The US Virgin Islands is a great place for vacation so when people on F1 or H1b VISA visit the US Virgin Islands, they often ask how tight the restrictions are. Even though US Virgin Island is an official US territory, there are still some restrictions and things you need to know when traveling there. We visited USVI last November whenI was on an F1 Visa and my wife was on H1b when we visited USVI. We did quite a lot of research before booking our tickets and here are some of the things to keep in mind while travelling to USVI. Note that policies for going to Puerto Rico are the same as going to USVI
What island comprises USVI?
St Croix, St John and St Thomas are three main Islands in USVI where people visit. While St Thomas is the most commercialised and is the most common destination, St John is the most beautiful one. The majority of St. John island is a protected area as USVI National Park. St. Croix is the less explored one but is as beautiful as St Thomas if not St John. There is British Virgin Island(BVI) right next to USVI but as a resident, on F1/H1b VISA you are not allowed to go to BVI and visiting BVI is considered international travel. There are a lot of cruises/ferries from USVI to BVI so please check this before you book any cruises from USVI.
What all documents do you need to travel to USVI?
This is the most common question I get and also the most important one. If you are on F1, you need your passport, EAD card, and your most current I-20. If you are on H1B, carry your passport with an H1b stamp. If you have a Driving Licence it’s always a good idea to carry that as well.
What if I am on H1b Visa but don’t have stamping on my passport yet?
In order to visit the USVI you still need your copy of I-797. This was precisely the case with my wife. She carried her passport and I-797.
Is there an Immigration check-in while going to USVI?
Going to USVI is the same as going to any city in the US. There is no passport/VISA check on the departing flight. Both of us showed our Driving Licence and boarded the flight.
Is there an Immigration check-in while coming back from USVI?
Coming back from USVI is tricky. Even though USVI to Mainland USA is considered a domestic flight, you have to pass through immigration before boarding the plane. Please note it is immigration and not customs. An immigration officer asked us to show our passports and we did so. Seeing that I have an Indian passport and F1 VISA, he asked me to show my most recent I-20. As my wife was on an H1b visa, she was not stamped, so he asked if she had any other documents accompanied with her I-797. He asked us some generic questions about why we were in USVI and what we were doing in the US and let us go through. All they wanted to know was if we are legally allowed to enter the United States. Even though we passed through immigration it is not considered as an entry into the United States.
Is there an Immigration check-in while landing in Mainland USA?
You should pay attention to where in the USA you will be landing and if you will be landing in a domestic or international terminal. Most flights land domestically, but some will land internationally. It is important that you land in a domestic airport. Otherwise, you will have to go through immigration/customs and it will be considered an entry into the USA. We called the Charlotte International Airport immigration helpline to verify whether flight would land at the Domestic terminal and booked accordingly.
USVI is an amazing vacations destination for beach lovers and given it is a domestic destination it is a great choice with all restrictions going on.