mexico or possibly the bahamas. Do we need passport to sail out of galveston and return to galveston.

  16. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Thomas,

    Awww, congratulations! In most cases, your driver’s licenses and birth certificates should be all you need, but double-check with the cruise line first since they have the ultimate authority over whether or not you get on the boat. Also, make sure the birth certificates are certified, official copies with a raised, multicolored or embossed seal, not a hospital copy. Good luck! ;)

  17. Alison Kroulek

    You can get back into the US with just your birth certificate and driver’s license. You should be fine getting into Jamaica, per the Jamaican Consulate’s website: Cruise Passengers of any nationality who intend to remain in the island during the stay of the vessel by which they arrived and to depart on the same vessel, are not required to hold passports.
    The Cayman Islands’ Department of Tourism website states that you do need a passport to enter there, however. Hope this helps, and have a great trip!

  18. Dominique

    Hi .. Im planing a trip to jamaica in may. Im going to visit my fiance. Im going by air. From los angeles to miami. From miami to jamaica. I know tht I need a passport . How long does it take to get my passport

  19. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Dominique,

    You should allow at least six weeks unless you expedite it. If you get expedited service, it’s an extra $60 but you’ll get it in three weeks.

    In other words: save yourself some money and apply now!

    Have a great trip!

  20. Declan

    I have a Michigan-issued enhanced driver’s license. It sounds as though this is sufficient to travel the Caribbean on a closed-loop cruise, correct?

  21. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Declan,

    Technically, yes, but PLEASE contact your cruise line as some of them won’t let you on the ship with just an enhanced driver’s license. You may also need your birth certificate, so please call and check.

    Have a great cruise!

  22. Vanessa

    Hello,

    I’m going on my first cruise ever. Going to Miami than to the bahamas the cruise line advised that we get to stay 2 nights at the bahamas. We don’t travel outside the US hardly ever and I don’t have a passort can I stay the night and return back to with my DL and BC?

  23. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Vanessa,

    You should be fine to get back into the US with those documents, but please check with the cruise line to see what their requirements are for your itinerary since they get to decide whether you get on board or not.

    Have a great cruise!

  24. Jenny

    Hello-
    Im a bit confused… I have a 8 yo that will be going on a cruise this December, to Belize, Cayman, roatan and Cozemal… What do I need for him? And would a PP card be good enough to enter these ports or do I have to get a PP? Thank you

  25. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Jenny,

    As long as it’s a closed-loop cruise (one that begins and ends at the same US port) he should be fine with either a birth certificate or a passport card. However, please verify that with the cruise line as they have final authority over whether you board or not. Have a great trip!

  26. Rudy

    My group is going on a cruise and we all have a passport except for one of my friends. She’s having an issue getting her birth certificate. We will be doing a closed-loop to the Bahamas. Do you think our military ID would be enough?

  27. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Rudy,

    She’ll need a government-issued ID AND proof of citizenship…so she does need a birth certificate, I’m afraid. As you can see here, military IDs work only if you’re traveling on official orders. Not sure what sort of problems she’s having with her birth certificate, but if she just isn’t able to be at the appropriate Vital Records office when they’re open, she may be able to order from VitalChek (vitalchek.com) and get it in time. They have fast shipping. Good luck!

  28. Dawn Ruiz

    we are going on a 10 day cruise from new jersey goin no flying at all…our stops are puerto rico,haiti,bermuda and st.thomas….do we need passports?my parents do cruises all the time and insist we dont….

  29. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Dawn,

    If you’re on a “closed-loop cruise,” one that begins and ends at the same port, you’ll probably be fine with just your state-issued ID and birth certificate, though a passport is recommended. Please double-check that with your cruise line, though, as they have the final say over whether or not you get on board the ship!

    Have a great cruise!

  30. Jenna

    Hi,

    You must get sooooo tired of answering the same question over and over….I apologize for asking! So my DH, my 12 yo daughter and I are going on a cruise to Freeport and Nassau in April. The cruise leaves from Port Canaveral and returning to Port Canaveral. I have birth certificates from the appropriate town hall/city hall for each of us, our marriage certificate from our town hall and our driver’s licenses. Are these “official” documents?

    Thanks

  31. mike

    We are planning on a Carribean Cruise in the future but want to make sure we have all teh documentation we need. I understand the loop exception that requires only a DL and birth certificate, but I was wondering about ports of call. do we need passports to go ashore in other countries that the cruise stops on the internary?

  32. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Mike,

    Possibly. Check with your cruise line to be sure.

  33. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Jenna,

    Yes, for a closed-loop cruise you should be fine- but please double-check with your cruise line, just to be on the safe side. Have a great trip!

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