MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Department of Homeland Security released new guidance rules Monday night for Bahamians trying to reach the United States.
DHS started off the release stating the U.S. Embassy in Nassau was open for emergency visa appointments.
The details that followed add to a series of mixed signals for Bahamians trying to make their way from the hurricane-torn areas.
According to DHS:
- “Bahamians must be in possession of a valid, unexpired passport or a Bahamian Travel Document listing nationality as Bahamian.”
- “Bahamians arriving to the United States by vessel must be in possession of a valid passport AND valid travel visa.”
- “Bahamian citizens may apply for admission to the United States without a visa at one of the CBP Preclearance facilities located in Nassau or Freeport International Airports.”
The third point came with caveats:
- “Be traveling on a flight that CBP completes immigration and customs inspections in Nassau or Freeport.”
- “Be in possession of a valid, unexpired passport or a Bahamian Travel Document listing nationality as Bahamian.”
- “Have no criminal record nor any legal ineligibility or inadmissibility as defined by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.”
- “Be traveling for business or pleasure.”
- “All persons 14 years of age and older must be in possession of a police certificate issued within the past six months.”
- “Bahamians traveling through the United States to a third country must possess a valid visa for return travel through the U.S.”
DHS ended the statement saying “the bottom line” was “that all travelers must possess government-issued identity documents” and those that “arrive directly to a U.S. Port of Entry by air or sea must possess a U.S. visitor’s visa.” That of course is unless travelers “qualify for the Visa Waiver Program” in addition to allowing CBP Port Directors to “use discretion” and “consider all exigent circumstances on a case by case basis.”
Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump stated that everyone coming from the Bahamas “needs totally proper documentation.”
“The Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there,” he said. “I don’t’ want to allow people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers.”
Acting Customs and Border Protection Chief Mark Morgan conceded there has been confusion.
“There’s gonna be some confusion. What I will say is that’s what it was,” Morgan said. “CBP, we’re not working and telling a cruise line that you cannot allow anyone without documents. That’s just not being done.”
On Saturday, more than 1,000 Bahamian evacuees arrived at the Port of Palm Beach on a cruise ship. They were told they can stay 30 days without a visa.
But, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, when a few hundred Bahamians tried to board Balearia Caribbean fast ferry to Fort Lauderdale, more than 100 were booted after a U.S. visas check.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones and U.S. Rep. Marco Rubio have called on President Donald Trump to waive visa requirements for Bahamians trying to reach the U.S.