In the US only about 40% of the population holds a valid passport, so roughly more than 200 million Americans do not have passports. To travel beyond the borders generally, you are required to hold a valid passport, however, if you are a US citizen and do not hold a passport, you can still travel to numerous destinations if you have a government-issued form of photo ID such as a driver’s licence.
Destinations not just include places that are close to the US mainland, but also places like tropical islands in the Caribbean.
Countries to Travel Without a Passport
As long as you are travelling to Canada by land and sea, you are not required to show your US passport, instead, you are required to show proof of US citizenship document and a photo ID. Alternatively, you can apply for a NEXUS card which is part of the Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP). All programs included in TTP – Global Entry, TSA, SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST – are risk-based programs to facilitate the entry of pre-approved travellers. All applicants applying to register will be carefully vetted to ensure that they meet the requirements and complete an interview. All passengers must have a valid pass when travelling by a vehicle, including your children. There is no minimum age requirement for NEXUS.
If you are not registered for NEXUS, another document that you can use to enter Canada by land or sea is the enhanced driver’s license (EDL). The state issued EDLs prove the ID holder’s identity and their US citizenship. Unfortunately not all US states issue the EDL. The application for an EDL is currently only available to residents of the following states:
- New York
Another document that is acceptable when travelling without a passport is the US passport card. The difference between a passport and a passport card is that a passport card is not valid for international travel but only acceptable for land and sea border crossings.
*Children under 16 who are not travelling by air do not need passports to enter Canada. They will only need to present a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship. However, if you plan to travel by air, all children must hold a valid passport regardless of their age.
Same to Mexico, if you are entering the country by land and sea, you can use other border crossing documentation such as a passport card, EDL or the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) pass.
SENTRI pass is also a part of the TTP that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers to enter the country. All passengers and the vehicle must be SENTRI registered to drive through the SENTRI lanes when travelling by a vehicle.
*Children under 16 who are not travelling by air do not need passports to enter Mexico. They will only need to present a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship. However, if you plan to travel by air, all children must hold a valid passport regardless of their age.
United States Territories to Travel Without a Passport
Just like any domestic journey, US citizens can travel (including by air) to any of these five unincorporated territories of the US without a passport:
Also known as “Isla del Encanto” or the “Island of Enchantment”, Puerto Rico is a small Caribbean Island that has beautiful beaches and historical heritages.
Old San Juan (San Juan Viejo)
Capital and largest city in Puerto Rico. Walk through the streets to see the colonial architecture, it will take you less than an hour to walk around the Old San Juan as it’s a compact area.
US Virgin Islands
Only about 40 miles (64 km) away from Puerto Rico, the island is composed of three islands (St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix) and has about 50 smaller surrounding islets and cays.
Each island is known for different things, but the most famous island is St. Thomas among the three paradise-like islands. The island is known for breathtaking harbours, shopping, sightseeing and water sports.
About halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, US Samoa is the southernmost territory of the US. The territory consists of five islands (Tutuila, Ta’u, Ofu, Olosega and Aunuu) and two coral atolls.
Pago Pago, Tutuila
The largest and most populated island in US Samoa, Pago Pago is known as one of the largest tuna processors in the world.
The largest island in Micronesia, Guam island was formed by active volcanoes and is still sitting on a large volcanic base that has been repeatedly elevated.
Two Lovers Point, Guam
Overlooking the Philippine Sea and the northern Tumon Bay, Two Lovers Point, also known as the “Puntan Dos Amantes” is the historic cliff that has a legendary sad love story behind the name.
Northern Mariana Islands
A chain of 14 islands, the Northern Mariana Islands extend for about 450 miles (725km) north of Guam. Out of the 14 islands, the vast majority of the population resides on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
Managaha Island, Saipan
Known for the best snorkelling and scuba diving in the region, Managaha Island is a small, uninhabited island where it only takes about 15 minutes to walk around the island.