The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has set January 23, 2007 as the official start-date for when travelers flying into and out of the Caribbean, Canada, and Mexico must start carrying a valid U.S. passport. Passports are not needed for travel to or from Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, both U.S. territories. The date for cruise-ship passengers to begin carrying passports when departing U.S. ports has been pushed back to June 2009 (though the date may be brought forward to 2008).
IMPORTANT: Although travelers do not need to have a valid passport to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, they must show proof of identity and citizenship; this can be done with a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID as well as an original state-issued birth certificate with a raised seal; a voter registration card is not sufficient. Travelers to Puerto Rico do not need to show proof of citizenship; a valid government-issued photo ID will suffice.
If you are planning a trip in early 2007 to any of the destinations where you could once fly with only a birth certificate and driver’s license, there’s still time to apply for a new passport. The typical processing time for a new passport is about 6 to 8 weeks, somewhat sooner for a renewal, but it’s likely that the wait could be longer in early 2007. However, the U.S. Department of State can issue a passport to a ticketed traveler in less than a week (or even the same day if you can come to a passport center in person) if you pay to have your application expedited; read about the procedures for getting or renewing your passport here.
If you are traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, you may be able to take advantage of the “No Passport Required” promotion from the Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association. Read about the program here. If you book 5 nights at a participating hotel, you’ll receive 20% off the total cost of your stay. To receive the discount, you must book your trip sometime in December 2006. Participating resorts include the following:
On St. John: The Westin St. John
You can book directly with most of the hotels or through several participating travel agencies, including the following:
Apple Vacations (www.applevacations.com).
LibGo Travel (888/569–2838)
Spirit Vacations (www.spiritvacations.com)
American Express Vacations (www.americanexpressvacations.com)
United Vacations (www.unitedvacations.com)
USAirways Vacations (www.usairwaysvacations.com)