Do US citizens need a passport?


Since being raised in the UK, starting work and gaining independence at the age of 16, I have always jumped at the chance to travel internationally in search of some sun - with the British weather being so unpredictable.  I value my passport as a very important commodity as it gives me the flexibility and the opportunity to experience different cultures. With the ability to reach most European countries within 4 hours – I have found that for me personally, the UK is the ideal place to be situated.

Varied Geography and Environments

I read an article recently highlighting that only 40% (131 million) of Americans own a passport and whilst this figure is up from a mere 10% in 1994, I still found it staggering. 196 million Americans don’t own a passport – this led me to question; why?

There are 50 states that make up the USA covering 9,147,593 km2 with over 5 time zones, each of which offer very different and rich experiences and cultures. You can enjoy beautiful beach vacations in Miami, Hawaii and Santa Monica, or an exciting city break in New York or brightly lit Las Vegas, the adventure of skiing in Colorado or relaxing outdoor breaks in the Rocky Mountains.  

No other place in the world can provide the variety of landscapes, scenery and even local cultures available across the USA, due to the country’s sheer size. Therefore, perhaps some American citizens choose not to hold a passport for overseas travel, feeling that the States already has more than a lifetime of experiences to offer an intrepid explorer.

Vacation time limits

It is also worth mentioning, that paid vacation leave in the USA is very different to many other countries. Typically, employees will receive around 2 weeks’ vacation per year, which is considerably less than the UK where a minimum of 4 weeks holiday is normal. This makes travel time an important factor when planning a vacation.

Flying from the East to the West Coast of the US can take 5-6 hours, and New York to Miami is 3.5 hours, so It is no surprise that in 2016, Mexico and Canada were the destinations of choice for residents in the US, with a whopping 57% of destination bookings. Closer destinations mean less time wasted on travel, with more time for leisure.

Whilst flight times are an important factor, a recent survey of 2000 Americans based on personal travel history highlighted travelling further afield just doesn’t appeal to everyone. The survey showed that over 200 Americans had never left their home state, 260 had never boarded an aircraft and 800 had never left the country. Whether this is based on desire or circumstance needs further investigation. The fact is that overseas travel is expensive and not everyone can afford it.


Whilst the results of the survey show increasing numbers of Americans are looking outside of the US to spend their vacations, it is clear to see that time constraints, cost and visa requirements are important factors to consider (making US based vacations often seem more appealing). I must admit, I can’t blame our American friends from wanting to stay put, when their home country clearly offers such a broad range of experiences for internal travel.

Written by Ian Mael – Global Account Manager - Immigration & Expatriate Services at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd.

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