The Most Incredible Places You Don't Need a US Passport to Visit

The US Virgin Islands are a great destination for swimming, diving and sampling a spot of rum
The US Virgin Islands are a great destination for swimming, diving and sampling a spot of rum | © Zoonar GmbH / Alamy
Photo of Harry Stewart
28 July 2021

Do you want a holiday but not the hassle – and expense – of obtaining a US passport? There are plenty of exotic destinations for US citizens to visit without the bureaucracy. These US territories require only a valid government-issued ID and a copy of the your birth certificate, and there are other sovereign nations that allow entry under certain conditions, too.

US Virgin Islands

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These stunning Caribbean islands are now an organized and unincorporated US territory thanks to an agreement struck with Denmark in 1916. Tourism is the island’s main industry, with some 2m visitors enjoying the pristine scenery each year. Typical activities include swimming, diving and sampling rum, one of the main industries on the island that is best consumed in cocktail form while lying on the beach.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean

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Other Caribbean nations will accept a valid US Passport Card or an Enhanced Driver’s License for maritime arrivals under an arrangement called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. This nifty arrangement allows cruise ship passengers to visit Bermuda, Jamaica and the Bahamas without a Passport Booklet (full passport). Just don’t try to fly home, as a Passport Booklet is always required for air travel in and out of the US and its territories.

Northern Mariana Islands

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Person Swimming In Sea
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Way off in the North Pacific Ocean, this US commonwealth territory is popular with tourists for its breadth of activities, such as diving, swimming, karaoke and gambling. English is the official language, and the US dollar is the official currency. The scuba diving is also particularly good here, thanks to numerous coral reefs and World War II shipwrecks.

Guam

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Just south of the Mariana Islands, Guam is arguably most famous for its role as an important US military hub. Big guns aside, this unincorporated US territory welcomes more than 1m tourists each year who seek the cultural marketplaces, pristine beaches and superb snorkeling opportunities Guam offers.

American Samoa

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This unincorporated territory in the South Pacific is similar to the greater Samoan archipelago in terms of both culture and lifestyle. American Samoa sees far fewer tourists than the other island territories, which makes it the perfect place to get off the beaten path. What’s more, the seafood is great, as are the surfing, snorkeling, fishing and hiking.

Hawaii

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Hawaiian outrigger canoe at Kamakahonu Beach Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii
© Damien VERRIER / Alamy

Of all the US tropical islands, Hawaii is the only one officially considered a state. This famous tourist destination in the middle of the Pacific welcomes hordes of visitors each year who come to explore active volcanoes, savor the buzzing nightlife and kick back on one of its many picturesque beaches.

Mexico

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The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative allows US citizens with a valid Passport Card or Enhanced Driver’s License to enter Mexico from land or sea. However, there is a catch: those looking to leave the 18mi (29km) border zone or spend more than 72 hours in Mexico must obtain a tourist card, which is valid for 180 days. A fee is payable for this card. You can get it at the border, but it’s much easier to get it sorted in advance. Note that a US citizen flying back to the US or traveling elsewhere in Mexico will require a Passport Booklet.

Canada

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US citizens looking to enter Canada by land or sea are able to do so with a valid Passport Card or Nexus card. Although air travelers can still use the Nexus card, the Passport Card cannot be used, and a Passport Booklet will be needed instead. The Nexus card is great for those who regularly travel between the two countries, as it is designed to expedite the process and costs less than a Passport Booklet.

These recommendations were updated on July 28, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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