Passport – Do I Really Need One?

One of the questions I am most frequently asked is whether or not I need a passport.  And, almost without fail I answer yes.  And here’s why.

First, let’s understand what a passport really is, and then maybe we’ll better understand the value of this little blue book.  A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel.  All standardized passports contains all of the elements of identity that include information about the holder including name, date of birth, gender and place of birth.  Now, while the passport was originally designed for international travel today I often use my passport when traveling throughout the US because it makes travel through airports and the TIA that much easier.

While there are a lot of benefits of having your passport, especially in international travel, you need to know a couple of things.  And, these are why we so often recommend that you take a passport with you on a cruise, even though it isn’t required, and I’ll address that more in a minute.

A passport does not of itself entitle the passport holder entry into another country, nor to consular protection while abroad nor any other privileges.  It does, however, normally entitle the passport holder to return to the country that issued the passport.  Rights to consular protection arise from international treaties, while the bearer’s right to return to the passport’s country of issue depends on the laws of the issuing country.

As a general rule, here are some passport requirements when traveling:

  • You aren’t required to travel with a passport if you will department from a US port and will return to the same US port
  • A valid passport is a requirement for air travel to / from Canada, Mexico the Caribbean and Bermuda
  • For international travel, a valid passport is required and visas are required where they apply.  This includes Europe, Asia, Central and South America.  For additional passport information, visit www.travel.state.gov.

Over the last several years the rules for passport usage has really changed.  The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), fully implemented in June, 2009 requires all travelers to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda to present a valid passport or other approved document that establishes the bearer’s identity and citizenship in order to enter or reenter the United States.   Effective June 1, 2009 only a valid passport (unless otherwise noted in the link below) or other WHTI compliant document will be accepted for entry or re-entry into the United States.

For a list of all approved documents visit: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_2223.html

But here’s the good news for our cruise passengers who travel from US ports.  US citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the US) will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship, such as a government-issued birth certificate and laminated government issued picture ID, denoting photo, name and date of birth.  A US citizen under the age of 16 will be able to present either an original, notarized or certified copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issues by DOS, or Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Now, while that is good news, please take note: Baptismal papers and hospital certificates of birth are not acceptable. Voter registration cards or Social Security cards are not considered proof of citizenship.

If you are not a US citizen, you will need a valid passport and, in some cases, a visa.  If you live in the U.S., you will also need the original copy of your Alien Registration Card (ARC or “Green Card”) and any other documentation the countries on your itinerary require due to your alien status.  The time to get this together is not the week before your cruise.  Please plan ahead because the restrictions at the port are very strict.  They can’t bend the rules on these!!

All of the cruise lines strongly recommend that all guests travel with a valid passport during their cruise.  This greatly assists guests who may need to fly out of the United States to meet their ship at the next available port should they miss their scheduled embarkation in a U.S. port; guests entering the U.S. at the end of their cruise; and guests needing to fly to the U.S. before their cruise ends, because of medical, family, personal or business emergencies, missing a ship’s departure from a port of call, involuntary disembarkation from a ship due to misconduct, or other reasons.

Guests who need to fly to the United States before their cruise ends will likely experience significant delays and complications related to booking airline tickets and entering the United States if they do not have a valid U.S. passport with them.

If you are planning a cruise in Europe or the Mediterranean then a passport is a necessity – but that’s a different story!

There’s a quick overview on passports for your cruise travel – Maltese Cross Travel strongly recommends you travel with your passport.  You may never need it to re-enter the country, but if you do you will never regret it!

If you want more information about cruise travel, whether in the Caribbean or European River Cruising, please complete the firm below, or visit http://www.MalteseCrossTravel.com  

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