On January 1st of this year strict rules regarding passports came into effect for travelers going to the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico. US laws now require every US citizen leaving the country to carry a passport traveling to these before mentioned areas.
The US State Department was so overwhelmed with passport requests, that they couldn’t handle the load, thus decided to suspend this rule. Starting today the strict rules are back on. You need a passport to leave the United States (actually to enter the United States) when traveling to the Caribbean.
Officials in Aruba are negotiating with US Customs and Border Control (USCBC) to seek an exemption from these rules due to actual presence and legal status of USCBC in Aruba.
If you aren’t familiar with the airport situation in Aruba, I’ll summarize it.
Aruba airport has two departure terminals, one for “Non-US Departures” and one for “US Departures”. After checking in and getting a boarding pass from your airline you’ll then proceed through local customs and lastly pass through USCBC. As soon as you pass through USCBC that piece of terminal is considered American soil. Consequently when your aircraft arrives in the United States you will arrive at a domestic terminal.
For the time being, get your passport. Certain reports suggest it might take up to three months to get one in certain US cities.