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How to get a visa for Puerto Rico

by Juan José Herranz | Tue 12 Jan 2021
How to get a visa for Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an island located in the Caribbean Sea, west of the Dominican Republic and is a free state associated with the United States. The country has an area of less than 10,000 square kilometres and a population of 3.6 million and its capital is San Juan. With regards to immigration and visas to enter Puerto Rico, the country shares the system of the United States, and all visas must be processed by the government in the same manner. As such, it is necessary to obtain an ESTA (travel authorisation) to travel to the country, like that of the USA.

Do I need a visa to travel to Puerto Rico?

Yes, most nationalities must apply for a visa before entry into the country. You must apply for a specific visa or electronic travel authorisation (ESTA), to travel for tourism to the island. If your intention is to reside in Puerto Rico, then you must apply for a residence permit or an immigrant visa.

Types of visas for Puerto Rico

There are various types of permits and visas, depending on the reason why you are travelling to the island. The visa types are typically grouped into 2 large categories, immigrants and non-immigrants, where each group contains different permits.

Tourist visa or ESTA

The ESTA is an electronic travel authorisation for people eligible for the visa processing programme, and for stays not exceeding 90 consecutive days in the country. If you are not eligible for the visa extension program or your stay is longer than 90 days, you must apply for a tourist visa at the embassy.

Business and tourist visa - B1/B2

- B1: This visa is for foreign visitors, whose reason for the visit is business or conferences for more than 90 days.
- B2: This visa is granted to people who travel to Puerto Rico for a period longer than 90 days, as long as the reason is for tourism, medical, visiting friends or family.

Transit visa - C

This is required for persons who will be transiting in Puerto Rico and are not eligible to apply for ESTA.

Commercial crew or flight crew visa - D

This visa is for members belonging to air or sea crews stopping over in Puerto Rico.

Trade visa - E

This is necessary if you are going to carry out commercial or investment activities in the country.

Student visa - F

This visa is for international students who come to Puerto Rico for academic purposes.

Student visa - M

The M category visa is for international students who enrol in programs or courses with no academic value.

Exchange visa - J

This visa is for foreigners who collaborate in exchange programmes, regardless of the knowledge or technique of their studies.

H-1B visa

This visa is granted to people with highly specialised higher education in a profession.

H-2A visa

This visa is suitable for persons in temporary employment in the agricultural sector.

Media and journalists visa - I

This visa is for graduates who carry out research, work or telecommunication activities in Puerto Rico.

Personal transferred visa - L

They are granted to all employees who are required to work in Puerto Rico by their company.

Visa for people with extraordinary abilities - O

It is awarded to people who have special and unique skills in science, arts, education or business.

Sports visa - P

Visa for athletes travelling for sports, training or competition purposes.

Visa for international cultural exchange - Q

This visa is necessary for people who carry out a cultural exchange in the country.

Religious visa - R

This visa is required for religious workers who work in a foundation, church, mission or for a religious reason temporarily.

Family visa - V

This visa is for the spouses or children of a person who is a permanent resident of Puerto Rico. The reason must be the visit of the family member, and subsequently, the processing of the permanent residence can begin.

How do I apply for a Puerto Rico visa?

All visas for travel to Puerto Rico in the non-immigrant categories can only be obtained at the embassy and must be applied for in person. Eligible nationalities that are travelling for tourism, business or transit trips that do not exceed 90 days within the country, must apply for ESTA online. The Electronic Travel Authorisation (ESTA) can only be applied for online and it is possible to apply through an external company such as, who will help you throughout the process.

All you have to do is complete the form with the required information and make the payment for ESTA. Within 48/72 hours, you will have your approved travel authorisation via email. You will need to make sure that all the details required are correct, and never lie or omit information because you could have problems with government authorities upon arrival in the country.

Who needs a visa for Puerto Rico?

Most foreigners need a visa or an ESTA to enter Puerto Rico legally. Some nationalities are denied entry to Puerto Rico, as well as the United States, such as citizens of Syria or Yemen. US citizens do not need a passport or visa to travel to Puerto Rico, and vice versa.

What are the requirements to apply for a visa to Puerto Rico?

To apply for an ESTA visa or travel authorisation to Puerto Rico, it is essential to have no police record or conviction for any crime. You cannot enter if you suffer from an infectious disease or have serious mental health issues. In order to travel to Puerto Rico, you must have a passport valid more than 6 months since your entry to the country. To apply for an ESTA, you only need to have a valid passport, fill in the application form and have a credit or debit card to pay the associated fees.

Can the Puerto Rico visa be changed once it has been processed?

