Puerto Rico is an island paradise, filled with glorious beaches, vibrant culture, and stunning scenery admired the world over. However, before you get carried away and start booking flights, you need to be aware of the passport requirements.
What are the entry requirements, and do you need a passport to go to Puerto Rico? Or will a driver’s license work just fine?
What You Need to Enter Puerto Rico
Entry requirements for Puerto Rico really boils down to one thing: whether or not you’re an American citizen or resident.
Here’s what you need to know.
Passport Requirements For U.S Citizens
Fortunately, for most citizens, travel documents and passport requirements are remarkably simple.
As an American, you won’t need a passport or visa to travel to Puerto Rico, as it is just the same as if you were traveling to another U.S state. Puerto Rico is actually a territory classified as part of the U.S. commonwealth, meaning it functions the same as most U.S states (and Puerto Ricans are U.S citizens too).
This is different from a typical territory like the U.S Virgin Islands (or if you just so happen to be planning a trip to Swains Island in American Samoa) where you’ll absolutely need a passport to go there.
While U.S citizens are not required to show their passport to go to Puerto Rico (or to return), the State Department does recommend taking a government-issued ID. Examples of this are your driver’s license and your birth certificate.
Most travelers never have a need to show their birth certificate, driver’s license, or photo ID, but it is useful to have, just in case you encounter any issues when traveling to and from Puerto Rico.
You are also likely to find that the airport fees and taxes are very reasonable. This is due to them being the same as if you were traveling domestically, anywhere else in the U.S.
Scenarios Where You May Need a Passport in Puerto Rico, Even as a U.S. Citizen
There are some circumstances when a U.S citizen may be required to show their passport to visit Puerto Rico. The most common is when you are traveling via a foreign country. For example, if your flight is from Houston to San Juan, via Panama City, you will need to ensure that you have packed your passport.
While this type of itinerary is not very common, it is important to check your flight schedule to be prepared. If your itinerary does mean you are traveling by way of a foreign country, it is a good idea to use a U.S carrier to avoid issues with cabotage. Since your flight will be arriving from the foreign destination, U.S citizens will need to show their passport when they arrive in Puerto Rico. However, you can still use the Domestic Arrivals entry point.
Passport Requirements for Non-U.S Citizens Traveling to Puerto Rico
If you are a non-U.S citizen, the passport requirements and rules are exactly the same as any U.S port of entry.
As a foreigner from outside the U.S entering Puerto Rico, you will need a passport and you’ll be subject to a customs search by the Transportation Security Administration (TFSA). This applies to your first entry into the U.S from a foreign country, but it does not apply to subsequent trips.
This means that if your flight is from Paris to Puerto Rico, you will be need a passport and be subject to customs (a driver’s license won’t cut it here). However, if you flew to Puerto Rico via New York, you would already have a customs search when you first entered U.S territory.
Also make sure that you’re passport has at least two consecutive blank pages before you travel to Puerto Rico, and that your passport doesn’t expire for at least 6 months! Otherwise, a visit to the passport office or passport agency will be in order.
If you don’t have a passport yet, pick up a form at your post office. Getting turned away at the border would definitely put a wrench in your travel plans.
What to Bring to Puerto Rico as a U.S Lawful Permanent Resident (Not a Citizen)
If you hold a foreign passport but have LPR status (Lawful Permanent Residents), you will need to bring your residence certificate or a valid visa along with your passport to go to Puerto Rico. You won’t have to even encounter the Transportation Security Administration.
What to do if You need a Visa for Visiting Puerto Rico
If you’re visiting from another country, there might be other passport documentation requirements before entering Puerto Rico, like a visa. You can refer to the U.S Department of State’s Visa Wizard to find out what you need, including applicable forms and information.
There’s a long list of countries where visas aren’t required to visit the United States, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and most of Europe. The Visa Wizard is a quick and handy tool to double check before your visit, however. And applying for a visa is easy via the website.
Considerations Other Than Passport Requirements for Puerto Rico
Other than passport requirements, there are a few more considerations to keep in mind when you visit Puerto Rico so that you’ll have the best trip possible.
Since Puerto Rico is U.S territory, it operates on the dollar so you won’t need any special currency to pay for hotels or other travel expenditures. Everything here operates on the U.S dollar.
Although Puerto Rico is American, Spanish is commonly spoken by people living here, so you might want to brush up on your language skills before visiting. But don’t stress about it too much. English is also the national language in Puerto Rico, and no one will fault you for speaking it while you’re there.
Cell Phone Service
You might be wondering, “How will my cell phone work when I go to Puerto Rico?” Well, it’s the same as in the U.S. The major cell phone service providers have a presence, and you will be billed your standard domestic rates for calls. Don’t forget to pack your cell phone charger!
Credit and Debit Cards
You should have no problem using your credit or debit cards while here, but you should keep some cash on you at all times just in case you need it. Also, if you’re visiting from outside the U.S, make sure you call your credit card company to let them know. Otherwise, your account may be frozen.
Puerto Rico is an amazing place to visit, and you’re guaranteed to have an incredible time. Just be prepared before you leave, and know the passport requirements—you don’t want any unwelcome surprises on your trip!