The Virgin Islands are a top destination for US travelers dreaming of a picturesque Caribbean vacation. But passport requirements will vary depending on which island you plan to visit, whether it’s the United States or British. Let’s explore the question “do you need a passport to go to the Virgin Islands?”
A passport is not required for US citizens to travel to the US Virgin Islands from the US mainland. International travelers, or US citizens entering from foreign destinations, will still need a passport to enter the USVI. Note that US travelers always need a passport to travel to the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
The US Virgin Islands is one of the premier destinations to visit without a passport. You can also visit nearby Puerto Rico without a passport. Any trip to the British Virgin Islands as a US citizen, however, comes with more document requirements.
Below, I’ve done a deep dive below into the documents you’ll need to visit the Virgin Islands.
Table of Contents
- What is the Difference Between the US and the British Virgin Islands?
- Do US Citizens Need a Passport for the US Virgin Islands?
- Do US Citizens Need a Passport to Visit the British Virgin Islands?
- Do Lawful Permanent Residents of the US Need a Passport for the US Virgin Islands?
- Things to Know Before Traveling to the Virgin Islands
- FAQs About Passports and the Virgin Islands
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What is the Difference Between the US and the British Virgin Islands?
The difference between the US Virgin Islands vs British Virgin Islands is primarily political, leading to much confusion on which islands you can visit without a passport and which ones you cannot.
Essentially, the Virgin Islands, as a whole, is an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea and the geologically easternmost islands of the Greater Antilles. Today, the archipelago falls into three political jurisdictions:
- 🇵🇷 Spanish Virgin Islands: the easternmost islands of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, primarily consisting of the two main islands of Culebra and Vieques, all of which are an unincorporated territory of the United States. In another article, we’ve thoroughly discussed passport requirements for US citizens entering Puerto Rico.
- 🇻🇮 US Virgin Islands (USVIs): another unincorporated territory of the United States, the US Virgin Islands consists of the three main islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. US citizens do not need a passport to visit these islands.
- 🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands (BVIs): officially the Virgin Islands, the British Overseas Territory comprises four main islands: Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke. US citizens do need a passport to visit any of these islands.
The rest of this article focuses on passport entry requirements into the US Virgin Islands with additional passport tips for visiting the British Virgin Islands.
Do US Citizens Need a Passport for the US Virgin Islands?
United States citizens traveling from within the USA (or Puerto Rico) do not need a passport to visit the US Virgin Islands as it’s an unincorporated territory. Instead, travelers can use a valid government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license.
The United States acquired the US Virgin Islands from the Danish in 1917, and since then, flights to the islands’ main airports on St. Thomas (STT) or St. Croix (STX) have been considered domestic travel. Although a valid passport isn’t required, at the very least, a driver’s license is, and most would recommend traveling with proof of citizenship, like a raised seal birth certificate.
A United States citizen entering the US Virgin Islands from a foreign destination, including the British Virgin Islands, must present their passport at the airport or port of entry.
🛏️ Plan Your Stay: St. Thomas is the most popular US Virgin Island and springboard to any surrounding islands, including the BVIs. Beachfront resorts and historic guesthouses pepper the shorelines and centuries-old city of Charlotte Amalie.
Do US Citizens Need a Passport to Visit the British Virgin Islands?
United States citizens traveling into the British Virgin Islands, no matter the departing country or territory, must present a valid passport upon entry. Passport requirements include travel to Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, or any other smaller island within the British Overseas Territory.
Even if departing nearby St. Thomas or St. John on a day trip into the British Virgin Islands, US citizens must bring a valid passport for permitted entry. You must present your passport for all popular day trips like The Baths on Virgin Gorda and Soggy Dollar on Jost Van Dyke.
Do Lawful Permanent Residents of the US Need a Passport for the US Virgin Islands?
Lawful permanent residents of the United States do not need a passport to enter the US Virgin Islands if arriving from within the US. Although a driver’s license should be sufficient, US Customs and Border Protection recommends lawful permanent residents and green card holders bring all relevant immigration papers.
