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Caribbean Passport Requirements

Whether or not a U.S. or Canadian tourist needs a passport to visit a Caribbean destination comes down to a few simple rules.

Some Caribbean nations require passports for tourists visiting by air or sea for overnight stays, while some do not. Regardless of the requirements, both the U.S. and Canadian governments strongly recommend that their citizens carry passports with them whenever visiting international destinations.

U.S. Citizens

Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, all Americans traveling by air to the Caribbean, Mexico and Bermudaare required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. The only exceptions are the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This requirement will be extended to sea travel (except closed loop cruises), including ferry service, by the summer of 2009, according to the U.S. State Department.

Until then, U.S. citizens traveling by sea must have government-issued photo identification and a document showing their U.S. citizenship (for example, a birth certificate or certificate of nationalization), or other WHTI compliant document such as a passport card for entry or re-entry to the U.S. Sea travelers should also check with their cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements.

While a U.S. passport is not mandatory for sea travel, it is recommended since it is a more readily recognized form of positive proof of citizenship. A lost or stolen passport is also easier to replace when outside of the United States than other evidence of citizenship.

Tourists visiting from cruises ships need their passports or proof of citizenship when they enter the ship in the U.S. before embarkation and when leave the ship at debarkation back into the U.S. They generally need only their shipboard ID -- which is given to them when they enter the ship -- in order to visit individual islands during brief daytime visits on the cruise.

Canadian Citizens

The Canadian government strongly recommends that its citizens travel with a passport valid for six months after the arrival date. It is the only universally accepted identification document, and it proves that they have a right to return to Canada. A lost or stolen passport is also easier to replace when outside of Canada than other evidence of citizenship.

A Certificate of Canadian Citizenship is not a travel document. A Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel.

Canadian citizens returning to Canada who present other documents, such as a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship, birth certificate, provincial driver's license, or foreign passport, instead of a Canadian passport, may face delays or be denied boarding by transport companies.

These requirements are subject to change at any time. It is the traveler's responsibility to check with the country's embassy or its consulates for up-to-date information.

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