Uncovering the fascination of a borderless island where France and Netherlands meet.
There are 50 shades of blue that decorate the illustrious island of Saint Martin, or rather referred to as either St. Marteen, or Sint Maarten. But what’s with the 50 shades of nicknames? Though this is not widely known, this pristine island has been divided into two different nations since 1648. Part Kingdom of Netherlands, and part French overseas collectivity, Saint Martin creates a very fascinating mix of Caribbean culture with two completely diverse European ambiances.
Although both the French and Dutch sides are equally as charming, they do offer different experiences for visitors. On the Dutch side; the color, culture, and music of the Caribbean is much more pronounced, with numerous local restaurants and a lively casino as crowded as its booming nightlife. The French side, on the other hand, amplifies the ‘relaxing paradise’ side of the Caribbean; with its laid-back attitude, fine dining options, unspoiled beaches, and extremely secluded residences.
Although there are no border patrols, customs, or even fences between the two independently governed territories, they do use two different currencies, and you guessed it— two different passports as well.
Residents of Sint Maarten with the Dutch nationality who are registered at the Civil Registry Department, can apply for a national Dutch passport. If a resident of Sint Maarten does not have the Dutch nationality, in some cases, they can obtain the Dutch nationality by option or naturalization.
For those who have been born on the French side, the process is quite different. There has been a publication about “whether a child born in St. Martin to parents who have no legal status in France is automatically a French citizen” by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. A representative of the Consular Section at the Embassy of France in Ottawa responded in an official statement, ‘that a person can only become a French citizen if he or she has at least one parent who is a French citizen.’
Now what if an EU citizen wanted to travel to Saint Martin? Naturally they wouldn’t need to use a passport since they are remaining within the Schengen area, right? Theoretically yes, but practically, no.
French citizens flying into Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), on the Dutch side, must be in possession of a valid passport and a return ticket or continuing ticket. French citizens flying into Grand-Case airport, on the French side, may enter on a valid French identity card. There is however a hiccup. The airport is only used for flights by regional passenger aircrafts flying to Guadeloupe and Saint Barth, or by private aircraft.
Although Saint-Martin is a French collectivity and an integral part of the EU which would allow nationals to indefinitely live and work within the region, the main airport on the island, SXM, lies on the Dutch side.
Another fascinating thing to note is that Sint Maarten is not an integral part of the EU, as it is one of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and therefore has its own visa and entry regulations. An EU citizen, including the Dutch, can therefore only enter with a valid passport for a period of 90 days without a visa.
Whether one decides to call it Saint Martin, St-Martin, Saint Marteen, or Sint Maarten… the island is equally beautiful on all sides of the coast. As one of the most unique islands in the Caribbean, this oasis shares the best of all worlds between the lively Dutch side and lavish French one. Want to fine dine in the middle of unspoiled nature in the morning, and head out for a wild night after sundown? On Saint Martin, you can experience it all in a single day— just make sure you have your passport with you, even if you’re arriving from the EU.