The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued guidance on September 9, 2019, for Bahamians wishing to travel to the United States following the recent devastation of Hurricane Dorian. According to reports, the Trump administration does not plan to extend temporary protected status to Bahamians in the United States.
DHS is requiring all such Bahamians to possess valid, unexpired travel documents, such as a passport or Bahamian Travel Document listing the nationality as Bahamian. Bahamians arriving to the United States by vessel must be in possession of a valid passport and valid travel visa, DHS said. Bahamian citizens may apply for admission to the United States without a visa at one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance facilities located in Nassau or Freeport International Airports if they meet certain requirements. Travelers who would otherwise qualify for the Visa Waiver Program and who travel by air from a CBP Preclearance facility in Freeport or Nassau may not need a U.S. visitor’s visa. All other travelers arriving from the Bahamas (U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and individuals of other nationalities) must possess a valid, unexpired government–issued passport.
Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan told CNN, however, that CBP would “apply discretion on a case-by-case basis” to Bahamians who make it to the United States without travel documents. “We’re not going to deny somebody solely because they don’t have travel documents,” he said. Meanwhile, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott sent a letter to the Trump administration asking it to suspend “certain visa requirements” for Bahamians with relatives in the United States with whom they can stay. The letter noted Florida’s “historically deep ties with the Bahamas” and that many Floridians have family in the Bahamas. On September 9, 2019, Sen. Rubio tweeted that “a cruise ship took 1,500 survivors to Palm Beach without requiring them to show visas after coordinating a pre-screening for passports & clean criminal record with @CBP.” This contrasted with a ferry that kicked 100 Bahamian passengers off; Sen. Rubio tweeted that that ship “apparently didn’t coordinate a pre-screening & then didn’t want to wait for one.”