Will I need a passport traveling from Florida to St. Thomas. I do not think so but I wanted to be sure.
We've just returned from there ~ New Mexico to Atlanta to Miami to San Juan to St.Thomas. Other than our valid U,S. drivers licences, we did not need anything. No passport or birth certificate. I don't imagine that it's changed since last Saturday, but you may want to call customer service at your airlines. I'm thinking that something changed this past week, but am not sure what, regulation-wise.
Do you need to go through custom on your way back home?
American citizens do not need a passport to enter or leave the Virgin Islands from the US mainland. However, the official requirement for leaving the territory and re-entering the US mainland is proof of citizenship and identity, i.e. a raised seal birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID (i.e. driver's license.) These are not always asked for but better to be prepared than not. All in all, much easier to get a passport and it seems that the process has speeded up of late.
And yes, you do go through customs when you leave.
Also, if you plan to take a sailing or boat trip to the British Virgin Islands, then you definetly need a passport.
Another thing...I heard on the news that they're going to come out with driver license size passports for 1/2 the price. Great idea!
The USVI is a territory of the US, not part of the US so the same rules don't apply. I think the passport requierments were added to the books after 9/11 as a security measure but they just keep moveing the implementation date further into the future. It's strange and confusing for sure but I won't try to guess why the govt makes the rules they do.
Clearing through customs has been around as long as I can remember. The USVI is a "free port" with booze, smokes, jewelry and other luxury items taxed differently then the states. Customs works as an immigration and financial checkpoint. Moving around the islands illegally would be easy for any determined individual and it would be just too easy to board a plane for the states if no one was asking for your papers. And financially Uncle Sam wants to to keep an eye on the $$$ so you are required to declare the purchases you made while travelling outside the United States.
I had an unpleasant Customs agent in 1998 who must have been having a bad day. It was no biggie and I got my passport quickly thereafter and it's been a breeze since.
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