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ColdWhether
(@ColdWhether)
Advanced Member

Ok so what is the deal... when you fly from the mainland into STT or STX you are not required to have a passport of any kind to arrive.

In theory you are supposed to have a passport or a combo of drivers license/birth certificate.... however

We just had some friends visit us on STX and they didn't bring a birth certificate or a passport and they went through customs with nothing but a drivers license with no problems.

What gives? Were they just given some slack? Is a drivers license considered proof of citizenship on it's own now? I'm confused.

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Topic starter Posted : March 23, 2009 11:38 am
Juanita
(@Juanita)
Expert

When traveling to the USVI from the United States, all you need is ID, same as if you were flying from New York to California, or anywhere else in the US. No difference. A drivers license is just fine. Any official ID is fine. You don't need a combo of license and birth certificate. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation, and even the airline personnel get it wrong. If you go to the tourism website, I believe it is all documented there, also on the official website for the USVI government. Sorry, I don't have the web addresses handy, but you can just google it.

I encourage people to go ahead and get a passport, anyway. Then when the airline personnel get it wrong, it won't matter or be a hassle. And you do need it to visit other, non-US, islands.

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Posted : March 23, 2009 12:36 pm
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

While it is certainly true that complete ID is not always asked for, CIS has the right to ask a traveler for proof of US citizenship in order to return to the continential US. See below:

When traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens enjoy all the conveniences of domestic travel -- including on-line check-in -- making travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands easier than ever!

U.S. citizens traveling between the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will continue to be able to use established forms of identification, such as original birth certificates and government-issued photo ID, to board flights and for entry.

Proof of U.S. citizenship required
Tickets and documents for return or onward travel required
Vaccination: Not required
Acceptable Proofs of U.S. Citizenship
U.S. passport (must be valid) -or-
Certified copy of birth certificate plus government issued photo ID -or-
Official U.S. government document verifying citizenship
Certificate of citizenship
Certificate of naturalization
Consular report of birth abroad of a U.S. Citizen

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Posted : March 23, 2009 1:54 pm
Betty
(@Betty)
Trusted Member

Some of the airline reps do not understand that you only need a driver's license for USVI and PR. If they give you a hard time ask to speak to their supervisor. Never had a problem with TSA, but I would suggest the same thing. About one out of five of my flights from the mainland to back home, this happens. I don't like to take my passport and risk losing it. Already lost one and it was a pain in the arse to get it back.

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Posted : March 23, 2009 5:12 pm
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

Betty, the regs say a drivers license AND a birth certificate. My point is that while the TSAs sometimes don't ask for a BC, they have the absolute right to do so. A drivers license does not prove citizenship.

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Posted : March 23, 2009 5:22 pm
Dante
(@dante)
Advanced Member

My personal experience:

After many times successfully going through customs from STX to the mainland, with only a drivers license, I never had an issue.

One time, after presenting my Driver’s license, I was asked for a birth certificate, and or passport. When I explained that I did not have either one, I didn’t think it was necessary, I was corrected and promptly handed a flyer that explained in detail that I indeed could be asked for these and even denied passage if I did not have it.

They were very nice, and did let me go through after some questioning. They explained that it is a common misconception that only a drivers license is necessary.

Since, I have always carried my passport, and a copy of my birth certificate. I have never again been asked for either 🙂

Regards,
Dante

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Posted : March 23, 2009 5:25 pm
Uttica
(@Uttica)
Advanced Member

TSA absolutely does NOT have the right to ask for a birth certificate. They have the authority to say that I can not carry 3.5 onces of mouth wash without a plastic bag, or whatever, but they DO NOT enforce immigration laws. In Fact, not even CIS has the right to ask a traveler for proof of US citizenship in order to return to the continential US.

The law enforcement entity tasked with guarding our nations borders at airports, seaports and land Ports of Entries is Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the entity who enforces immigration laws within the US borders.

STX and STT are considered preclearance stations. Preclearance to the US means that once you go through the inspection process by a CBP Officer, you do not need to be inspected when you arrive in the continental US. Although there are other preclearance sites around the world, the Caribbean is the only place (that I know of) where you can enter the continental US with only a government issued photo ID, it can be a state or federal ID and only if you a US citizen. The only CBP Officer that would regularly ask for a passport is one of the lazy ones who do not want to type your name into their system. With the new machine readable passports, all they have to do is swipe it into their machine.

But the other side of the coin. You are asking permission to enter the US. Therefore, it is up to you to prove that you are a US citizen, legal immigrant or non immigrant. The burden of proof is on you, not them, to prove that you meet the conditions, so it may be prudent for you to obtain a US passport to make a smoother quicker entry.

