Update: Passport rules for the Virgin Islands have changed. View the latest rules here.
If your spring or summer travel plans include travel to the Virgin Islands, you may be wondering if you need a passport. The answer depends primarily on your itinerary. First, are going to the US Virgin Islands or the British Virgin Islands?
The US Virgin Islands consist of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. These islands are US territories. If you travel directly to and from the US Virgin Islands, you do not need a US passport.
However, if you stop by any other countries in the Caribbean along the way, you may or may not need a passport. Here’s the scoop: Before June 1st, 2009, American citizens traveling to the Caribbean by sea can use either a passport or a driver’s license AND a birth certificate (or naturalization certificate) to prove their identity and citizenship when they re-enter the US. However, air travelers must have a US passport.
So, if you’re on a cruise that stops in both the US Virgin Islands and another Caribbean country, you can use your driver’s license and birth certificate. If you are on a flight that has a layover in another Caribbean country on the way to the US Virgin Islands, you need a passport-even if you never set foot outside of the airport.
After June 1st, 2009, sea travelers to other Caribbean countries will need passports, too.
The British Virgin Islands consist of 16 inhabited islands and more than 20 uninhabited islands. The major islands are Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke.
The United Kingdom owns these islands. Like other Caribbean countries, they are covered under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). So, the rules are the same as the rules described above: Before June 1st, 2009, air passengers need passports while sea passengers can use driver’s licenses and birth certificates. After June 1st, 2009 everyone needs a passport.
For more details on changing passport regulations in the Caribbean, see “Do I Need a Passport to go to the Caribbean?”
If you’re planning a trip to the Virgin Islands and you need a passport, it’s important to apply for one as soon as possible, preferably several months in advance. This is especially important this year, as changing travel regulations may cause passport applications to get backed up.
If you don’t have much time before your trip, a passport expediting company can help you cut through the red tape and get your passport processed more quickly. These companies deliver your passport by hand to the US Passport Agency, so they get processed more quickly, even if the US Passport Agency is experiencing longer processing times. Expediting companies offer a variety of options to meet your needs, including same-day processing.
RushMyPassport.com is a leader in the passport expediting industry, and offers a tracking system so that you can watch your order as it moves through the system. Visit us online, and see how easy it can be to get a passport to the Virgin Islands today!