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Do you need a passport to go to Jamaica?

Jamaica is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean along with the Bahamas. With its endless stretch of white sand beaches, luscious green mountainous areas, and unlimited sporting activities, of course, no one with an adventurous spirit could ever resist. Furthermore, for citizens of the United States, Jamaica is fairly close as compared to other tropical islands like Maldives or those in the Pacific, and is known its very laidback vibe. It’s understandable that plenty of Americans want to visit the country, but what exactly would US citizens need before they can go to Jamaica?

A valid American passport for air travel

Previously, US citizens are not required to have a passport before they can enter Jamaica. However, with the enactment of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative last June 1, 2009, all US citizens who are planning to travel to Jamaica by air are required to present a valid American passport. For those traveling by other means such as by land or sea, it is possible to not have a passport but other forms of identification are required. This is in order to strengthen border security and to prevent falsification of documents according to the US government.

Although passport cards were accepted before, today they may no longer be valid for air travel. Most US airlines nowadays are requiring overseas travelers to have a passport book in order to avoid problems when they re-enter the country. Passport cards are similar to the photo page of passport books. They contain the same information but it is only a single sheet, thus there is no space for stamps and visa. If you will not be traveling by air, it is alright to not have a valid passport. A passport card would be enough.

A return ticket to the United States may also be required to be presented upon landing in Jamaica. Authorities may also look for proof of funds for the length of the visit, so always prepare the documents ahead of time. For visits that will last more than six months, a US citizen would then need a valid Jamaican Visa.

Another thing to note is that enhanced driver’s license are not accepted as valid proofs of identification in Jamaica. Even if you will be traveling by sea or land, they will not be accepted unlike passport cards. However, other places in the Caribbean and areas covered by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative are accepting them. They are only available in a few states though – Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Washington.


How to apply for passports

If you do not have your own yet, you can apply to a nearby local facility that accepts passport applications. A recent photo of yourself, a proof of US citizenship along with an application fee will be required. Moreover, you have to go personally because you are required to sign some things. After this, your passport will be ready after six weeks. To receive your passport faster, you will be required to pay an expediting fee, but your passport will be ready in two weeks at the least.

All US citizens are entitled to a US passport upon application according to the US Federal Law, however if you fail to meet all the requirements, the US Department of State have the right to deny one’s passport application. Aside from those mentioned above, additional documents might also be required so you should ask for assistance from your local facility. Other reasons for denial of US passport applications include prior felony conviction and failure to pay child support. If the applicant has a federal arrest or criminal warrant or if he is under parole or probation, denial of passport application can also be requested by the state. Parking tickets and civil penalties on the other hand, are not ground for denial of US passport.

Furthermore, US immigrants with visas and permanent residents of the US are not allowed to receive passports as they are not considered US citizens. Naturalized citizens are allowed on the other hand.

Other things to prepare before you go

Now that you have your valid passport, you should then book a flight and reserve a room to wherever you will be staying in Jamaica. You should prepare copies of everything especially your return ticket in case the authorities will be needing it. If you will be going on a cruise, your passport card would be enough, but your passport can also be used. After that, you can then plan on the list of activities you will be doing and places to go. Whether you will be soaking up the sun on a white beach all day long, working up a sweat while exploring river falls and climbing mountains, or diving in the ocean, or paying homage to Bob Marley, or golfing in spectacular golf courses, now is the time to decide.

Thereafter, you can pack your bags and be ready for an adventure of a lifetime. You should pack comfortable clothing that is preferably lightweight and made of cotton. Jamaica’s climate is of a tropical one so you should avoid heavy jackets and nylons. You might also want to wear a light sweater as you walk at night so bringing one or two is also a good idea. Do not also forget to bring a bunch of swim wear and sun block since the beach of Jamaica is not something you should miss.

Of course you should also prepare your budget. Jamaica has its own dollar so be informed about the current exchange rates. It is also good to exchange your funds at the airports before all the fun will start. Many high class hotels and resorts are accepting US dollars, however you should still keep some Jamaican dollar in your pocket in cases of emergencies. You should also keep in mind some things that are prohibited in Jamaica so you wouldn’t get in any trouble. For example, you should limit the duty-free goods you’ll be bringing in order to avoid paying large tax fees. And upon arrival, you should keep the immigration card that will be given to you since you will be required to return it after your stay.

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