Do I need a passport book or card?
From an American perspective, passport cards are fairly unique. Citizens of some countries, like those based in the European Economic Area, don’t need a full passport book when traveling across borders, but instead carry a national identity card. The United States is significantly more isolated in that respect, with land borders only reaching Canada and Mexico, and many citizens preferring to carry a full passport book for international travel. However, under what circumstances is a passport book or card right for you?
While US passport books can be accepted in any country with the proper visa (unless they’ve specifically barred Americans from entry), a passport card can only be used to enter countries by land or sea. A passport card allows significantly fewer opportunities for the holder to travel, but often it’s enough for some.
One difference is the cost. A ten-year passport card will only cost $30 plus an execution fee at a regional passport agency, while ten-year adult passport book applications and passport renewals cost $110. For children, it’s a mere $15 for a five-year passport card, while a book costs $80.
The good news is US citizens don’t have to choose one over the other. There are many Americans – especially based close to borders like those in Seattle or New England – who hold both a valid passport book and card. While the book can still be used to cross by land into Canada or Mexico, it can be a little cumbersome to carry a full book when a card conveniently fits in any wallet.
No passport card can be used for international air travel, even to a country that does allow entry with a passport card by land or sea. As we’ve discussed in previous blog entries, Americans can legally enter countries in the Caribbean with only a passport card when traveling by sea (in some cases, simply a state-issued ID may be enough). However, if you choose to fly to those same areas by purchasing a ticket and showing up in Miami International Airport without a passport, you’ll most likely not be allowed to board.
Passport books are valid for the same amount of time as cards and have the same application process, but they allow US citizens access to a score of other countries. The only difference is the price of the document and the size – not everyone is prepared to carry (and potentially lose!) a 52-page passport book for a weekend in Tijuana. Should you misplace your passport, don’t hesitate to contact Travel Visa Pro for help.
Unexpected things often happen when it comes to travel. Someone needing to take a flight to Dubai, or hop a freighter to Asia for work may consider applying for both a passport book and card at the same time and only take the one they need, leaving the other behind as a backup for their loved ones to forward in an emergency.
If you have no plans to travel outside of North America for work or leisure for the next ten years, then there’s very little reason to pay the extra cost of a passport book. There are many travelers with a fear of flying, and a passport card allows them to visit other countries by train, bus, and cruise ship.
The Real ID Act may affect your choice of travel documents
Many Americans are starting to realize their state-issued driver’s licenses are not sufficient to fly domestically. Although state agencies are slowly complying with new security requirements and getting travelers their new IDs, there are still some whose driver’s licenses are simply not valid. Passport cards, as federally-issued documents, can be used in their place. Passport books can as well, but if you’re strictly a domestic flyer, the card will save both wallet space and money.
When most of us think of a passport, we tend to imagine a book filled with stamps and papers documenting our travels over the years. This has been the most common type of travel document across the world for over a century, but governments have adapted their standards to meet the needs of their traveling citizens. Whether you need a passport book or card for your travels, come on down to the nearest Travel Visa Pro to discuss your options.
If you still got any questions about whether you need a passport book or card, please contact Travel Visa Pro!