No, once you have processed your ESTA travel authorisation or your visa, it is not possible to change any of your details. If you make a mistake in any of your details, you can reapply for ESTA, with the only drawback being that you will have to pay the government fees again. If doing a face-to-face visa, you will have to go to the embassy and reapply or request to have the wrong information amended and pay the necessary government fees again. If your visa is lost or damaged, you must go to the immigration points to apply for a new visa or a legal exit permit from the country. This is not necessary if your ESTA is damaged, as you can re-download it from your email.

How much does a visa to Puerto Rico cost?

The cost of a visa to enter Puerto Rico varies depending on the specific type of visa required. All visas processed through the embassy will have different prices depending on the type needed. The ESTA travel authorisation costs $14 and only includes government fees.

How far in advance do I need to apply for a Puerto Rico visa?

For all visas of the non-immigrant category, it is necessary to apply at least 6 months in advance of travel. Visas in the immigrant visa category should be applied for 3 to 9 months in advance, depending on the specific type. For people who want to apply for ESTA travel authorisation, it can be applied for at any time, and it is usually sufficient to give 72 hours’ notice before your trip. However, it is always worthwhile to apply at least 10 days in advance, in case of any delays. has an express service, where you can have your visa in less than 24 hours.

What are the entry borders to Puerto Rico?

You can access the spectacular Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in 2 ways, by air or by sea. It is necessary to apply for a visa or ESTA regardless of whether you arrive by air or ship. Puerto Rico has 3 international airports:
- Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, or Isla Verde International Airport is the busiest airport on the island. It is located in the north, 12 kilometres from the capital San Juan.
- Rafael Hernández International Airport is the second busiest airport in the country. It is located in the west of the island, 134 kilometres from the capital San Juan.
- Mercedita International Airport, located in the south of the island, in the Mercedita sector, and 113 kilometres from the capital San Juan.

The Port of San Juan is the main entrance to the country if arriving by cruise ship or any other type of boat. The port is located in the north of the island and extends along the San Juan Bay and into San Antonio channel. Cruise ships arrive at one of the 4 ports located on this channel. The ETA travel authorisation is valid for arrival to Puerto Rico through any of the international airports or any of the docks of the San Antonio channel.

Do I need any vaccinations to travel to Puerto Rico?

To travel to Puerto Rico, you only need to be vaccinated against yellow fever if you have travelled or come from a yellow fever endemic country.It is always advisable to seek guidance from your local doctor or tropical health care centre before embarking on an international trip, especially if suffering from any chronic illnesses.

What is the currency of Puerto Rico?

The official currency of Puerto Rico since 1987 is the US dollar (USD / $). It is possible to exchange euros, pounds sterling or any other type of currency at the airport, exchange offices or banks in the country. You can use your credit or debit card throughout Puerto Rico, and you can withdraw money from any ATM.

When is the best time to travel to Puerto Rico?

The island of Puerto Rico is bathed by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. It has a tropical climate and the average temperature of the country is 25 degrees, a warm and pleasant temperature all year round. Like all tropical countries, it has a dry season and a rainy season:
- The dry season, and the best time to travel to Puerto Rico, is from December to April. It maintains a temperature between 25º and 30º and you will be unlikely to experience any rain.
- On the contrary, the rainy season goes from May to November, and the climate is quite rainy with high humidity. Strong winds, hurricanes and tropical storms need to be taken into consideration. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, causing significant damage. From late June to early November, it is best not to travel to any Caribbean island for this reason. Seawater temperatures are around 26º in the months from January to May, while in the months from July to September the average temperature is 29º.

Is it safe to travel to Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico, in general, is a safe country with one of the main dangers being hurricanes during the summer months. As in any country, there is a risk that you may suffer some kind of theft, so it is advisable to always be watchful of your belongings in touristy areas. It is not recommended to travel with high-value objects. It is not advisable to walk along poorly lit beaches at night. Try to avoid being in areas with little tourism, or in outlying city locations such as the pearl district or points where the sale of drugs is common. Puerto Rico is one of the usual steps on the drug route to the United States, so a strong police presence is to be expected.

Important tips for travelling to Puerto Rico

- The best option for getting around the country and discovering the island to the fullest is to rent a car. Public transport is not inadequate, but it doesn't reach all parts of the island. You can rent a car at the airport or in advance of your arrival.
- Coffee and rum are two words synonymous with Puerto Rico; the third word is "piña colada". There are shops dedicated to the sale of rum, in all its varieties.
- The voltage in the country is 120V, and the plugs are type A and B. It is recommended to bring an adaptor from your home country.

About the author
Juan José Herranz

Juan José Herranz
Hello! I'm Juan Jose, a boy from Extremadura who loves to travel and share his experiences with readers. I write articles for and I also help users to process electronic visas for all countries in the world that require it. I'm more of the mountains than the beach, so the quiet destinations with green landscapes are my favorites.

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