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.
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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)