U.S. citizens bound for Jamaica must now bring along a valid U.S. passport. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), effective June 2009, mandates that all travelers visiting any Caribbean island carry a passport to present on the return trip. Prior to the implementation of this federal legislation, only a government-issued photo ID was required for travelers to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. So, although customs officials in Jamaica will not ask that U.S. citizens present a passport, be sure to pack one to avoid conflict with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on your way home.
Sea Travel to Jamaica
Jamaica customs officials will not ask U.S. citizens to present a passport or visa upon their arrival on an island. However, WHTI requires that travelers returning to the U.S. after a stay in Jamaica present either a U.S. passport book or passport card to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. A passport card is a less expensive, wallet-size alternative to a passport book. The passport card can be used only by people traveling to Bermuda, the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico by land or sea.
ID Alternatives for Sea Travel
Enhanced tribal cards, enhanced driver’s licenses, a Form I-872 American Indian card, a U.S. military ID, a U.S. Merchant Mariner's Document, trusted traveler cards and a Native American Tribal photo ID card are the only other acceptable identification documents that can be presented at the border or seaport under the WHTI.
Air Travel to Jamaica
Valid U.S. passport books are always needed for international air travel to and from U.S. airports. Since airport officials cannot allow anyone on the plane who has not presented a passport, make sure to keep it with you at all times. A valid U.S. passport is one that has not yet reached its expiration date and will not expire while you are in Jamaica.
ID Alternatives When Flying
Travelers holding either a Merchant Mariner's document while conducting official maritime business or a NEXUS Air trusted traveler card are the only travelers who may fly without a valid U.S. passport book.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Congress appointed a special committee to investigate the circumstances that led to the attacks and make suggestions for strengthening homeland security. WHTI grew out of the recommendations set forth by that committee, now widely known as the 9/11 commission. These recommendations, which were later legislated by the U.S. Congress in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, were put into action in two separate phases. The international air travel regulations went into effect in January 2007 and the restrictions on international land and sea travel were implemented in June 2009. The objective of WHTI, according to the U.S. Department of State, is to fortify the U.S. borders by creating standardized documentation requirements and entry procedures.