As winter storms slam large parts of the US (again), one way to soothe yourself is to book a vacation someplace tropical. If you are planning a trip to the Virgin Islands, you may be wondering whether or not you need a passport to go. The answer depends on whether you are planning to go to the US Virgin Islands or the British Virgin Islands.
The US Virgin Islands are part of the United States. So, if you’re going directly from the US to St. Thomas, St. Croix or St. John, you do not need a US passport. Check your itinerary carefully and confirm this with your airline, though, as you will need a passport if you have a layover in another Caribbean country.
However, if you are going to the British Virgin Islands (Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Peter Island, Jost Van Dyke, Cooper Island, Salt Island, or Marina Cay), you will need a US passport as these islands are owned by the United Kingdom. You will also need a passport if you are staying on one of the US Virgin Islands and plan to hop on over to the British Virgin Islands for a day trip.
Prior to June 1st, 2009, passports weren’t required to travel to the British Virgin Islands by land or by sea, as long as you had a driver’s license and a birth certificate (or a naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship). On June 1, the new requirements went into effect, and now you must have a passport to visit the British Virgin Islands. A passport book is required if you are flying, while sea travelers can also use a passport card, NEXUS card, FAST card or SENTRI card or an enhanced driver’s license.
However, there are a few exceptions:
- If you travel to the British Virgin Islands on a closed-loop cruise (one that begins and ends at the same US port), you can still use a driver’s license and your birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship.
- Children under the age of 16 traveling to or from the British Virgin Islands by sea can use their birth certificates. Air travel to the British Virgin Islands requires a passport no matter what the age of the child.
- Children under the age of 19 traveling with a school group, church group, sports team or volunteer organization chaperoned by an adult can use their birth certificates as well, so long as they are traveling by sea. Again, air travel requires a passport book.
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