When do I need a Passport?

passportIt seems so confusing, but it is not.  I will cover the Passport Card in a separate Post but in general, you need a Valid Passport if:

  • you are flying into or out of the United States of America
  • you traveling into or out of the U.S. by land border-crossings or ports-of-entry by sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda

However, there is an Exemption if you are cruising from a U.S. Port and returning to the same U.S. Port.  Other paperwork can be used instead.

It is called the

Closed loop Cruise exemption – (from Customs and Border Protection)

U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship (referred to as a “closed loop” cruise), may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization).

You may still be required to present a passport to enter the countries your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents.

https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/whti_landsea_faq.pdf

If you utilize this exemption and for some reason (illness, emergency, the ship sails without you) find yourself having to return to the U.S. a different way, you will have great difficulties.  I recommend that you always have a Valid Passport when traveling.