--------------------------------------------------

This only applies to preclearance to the continental US. If you are coming to the USVI from foreign (say from St. Maarten on Liat), then you have to have a US passport.

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Posted : March 23, 2009 9:35 pm
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

Uttica, you are incorrect. You can certainly be asked to prove citizenship. How else do they know if you or any person is allowed back onto the continent?

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Posted : March 24, 2009 12:58 am
Uttica
(@Uttica)
Advanced Member

Linda, please read earlier posts before commenting....

You say that you can certainly be asked to prove citizenship? I know that you will be asked your citizenship. If warranted by CBP officers, you may have to prove that you are a US citizen. This does not mean in any way that you have to carry a US passport or birth certificate.

If you don't believe me, try flying to the states and don't present a passport, only present a government issued photo ID. You won't get any troubles (as long as you are a US citizen).

I regularly fly with no passport and no problems.

Try it and see.

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Posted : March 24, 2009 9:55 am
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

even roger morgan was given a hard time about the passport issue on one of his flights, they asked for a passport which we all know you dont need to enter the usvi. before i got my passport i always traveled with my dl and bc.

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Posted : March 24, 2009 10:53 am
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

Uttica,

"try flying to the states and don't present a passport, only present a government issued photo ID. You won't get any troubles (as long as you are a US citizen)."

and HOW does anyone know if I am a citizen or not?

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Posted : March 24, 2009 11:28 am
Uttica
(@Uttica)
Advanced Member

Linda,

The CBP Officers are professionals, they know what to ask and what to look for in a person lying to them. They go to a federal law enforcement training center for like, five-six months. If they have additional questions they want to ask or record checks performed, they will send you to a secondary inspection area. This does not mean that every person w/o a passport or birth certificate will be sent to the secondary inspection area. CBP would be overwhelmed by all the record checks if they did that.

please see: www.caribbean.com/cgi-bin/cms/page.cgi?g=Detailed/655.html

The only time I have ever been given trouble about it was when I was returning to STX from the continental US. American Airlines told me that I had to have a passport to go to the VI. Since I don't have one, I had to ask for a supervisor. The clerk didn't know the law and I was allowed to board.

If you don't believe me, don't want to wait to fly and not carry a passport to see that I am right, or don't believe your eyes (see website) then try calling CBP yourself. 340-778-1419 on STX, sorry don't know STT number. If the CBP officer says yes, you need a passport or Birth Certificate, he is lazy (see earlier post). Simply ask to speak to a supervisor, they will tell you you don't need anything but an ID. Or call ICE at 340-778-6559, they'll tell you the same.

I apologize to everyone for seemingly keeping a back and forth going...I just don't like when someone spouts out "regs" when there are people who actually want and need to know.

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Posted : March 24, 2009 12:00 pm
Juanita
(@Juanita)
Expert

Here's a thought...If someone has a US drivers license, wouldn't it stand to reason they would be allowed into the country? Even if they are not a US citizen, they had to pass some form of ID check to get the license; a green card, visa, whatever, right? I guess a visa could have expired before the drivers license, or something like that. Anybody know if there is any rhyme or reason to the DL number? Maybe there is some code in there that says you are a US citizen?? Some states used to use SS numbers, but I don't think they do that anymore because of identity theft.

I'm still a big fan of the passport. Takes any question out of it and no hassle at the ticket counter. Hope I don't lose it!!

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Posted : March 24, 2009 12:22 pm
dougtamjj
(@dougtamjj)
Expert

My sister in law is a foreign national. She went to get her DL in Richmond, Virginia and the the DMV employee asked her didn't she want to register to vote. My sister in law replied that she believed it to be against the law for foreign nationals to vote in the United States. The lady shrugged her shoulders and asked again, " do you want to vote or not?" Makes you think a little about how things really are in the US.

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Posted : March 24, 2009 1:35 pm
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

This is a circular argument and we've had it before - American citizens don't need to prove citizenship, but how do you determine who actually is a citizen. It is impossible to discuss this issue reasonably with someone who really believes that you can tell who is a US citizen just by looking at him/her. I'd be interested in knowing what a US citizen looks like?

At any rate, I'm here in cold, cold Kentucky visiting my dad. He celebrated his 85th B'day on Sunday. I'll be traveling back to STX next Tuesday, passport in hand. Can't wait!!

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Posted : March 24, 2009 2:23 pm
dougtamjj
(@dougtamjj)
Expert

Get back soon Linda J. Happy 85th to your Dad.

