A Puerto Rican family traveling to the island from their home in California was denied travel by Spirit Airlines in April because they didn’t have a passport.
Their story was told on May 18 by CBS reporter David Begnaud, who talked about the dilemma in a TikTok video that has since gone viral. According to Begnaud, Marivi Roman Torres and her family were stopped at a Spirit Airlines counter at Los Angeles International Airport and denied boarding because they didn’t have a passport for their toddler.
There have been other incidents of confusion. Another video from Begnaud shows a worker at a car rental company telling a Puerto Rican customer that he needs a passport to rent a car in Louisiana. Google searches show that people are also wondering whether U.S. citizens need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico. VERIFY viewer Ana asked us if that was true.
Do Puerto Ricans need a passport to travel to the U.S.?
No, Puerto Ricans don’t need a passport to travel to the U.S.
WHAT WE FOUND
Since 1898, Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory, and for the last 100 years, its residents have been non-voting U.S. citizens of the territory.
When Puerto Ricans fly to the mainland, Customs and Border Control – which regulates international travel – says it’s considered a domestic flight. So people traveling aren’t required to have or show a passport to travel in the U.S.
Discover Puerto Rico, which is the territory’s official travel guide, says Americans who live in the continental U.S. also don’t need a passport to visit Puerto Rico.
According to news reports, Spirit Airlines apologized for the mistake, saying the gate agent misunderstood the rules for Puerto Rican passengers flying in the U.S.
The incident with Spirit Airlines isn’t the first time a representative from a travel company didn’t know the rules for Puerto Ricans.
Earlier this month, a Hertz rental car representative denied service to a Puerto Rican man because they didn’t accept a Puerto Rican driver’s license as a valid form of ID.
That incident prompted Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, Congress’ commissioner of Puerto Rico, to write a letter to the company, reminding them a Puerto Rican driver’s license is just as valid as any other license issued in a U.S. state or territory.
Gonzalez-Colon is a resident commissioner in Congress because Puerto Rico, as a territory of the U.S., and not a state, doesn’t have a congressperson. Her role in Congress is recognized, but limited.
Hertz wrote back, apologizing for the error.
So, we can VERIFY that Puerto Ricans can travel in the U.S. without a passport, just like any other U.S. citizen.