As you likely know, U.S., Canadian, or Bermudan citizens need a valid passport to reenter the U.S. after traveling internationally. While this rule may seem very clear-cut, it actually turns out not to be so simple when U.S. territories are added to the equation. For example, if you’re planning on visiting or traveling to Puerto Rico, you may wonder whether a passport is necessary.
Traveling from U.S. Territories for U.S. Citizens
As a U.S. citizen or LPR (lawful permanent resident), you will not need a passport to travel back to the states from a U.S. territory, such as Puerto Rico, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Swains Island, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). While a passport is not necessary, it is recommended that you bring both a copy of your birth certificate as well as a government-issued photo ID, such as your driver’s license. You will likely not need to show your birth certificate, but you should bring it anyway just in case. Even though Hawaii is not part of the mainland United States, it is a U.S. state and therefore passport documentation is not necessary.
The only time a U.S. citizen or LPR will need a passport while traveling between the states and the U.S. territories is if the traveling isn’t direct. Therefore, if you touch down at a foreign place or port during your travels, you will need a passport in order to re-enter the United States.
Traveling from U.S. Territories for non-U.S. Citizens
Whether you’re a U.S. citizen or non-U.S. citizen, entry requirements are the same when coming from a foreign place to the United States. A passport is always needed when departing for the United States from a foreign country. Unlike U.S. citizens, however, non-U.S. citizens also need a passport to leave the United States.