🏞️ Did You Know? The National Park Service protects two-thirds of St. John as Virgin Islands National Park. The unique US National Park has pristine beaches, historic ruins, and picturesque hiking trails.
Things to Know Before Traveling to the Virgin Islands
Phone Coverage in the Virgin Islands
Your US phone will work with no problem within the US Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. If heading to the British Virgin Islands, even for the day, your US phone will NOT work without significant international charges.
With that said, I’ve found parts of St. John’s East End (close to Tortola) will pick up towers on the British Virgin Islands. If that’s the case, I turn my phone on airplane mode when trekking the fantastic hikes on St. John.
Driving in the Virgin Islands
The United States Virgin Islands are the only US soil where driving on the left side is the law of the land. It can be harrowing at first, but trust me, follow these driving tips in the USVI, and you’ll be driving on the left like a pro in no time!
Currency in the Virgin Islands
The US Dollar (USD) is the official currency in the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. So no need to worry about exchanging money upon arrival in either of the territories – your existing cash and widely accepted credit cards will work everywhere.
US Virgin Islanders are US Citizens
Since 1927, US Virgin Islanders have been born US citizens with their natural rights protected by the federal government, much like anyone else on the mainland.
Similarly, residents of the British Virgin Islands are British citizens.
St. Croix is Isolated from the Other Islands
St. Croix had a slightly different geological formation than the other Virgin Islands resulting in its location 45 miles south of St. Thomas and St. John. Because of this isolation, the island is a multicultural blend of people with a distinct identity.
You can quickly bounce from St. Thomas to St. John for the day and vice versa, but getting to St. Croix is a longer process. Set aside at least three days to get a meaningful glimpse into the best things to do on St. Croix.
Puerto Rico is a Short Flight from the Virgin Islands
Not many people realize how close Puerto Rico is to the US Virgin Islands. In fact, on a clear day, mainland Puerto Rico is visible from points on St. Thomas and St. John. It’s an easy 20-minute flight (40 minutes, gate-to-gate) from St. Thomas (STT) or St. Croix (STX) to San Juan (SJU).
The Virgin Islands Has a Hurricane Season
Hurricane season begins in June, peaking in September, before ending in late November. And even though the threat looms, hurricanes don’t end up hitting the Virgin Islands every year.
If you’re a budget traveler, this is the best time of year to visit the USVI for cheap. Flights, hotels, car rentals, and tours are all usually more affordable, and you might have the stunning USVI beaches to yourself!
The US Virgin Islands are Safe
A quick google search won’t produce promising results for safety in the US Virgin Islands. However, as someone who’s lived on St. Thomas for quite a while, I can honestly say the USVIs are safe to visit. I’ve detailed all your potential worries in my article, “Is St. Thomas Safe?”
FAQs About Passports and the Virgin Islands
What Documents Do You Need to Go to St. Thomas?
As a US Citizen, the only document you need to go to St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands is a government-issued photo ID. This includes a driver’s license, passport, or trusted traveler program card.
Other documents that are helpful to go to the US Virgin Islands are a birth certificate if using only a driver’s license and immigration papers for lawful permanent residents. International travelers visiting St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands will need a valid passport.
Can I travel to the US Virgin Islands with a driver’s license?
US Citizens can travel to the US Virgin Islands with their driver’s license. If you’re a lawful permanent resident of the United States, you can travel with a driver’s license plus immigration papers.
Is the US Virgin Islands Considered Domestic Travel?
The US Virgin Islands are treated as domestic travel when departing from the mainland United States. This means US citizens do not need to bring a passport or pass through customs.
What Islands Can I Go to Without a Passport?
US Citizens can go to many different Caribbean Islands without a passport, including Puerto Rico and its easternmost islands of Vieques and Culebra, plus the US Virgin Islands and its three main islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. See our full list of places you can travel without a passport.
Now you don’t have to wonder “do I need a passport for the Virgin Islands?”
If you have any questions about traveling to the US Virgin Islands (or the British Virgin Islands, for that matter), please let us know in the comment below.
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