Traveling from US to Puerto Rico and back without passport

A friend of mine is traveling from Maryland to Puerto Rico with his 13-year-old son at the end of the month and neither have passports. He was told by the passport office that they aren’t necessary, but they couldn’t tell him what form of ID *would *be necessary. The person he spoke to said that some airlines may require a passport.

Needless to say, the Passport Office and TSA Web sites are conflicting and incomplete, with bad links (according to him) and no definitive information that would answer his questions one way or another.

I’m strongly suggesting that he get the passports anyway, since that will guarantee he has no problems, but since he’d have to do the expedited process and actually go down to the office (and get pictures taken, yadda yadda yadda), he wants to avoid that hassle.

He believes that he can get in and out of Puerto Rico with a driver’s license for him, and perhaps a birth certificate for his son, who doesn’t have a driver’s license or any other form of government-issued photo ID (AFAIK).

I think he’s asking for trouble. What can you tell me about this?

Maryland to Puerto Rico is a domestic flight, and the requirements will be the same as a flight within the US mainland. I don’t think your average 13-year-old kid is typically asked for a photo-ID to board a flight where a passport is not required.

Thanks, friedo. Do you know this from your own personal experience? (I don’t have a minor child of my own, and haven’t made a point of watching how they’re treated at security checkpoints.)

Also, what about getting back into the mainland from PR? Don’t you have to go through customs?

I’m confused as to why you’d have to - isn’t it like going to Hawaii? Or New Jersey? It’s America, isn’t it?

I don’t think it is just like traveling within the 50 states. But I don’t know for sure, which is why I’m asking on his behalf, and hoping to hear from someone who’s actually done it.

It’s not a real state, and they speak a foreign language. Isn’t that enough? :smiley:

I did travel to Puerto Rico when I was about that age (13) but that was in the mid-90’s. So things may have changed a lot since then. Still, a 13-year-old travelling domestically probably won’t be expected to have a photo ID. (Birth certificate is a fine idea, though.)

You don’t go through customs in PR or on the way back.

I flew to PR in the 90’s with only a driver’s license. And a plane ticket.

You don’t go through Customs in either direction because you’re not leaving the U.S.

Bringing the kid’s birth certificate isn’t a bad idea but probably not necessary.

I’m confused. Why would you think a passport would be necessary when not leaving the country?

Because since 9/11, all sorts of new rules and procedures have been put in place, not all of which make sense.

Can I please hear from someone who’s actually done it since 2001, not someone who’s confused about why I think this might be a problem?

My employer is one of the US’ largest commercial airlines, and the US-Puerto Rico route is one I frequent.

This is a domestic route. You are not leaving the United States. Adults over 18 should carry a photo ID to get through TSA screening; minor children do not need IDs.

I flew to Puerto Rico recently. Its a domestic flight - PR is a US territory. No Passport required.

The TSA says pretty clearly that they do not require photo ID for anyone under 18 to pass through security checkpoints. You should however check with your airlines to see if they require ID in order for a 13-year old to claim his ticket and board.

Note (valid only on the return from Puerto Rico part): While you do not go through customs, IF you’re checking in luggage (anything that is not carry on), you need to do a stop at the USDA station of the airport (I’m assuming San Juan) before you go through the security gate. They’ll put a sticker on the side of your baggage, marking it as cleared.

You’re supposed to also do it with carry-on, but I’ve never been stopped due to that. Checking in luggage, yes. They won’t accept it if it hasn’t “gone through agriculture”.

I don’t fully understand the purpose of that, but that’s the rule.

And NO, for the nth time, you do NOT need the passport when going to PR. Although it does work as a valid photo ID, if you happen to have it.

Puerto Rico is a US territory. No passport is required.

The cool thing about going there is that you can shop at Duty Free in San Juan before returning to the mainland without an “international” ticket. I can’t explain why, just saying I’ve done this on every trip there. My husband was born/raised in PR and has lived on the mainland for over 20 years. We’ve traveled there together and with our infant (now toddler) daughter many times. Should maybe also mention that we carry a birth certificate for her with us when we travel anywhere in the US, just in case it’s ever asked for.

While Puerto Rico is a domestic political entity of the United States, from a biological perspective it is literally “foreign” soil. The USDA maintains a port of entry station to scan for and interdict nonindigenous plants and animals that could prove harmful to mainland agriculture. The State of California does the same thing for all land routes from the Oregon, Nevada and Arizona to protect California agricultural from pests occurring in other parts of America not yet found in California.

Duckster, thanks for your post. While I understand the gist (protect from the mainland), I was just wondering why the same was not done when going there (protecting an island). It’s a bit comforting knowing something similar happens in other states.

I flew from DFW to San Juan PR to British Virgin Islands in November, 2009. The only time I went through customs and immigration and needed a passport were the SJ-to-BVI and BVI-to-SJ legs of the trip.

I have had banks charge me “exchange rates,” when cashing checks from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Of course it’s a US Commenwealth but what can you do? Other than look for a job.

The best way to solve this problem is simply call the airline and ask to speak to someone. When they tell you, then ask them to email you a copy or ask them where on the website is their policy.

Puerto Rico is a Commenwealth not territory, like the Northern Marianas. This often leaves it in limbo, well not really, 'cause it’s treated like a territory for purposes of the law and it’s treated like part of the United States, but legally it’s not. It’s a state “associated with” the United States. Again that is just “word,” Puerto Ricans like Northerm Marianans (???) are citizen, as are Guamites (??) and US Virgin Islanders, though the latter two are not US Commenwealths

The US Passport says

So notice that you would have to have a passport if you went on a domestic flight from the USA to Puerto Rico IF you were not a US Citizen. Or do you? See that isn’t really that clear? I know non-US citizens don’t need a passport to go from Chicago to Minneapolis.

And also note you must take a direct flight, since all other areas require passports. You can’t go to Miami -> Bahamas -> Puerto Rico

Now that it’s mentioned, I wonder how does this work for travels between Guam/NMI and the rest of the US. Since they have a different visa waiver program, this implies that everyone travelling from, let’s say, Guam to Hawaii, must pass through an immigration checkpoint of some sort to prevent someone admitted under the Guam visa waiver program from travelling on to the rest of the US. How does a US citizen without a passport prove that he or she is a citizen and not just a visitor?

I had to produce a passport in order to leave Guam and fly back to the mainland in 2005. Had to go through both customs and immigration.
I never understood why. In my mind I never left US territory.