Understanding the difference between a passport book and a passport card can potentially save you a lot of hassle when you travel. While both types of documents have the same period of validity – five years for children under 16, ten years for adults – and serve as a valid form of identification abroad, they are unique documents that may each be used better depending on the situation.
Advantages of Passport Cards
Passport books are essentially the catch-all of travel documents. Provided the country is on friendly terms with the US and there is a visa system in place, citizens can travel there by land, air, or sea with proper preparation and expect to be granted entry. Books come with 26 or 52 pages, 17 of which are used to hold visas and entry stamps. Because passport books are the only type of international identification to which visas may be applied, it’s important to check whether your destination country can even accept a passport card.
Passport cards are often more convenient for travelers due to their size – one of a standard driver’s license – and price. However, cards may only be used for travel by land or sea. For some travelers, this is all they need to plan that trip to Mexico or a Caribbean island. For others, it’s better to have a passbook book ready in the event they need to travel by plane. In additional, though many of the stops on Caribbean cruises allow entry to US citizens with a passport card, the company may politely request you have a passport book for emergency evacuations.
How long does it take to get a passport card?
The good news is a passport card is valid for the same time and has the same application process as a standard passport book. An adult applying for a US passport renewal or first-time passport can receive a card valid for ten years, while a child under the age of 16 would have one valid for five years.
The difference lies in the cost. While a passport book or a renewal costs $110 for adults, giving them a ten-year book with 26 or 52 pages, a passport card only sets someone back $30. For children, it’s even cheaper: $15 for a five-year passport card, with the book costing $80. However, regional passport offices have additional fees for expediting applications ($60, any age) or applying in person ($25 Execution Fee). Both adults and children can legally hold both a valid US passport book and card at the same time, and even apply for them simultaneously to cut down on the waiting time.
Because there are no major differences as part as the application process is concerned, the processing time for passport cards is about the same as that for books: several weeks if applying by mail, days if the application is presented at a regional passport agency, and even less if entrusting the application to an expediting agency like Travel Visa Pro.
Which countries need neither passport books nor cards?
Applying for a passport card means you have very specific travel plans in mind, as the document doesn’t allow you to travel across the ocean (except Guam and American Samoa), but often it’s enough for some. Passport books can be accepted in any country that hasn’t outright banned US citizens with the appropriate visa stamp enclosed, while cards can only be used to enter countries by land or sea.
With that in mind, there is no one country, save the US, that allows US citizens to legally enter without a passport book or at least a card. The only exceptions are US territories, including American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
Other uses for passport cards
With the gradual enforcement of the Real ID Act, more Americans are seeing the value in getting a passport card for their day-to-day identification, even if they have no intention of leaving the country. Residents of certain states may soon realize their state-issued driver’s licenses aren’t enough to fly domestically, though the deadline has extended to give time for the bureaucracy to catch up. Nevertheless, if you’re in need of a passport card for this reason, don’t hesitate to drop by the nearest Travel Visa Pro for expedited service!
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