...But we never left the US?!

Old Aug 3, 12, 8:53 pm
  #1  
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...But we never left the US?!

As a last hurrah before I started my new job (one which involves a lot of travel, hence my discovery of FlyerTalk...HI!!!), my husband and I took a last minute trip to St. Croix, USVI, bringing along our 13 month old daughter.

We have flown with her many many times since her birth and have never once been asked for her birth certificate or for any other form of ID for her, or that proves our relationship to her. Until this trip.

We were surprised to discover a CBP checkpoint upon entry into STX for our departing flight...given that there are only 4 flights a day from STX, and they all land in either SJU or MIA - there simply isn't such a thing as an international flight from STX.

Upon reaching the CBP officer, he examined our boarding passes and DLs (no passports, since we never left the US...), and asked us for our daughter's birth certificate. I told him I didn't have it with us. He asked why not. I replied that I wasn't aware that we needed it, as we had never left the US. He asked, in a rather threatening voice "Well how do I know she's yours?". I was shocked, and stammered that we had brought her with us to visit family in St. Croix. At this point, I began to get upset, as his tone seemed to indicate that if we weren't able to somehow prove that she was our daughter, she would be taken from us...at which point, US Territory or no, I would have caused an international incident. Our daughter sensed my anxiety and began to get upset herself, clinging to my neck and trying to get me to take her away from the checkpoint. The officer quite rudely told us to move along, and that 'next time you'd better have her birth certificate"...at which point we then moved to the next stage of the ridiculousness that is travel through STX, involving our suitcases being removed from the CBP/AG conveyor by persons unknown, and the sheer magnitude of indifference displayed over the matter by every single uniformed person to whom we alerted the problem...but that's another thread entirely.

My question here is this: given that we never left US soil, why was I supposed to have my daughter's birth certificate?
Moreover, her birth certificate does not have a photo, fingerprints, hand prints, foot prints, or any shred of information that links that particular piece of paper to her physical person. So what's the point? Were I a person of nefarious intent to kidnap a toddler who could be my clone and yet isn't my child, I could take any old birth certificate belonging to a child around the same age and use it.
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Old Aug 3, 12, 9:18 pm
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I understand and sympathize with you situation a birth certificate doesn't prove anything just like you described. But the USVI is not the US and is not US soil. It is a territory with its own laws, government, and customs. They drive on the left side of the road and can't vote in federal elections. I love the USVI but when I go there I don't have the attitude that I am on US soil.
My best advice is any time you board a plane that will be landing outside the continental united states , know what documentation you will need to return. And never expect anyone one from customs to be friendly or helpful especially in the usvi. Some agents are great but others are very unpleasant to deal with.
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Old Aug 3, 12, 9:20 pm
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Interesting... I've flown from SJU to the Mainland before and never encountered anything like this. What is this about?
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Old Aug 3, 12, 9:37 pm
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Yeah, it sucks when they get all worked up when somebody brings a baby through without any identification at all through an area that baby and child trafficking is on the increase.

I'm actually stunned you went without the birth certificate.

Yeah, any old birth certificate, even one with different parents names on it would work just fine. That will show them.
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Old Aug 3, 12, 9:59 pm
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It honestly never occurred to me that we would need it - yes, I know the USVI is a territory, but as I said we were visiting family who live there - we knew we wouldn't need passports, so it seemed logical to me that if we didn't need passports, we wouldn't need her birth certificate. The very first time we flew with her when she was tiny, we did bring it with us - and we did leave the lower 48- we went to HI. And no one asked us for any documentation for her at all. All they did was ask her name, and give us her BP.

And I was just pointing out that, heaven forbid something happened to my own child, and were I the sort of person who would kidnap another child, simply showing a piece of paper with my name and a name of a child who is as yet unable to talk to identify herself, is hardly the perfect security check that the officer was making it out to be.
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Old Aug 3, 12, 10:07 pm
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I don't have kids but this all intrigues me. Are parents supposed to carry birth certificates for children until a certain age? What age? Should parents taking a 6 year old to Hawaii carry the kid's birth certificate?
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Old Aug 3, 12, 10:09 pm
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Originally Posted by cordelli View Post
Yeah, it sucks when they get all worked up when somebody brings a baby through without any identification at all through an area that baby and child trafficking is on the increase.

I'm actually stunned you went without the birth certificate.

Yeah, any old birth certificate, even one with different parents names on it would work just fine. That will show them.
Yeah a birth certificate proves that the adults hauling the kid around are the kid's parents.

Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
I don't have kids but this all intrigues me. Are parents supposed to carry birth certificates for children until a certain age? What age? Should parents taking a 6 year old to Hawaii carry the kid's birth certificate?
Why stop at Hawaii? Parents must have that ironclad birth certificate when taking the kid to day care.

