June 22, 2005 – Anyone living in the Virgin Islands, not having a passport, and traveling often to the United States could be forgiven for being a little concerned after looking at the U.S. State Department Web site for travelers.
The site says in a Homeland Security schedule that on "Dec. 31, 2005 Passport or other accepted document required for all travel (air/sea) to or from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central and South America. Travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada will be required to have a passport or other secure, accepted document to enter or re-enter the United States. "
What would cause more concern is that no where on the site is there any exception listed for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This concern attracted the attention of Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
On Wednesday she said she was assured by a state department official "that travelers from the U.S. Virgin Islands will not face the same passport requirements as those from foreign ports."
She said in a press release that the assurance came from Frank Moss, deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs, who said the federal government had no intention of imposing the same rules for the Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories.
Christensen, who sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security, questioned Moss during a committee hearing.
She said, "The purpose of the hearing was to look at efforts to improve border security through the use of biometric passports and other identity documents."
She added, "Even though I am not a member of this particular subcommittee, because of the importance of the issue to our community, I sought permission from the chairman of the committee to question the witnesses and I was pleased to hear Assistant Secretary Ross say that we will not come under the same passport requirements as other islands in the Western Hemisphere, as many had feared we would."
The State Department is implementing its passport requirements in phases. Passports will be required for entry from Mexico and Canada at the end of 2006.
At the end of 2007, the category gets very broad. The site says that on Dec. 31, 2007, "Passport or other accepted document required for all air, sea and land border crossings."
It was not immediately clear if Ross was also saying that travelers from the Virgin Islands would be exempt from that 2007 requirement also.
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