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!