"Well how do I know she's yours" should get the response, "well if had a birth certificate, how you know she is ours".
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Old Aug 3, 12, 10:13 pm
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Many US territories have their own customs laws/areas and some also have seperate immigration rules. I've always needed a passport for American Samoa and they process CBP in HNL on the way back. My trips to Guam have customs checks, and they have their own Visa Waiver program. CNMI are different from that even (or were a couple years ago).Maybe there might be some wierd ID/Birth cert loophole but everyone on my flights has passports.
IIRC the VI has their own customs rules, can someone confirm?
Also IIRC Most territories are unincorporated and thus not part of the 50 states. D.C is incorporated.
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Old Aug 3, 12, 10:16 pm
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The USVI is absolutely part of the United States, and they are US citizens. Now, it's not as straightforward as Puerto Rico, but generally, a drivers license is all you need. It's similar to traveling to Mexico or Canada prior to Fortress Amerika Days, when a drivers license got you through 95% of the time with no hassle and for the 5% of the times you got guff from Immigration, a voter ID card or something along the lines stops them cold.

Mike, as for asking for a birth certificate for the baby, do you think that all domestic travelers should be forced to carry them when traveling with kids? Kids are kidnapped all the time and just about anywhere, right? What "baby trafficking" is coming out of St. Croix anyways?
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Old Aug 3, 12, 10:54 pm
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Originally Posted by catocony View Post
The USVI is absolutely part of the United States, and they are US citizens. Now, it's not as straightforward as Puerto Rico, but generally, a drivers license is all you need. It's similar to traveling to Mexico or Canada prior to Fortress Amerika Days, when a drivers license got you through 95% of the time with no hassle and for the 5% of the times you got guff from Immigration, a voter ID card or something along the lines stops them cold.

Mike, as for asking for a birth certificate for the baby, do you think that all domestic travelers should be forced to carry them when traveling with kids? Kids are kidnapped all the time and just about anywhere, right? What "baby trafficking" is coming out of St. Croix anyways?
I never said they are not US citizens, but they are unincorporated parts of the United States. American Samoa's are normally US Nationals the rest of the territories and DC;s folks are citizens. Has nothing to do with their own customs and immigration laws.

They are American but seem not sometimes ;-) their own olympic teams notwithstanding... Each of the 5 big territories (not counting DC which is incorporated via the Constitution but obviously not a state, and with no representation) has their own unique rules, some on just customs, some on immigration and some on both. As I mentioned I am sure there is some birth cert rule, but I've passed CBP arriving from Pago pago in HNL and into AS they ask for passports. Ditto on a flight into Saipan from Guam YMMV.

Some info on the insulare possesions duty exemptions also:
When traveling to one of the U.S. insular possessions, such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam, you are required to clear Customs and Border Protection and are entitled to a $1,600 duty-free exemption, as long as you are there for 48 hours or more. After your $1,600 duty-free exemption you will be required to pay a flat rate of 1.5% on the next $1,000 worth of goods you purchased while you were there. The remaining balance of your goods after $2,200 will be assessed duty based on the commodity and country of origin.

As for the baby ID, I agree a birth certificate is easy to forge. Since my kids have had passports since 4 months of age I've always used those, and most of our travel was trans-Atlantic anyway. Not sure what I'd have done without the passports if it were domestic travel. if I have another I'll test the system and report back

Last edited by FlyingHoustonian; Aug 3, 12 at 11:13 pm
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Old Aug 4, 12, 12:23 am
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Look, it's very simple - for a US citizen traveling to and from one of the 50 states, DC or Puerto Rico to the USVI, you do not need a passport. We're not discussing Guam or Samoa or Saipan or anything in the Pacific. So, the CBP was out of order in asking for a birth certificate for a baby on a flight from St. Croix to wherever the parents were flying to.
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Old Aug 4, 12, 1:49 am
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Originally Posted by mre5765 View Post
Yeah a birth certificate proves that the adults hauling the kid around are the kid's parents.



Why stop at Hawaii? Parents must have that ironclad birth certificate when taking the kid to day care.

"Well how do I know she's yours" should get the response, "well if had a birth certificate, how you know she is ours".
Just wanted to point out that Hawaii is a state, just like for example, Oregon, Illinois, West Virginia, or even Alaska. It is just extremely difficult to "drive" there.
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Old Aug 4, 12, 3:10 am
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Originally Posted by ctporter View Post
Just wanted to point out that Hawaii is a state, just like for example, Oregon, Illinois, West Virginia, or even Alaska. It is just extremely difficult to "drive" there.
As I am sure the person you have quoted is fully aware of.
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Old Aug 4, 12, 8:28 am
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Originally Posted by catocony View Post
Look, it's very simple - for a US citizen traveling to and from one of the 50 states, DC or Puerto Rico to the USVI, you do not need a passport. We're not discussing Guam or Samoa or Saipan or anything in the Pacific. So, the CBP was out of order in asking for a birth certificate for a baby on a flight from St. Croix to wherever the parents were flying to.
No you look, it is very simple. I am discussing all areas. You might not be.

But The fact remains the USVI has seperate customs laws, and because CBP is now one agency they were not out of order in asking. The point is the question is absurd because it proves nothing about kidnapping.
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Old Aug 4, 12, 8:36 am
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The birth certificate would be pretty good evidence. He saw the Op's drivers license and if the OP was carrying a birth certificate of a baby girl about 13 months old with the OP listed as the mother, that would tend to further confirm tha the baby in her hands was hers.

I'm not saying that he should have asked for such documentation coming and going from the USVI, but birth certificates are pretty good evidence of parenthood.
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