30

I am currently waiting for my green card in the USA. I was wondering if I could travel to Puerto Rico since it is a territory. Under my green card application I'm not allowed to leave the USA, if I do it is seen as abandoning my application. However if the flight is domestic I assume there would be no problem as there is no immigration.

5
  • If you have a state ID, just use that one. I flew to Puerto Rico few years ago as F-1 student.
    – mlt
    Aug 11 '14 at 18:38
  • @mlt What state ID did you use?
    – Vagish
    Aug 11 '14 at 18:45
  • You can fly domestic airlines with ID of any state. I had MN driver's license that time.
    – mlt
    Aug 12 '14 at 20:00
  • 1
    @mlt Not all US state identifications are valid for flying as of 2020-10-01. See the TSA Identification page. Jan 3 '20 at 22:05
  • 1
    FYI if you apply for a reentry permit prior to leaving the US you can stay outside of the country for up to 2 years without you been deemed as abandoning your LPR status. But I'd be consulting an immigration lawyer before I did that.
    – Peter M
    Sep 24 '20 at 22:15
27

Flights to Puerto Rico are considered domestic flights, and US Citizens do not need a passport to travel between the US and any US territories. However, foreign citizens do need a passport to travel between the two, (see answers.usa.gov) so I can't say for certain how a trip like that will affect your Green Card eligibility. Your best bet is to check with an immigration official.

11
  • What ID do US citizens take? Would an Ohio driving licence suffice?
    – Vagish
    Aug 11 '14 at 12:49
  • 1
    @user102008 I've added a link to a citation. (It will appear when the edit is approved.)
    – Alan Munn
    Aug 11 '14 at 21:56
  • 2
    But how do they know you are not a U.S. national if you just use another photo ID?
    – user102008
    Aug 12 '14 at 0:33
  • 2
    I've been to PR twice as a non-US citizen, both times traveling from the mainland. On neither occasion did I need to talk to CBP, and on neither occasion did I need to show my passport (I have a US drivers license). However, any non-Citizen should always travel with their passport, especially when travelling to areas like PR or the border states. Regardless, none of this is relevant for the original question.
    – Doc
    Aug 12 '14 at 1:05
  • 3
    @Doc There is a distinct gap between "you must show these documents" and "you must be able to show these documents upon request". Aug 12 '14 at 1:27
5

It's domestic, period, so no passport control. Never heard of CBP officials doing spot checks for flights to/from Puerto Rico but if they do, you could explain your Status to them in case you don't bring your passport. They will be able to check it out

Btw, once you get your Green card it's all you need even when entering the US from overseas. For example if you go to Europe, although a passport is needed for entry over there, once you get back to the US you simply present the Green Card.

10
  • 1
    CBP does random checks of flights from Puerto Rico to the mainland, due to the high incidence of illegal immigrants from the Dominican Republic or elsewhere. Legally this is similar to the highway checkpoints in the southwestern US. Apr 27 '16 at 1:14
  • 1
    I see! However, seeing as passports aren't required for the travel itself, surely one should be able to board without unless the officer smells something fishy?
    – Crazydre
    Apr 27 '16 at 1:21
  • 1
    Right. They aren't looking for the people with visas or green cards. They're looking for people who got illegally smuggled into the country. Apr 27 '16 at 1:22
  • @MichaelHampton is it Border Patrol agents or CBP field agents? What would they do if they found a noncitizen who did not have a passport?
    – phoog
    Oct 10 '18 at 19:43
  • @phoog Having a valid passport isn't per se a prerequisite for being legally in the US. Unlike in most countries, whether you're legal is determined by your registered status, not by what documents you hold (other than the physical I-94 if your entry wasn't electronically recorded). To gain entry is another thing
    – Crazydre
    Jan 7 '19 at 22:20
5

Note: This answer was written specifically for green card holders and may not be entirely applicable to US citizens, visitors, or temporary residents.


Yes, Puerto Rico is part of the USA for immigration purposes, as is every US territory and possession. You can stay there as long as you wish. In fact, many green card holders live in Puerto Rico and other US territories.

From the USCIS document M-618 (rev. 09/15) Welcome to the United States A Guide for New Immigrants:

The United States now consists of 50 states; the District of Columbia (a special area that is the home of the federal government); the territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and the Commonwealths of the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.

There are a few other minor outlying possessions (such as some protected Pacific islands) which are also part of the USA but traveling to such places requires special permission. They aren't mentioned because travel to them is extremely rare, and in most cases no one at all lives there, but as they are part of the USA they still count.

Note that many US territories and possessions have different customs and agriculture/biosecurity rules than the mainland US, but this does not affect your immigration status. American Samoa, however, has different immigration rules and while you can visit you cannot reside there without permission.

Note also that you need to bring your green card if you travel to or from Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands. I also recommend that you (and everyone else) bring your passport. While this is a purely domestic flight, and it is not required for you to have your passport, if the flight has an emergency or there is bad weather at the destination it may need to divert to an airport at an island which is not part of the USA. It will be helpful to have your travel documents if this happens.

11
  • "You will need your travel documents if this happens" -> what do US citizens do if this happens? Most would only have their driving license on this flight.
    – JonathanReez
    Sep 24 '20 at 22:31
  • 1
    I'd remove it from the answer though, as it makes it seem like Green Card holders need to do something that US citizens don't have to do. I also imagine that whatever Carribean island you land in will let you enter under the circumstances.
    – JonathanReez
    Sep 24 '20 at 23:07
  • 2
    @DeanF. Green card holders are required to carry their green card at all times as per UCIS uscis.gov/green-card/after-we-grant-your-green-card
    – Peter M
    Sep 25 '20 at 13:38
  • 2
    "Puerto Rico is part of the USA for immigration purposes, as is every US territory and possession." Not every territory. American Samoa is not part of the "United States" for immigration purposes. It has its own entry and residence permit system. INA 101(a)(38) defines the "United States" for the purposes of the INA as "the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands."
    – user102008
    Sep 25 '20 at 18:56
  • 1
    @MichaelHampton: Green card holders from elsewhere in the US can visit American Samoa if they get an entry permit like any other foreigner, but they cannot stay there long term without a residence permit; and stays in American Samoa count as absence from the US so I believe they would be at risk of abandonment of green card if they stay there too long.
    – user102008
    Sep 25 '20 at 19:34

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.