Tam

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Posted : March 24, 2009 2:29 pm
Lizard
(@Lizard)
Trusted Member

Linda J
You can tell who the American citizen is by looking at them. When they arrive they have a "Happy Tired Face" When they Depart They have a "Sad Tired Face". The reason for the "Sad Tired Face "is they tried to squeeze a one month vacation into 7 day's, not enough time!

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Posted : March 24, 2009 2:42 pm
Betty
(@Betty)
Trusted Member

That seems a little insulting to CBP, BorderPatrol, ICE, and other federal agents that tell not merely by looking but by questioning and researching their documents. To do so by just looking is profiling and that is not what these agents do. Not to mention their intial training plus all the training they take throughout their careers.

I didn't see anything unreasonable about Uttica's agruements. I see the flaw in your logic Linda where I don't thing you read what he/she wrote. Uttica never said they could tell merely by looking, they said they were trained in what to look for in a person lying to them. I know when my husband was in Border Patrol he always said things like there are 500 ways to tell if a document is fradulent. Obviously no ones is going to remember 500 ways but you remember enough of them to be able to notice when somethings not right. Then you follow up with questioning and research.

He/She also never say they could tell merely by looking at someone. Although growing up in a border town it was pretty easy for all of us to tell who was a US citzen and who wasn't. And it wasn't a money thing either. Please dress differently, even haircuts are different, especially on men. And attitude and manners are different.

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Posted : March 24, 2009 3:05 pm
islandtyme
(@islandtyme)
Trusted Member

Sadly a DL does not establish citizenship..............in some states you can be *ahem* visitor & get one.

I've been asked for nothing more than a DL traveling between the main land & STX. Before the passport laws, I was asked for my birth certificate & DL.
Ya'noe, if you are legally here & a citizen, whats the big deal presenting a BC,DL & or Passport? These laws were put in place NOT to annoy you, but to protect you! So it takes you longer to get through the lines..........at least you know that you'll arrive safely to your destination. If this still upsets you, get in touch with a family member from flight 93...............

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Posted : March 24, 2009 3:19 pm
Uttica
(@Uttica)
Advanced Member

I hate carrying anything more than I have to when traveling. There are to many things to try to keep track of.

I didn't realize that it was being unreasonable to state the laws of the United States or the regulations of the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Bottom line---no passport, no birth certificate, no problem.

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Posted : March 24, 2009 4:43 pm
jefgar
(@jefgar)
Advanced Member

From the DHS web site:

Traveling to and from U.S. Territories. U.S. Citizens traveling to and returning directly from a U.S. territory are not considered to
have left the U.S. territory and do not need to present a passport.

U.S. territories include American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Swains Island and U.S. Virgin Islands.

From the US Department of State website (responding to "Do I need a passport?")

A U.S Passport is not required for direct travel within the 50 States (including Hawaii, Alaska, and District of Columbia) and
U.S Territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island). Please
visit TSA for further information.

However, if you are traveling to a U.S. State or Territory THROUGH another country (for example, traveling through Canada to
go to Alaska, or, traveling through Japan to go to Guam), please select the foreign country from the list below to determine the
required documentation.

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Posted : March 25, 2009 12:01 am
Edward
(@Edward)
Trusted Member

Here in post-Soviet space, everyone carries their internal passport all the time. Americans steadfastly object to being required to carry their "papers." When I travel between JFK and STT, I routinely carry my passport. It makes check-in a lot easier. But that's just my choice.

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Posted : March 25, 2009 5:55 am
A Davis
(@A_Davis)
Trusted Member

Edward,

i also got a passport for the same reason. it settles the question, and i move along a lot faster.

in the past i had always encountered someone who "didn't get the memo" on the fact that the united states (hello!?) virgin islands are a territory of the u.s. many americans think we are in jamaica or the bahamas. i see this less and less but every now and again someone pokes his or her head up with the assured ignorance that i am, indeed, a foreigner. until i whip out the old passport.

while it is not always requested, one should always be ready to verify one's citizenship when passing through u.s. ports - and the birth certificate is the best way to do it, as long as it's the original with a raised seal, not a photocopy. driver licenses differ so much that it's hard to verify them, even though one has to prove quite a bit to get one in the first place.

with no standard (universal) driver license, the birth certificate combined with government ID establish both citizenship and residency. whatta combo!

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Posted : March 25, 2009 11:01 am
Juanita
(@Juanita)
Expert

LOL. I'm laughing at myself. I use my passport when I take the seaplane. I guess it's the country girl in me. Something "glamorous" about a passport.

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Posted : March 25, 2009 11:24 am
A Davis
(@A_Davis)
Trusted Member

LOL @ envisioning Juanita in sunglasses and floppy hat, jet engine breezes caressing her hairdo...:@)

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Posted : March 25, 2009 12:12 pm
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