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No, The State Department Isn't Charging Americans For Being Evacuated From Puerto Rico

The claim that Puerto Ricans evacuated by the US government will owe money or have their passports seized is false, the State Department tells BuzzFeed News.

Posted on September 28, 2017, at 1:22 p.m. ET

The State Department has told BuzzFeed News the claim that the US was requiring American evacuees in Puerto Rico to pay for their flight and seizing their passports as collateral is incorrect.

Jose Jimenez / Getty Images

The belief that the US was charging people fleeing the wreckage of Hurricane Maria appears to have stemmed from a story from Marketwatch published Thursday morning.

U.s. Navy / Getty Images

That claim was picked up by The Hill and made its way to Twitter, where the story began to flood the hashtag #PuertoRico.

Puerto Rican evacuees must sign a contract to repay the gov't for airfare AND surrender passports to leave the island. RT this forever.

You don't need a passport to travel to US from Puerto Rico Trump is using passports as collateral for people who can't afford evacuation

Trump's forcing Puerto Ricans to pay all transportation costs for their evacuation, taking passports as collateral

The confusion seems to stem from a State Department rule about evacuating Americans from overseas that says evacuees must repay the government for the cost of a commercial flight.

State Department

But Ashley Garrigus, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, says that's not the case when it comes to Puerto Rico, as FEMA — which is part of the Department of Homeland Security — has the lead there.

"The Department of State is not facilitating evacuations from Puerto Rico, as it is a U.S. territory," Garrigus told BuzzFeed News in an email. "As we are not facilitating evacuations, it is not correct that the Department of State is requiring promissory notes in Puerto Rico."

Here's the State Department spokeswoman on Twitter:

.@StateDept is NOT evacuating americans from #PuertoRico -PR is a US territory. State only handles international evacs @thehill @MarketWatch

Garrigus made clear, though, that promissory notes were required from Americans being evacuated from foreign countries affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean, like Saint Marteen and Dominica.

U.s. Navy / Getty Images

But for those worried that their family would owe the US government for transport from Puerto Rico, you can scratch at least that worry off your list.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.