How to Get a Passport Card?

Published by Travel Visa Pro on Sun Mar 8 2020

Passport cards help U.S. citizens travel internationally when 52-page books aren’t necessary. While the books may be slightly bulky to carry around as a form of identification, cards are acceptable to all law enforcement authorities internationally and ports of entry under certain circumstances.

Because the United States is relatively isolated by sea, with ship crossings from Europe and Asia taking days, passport cards are most commonly used by Americans taking advantage of land border crossings. If you’re uncertain whether one of them is right for you, Travel Visa Pro can explain how to get a passport card.


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What is a Passport Card?


When most travelers think of a passport, they tend to imagine a big blue book filled with visa stamps and stickers as a testament to years of travel. These documents have historically been the ones used before cheap air travel made the world available to more people. Government agencies responded accordingly, and created the U.S. passport card in 2008.

Passport books can be accepted for Americans traveling to any country, provided they have the proper visa or none is required. However, passport cards can only be used for ports of entry by land or sea. Most commonly, this means U.S. citizens traveling to Canada or Mexico, or taking a Caribbean cruise.

Because of this, a passport card doesn’t quite have the flexibility for travelers who prefer or need to fly, but both the cost and size are reduced.


Cost of a Passport Card


Standard U.S. passport books for first timers and those renewing cost $110 as of March 2020, excluding execution fees. However, passport cards only cost the applicant $30. Both documents are valid for ten years.

In addition, there are options for children: passport books for those under 16 cost $80, while a passport card is only $15. Both documents are valid for five years.


How to get a Passport Card


As far as the application process is concerned, there is no major difference in applying for a passport book or card. Both federally-issued documents require a DS-11 or DS-82 application for first-time applicants and those renewing, respectively. In addition, you’ll need two passport-sized photos, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a government-issued photo ID.

Once you’ve gathered all these documents, you can choose to send in your passport card application by mail for a renewal. All first-time passport card applications must be handled in person at a regional passport agency or entrusted to an agency like Travel Visa Pro.

If you are filing your application on your own, be aware of the processing time prior to any big trip. Passport card applications can take several weeks to be returned by mail, and a matter of days if applying in person. With Travel Visa Pro, we can reduce this processing time significantly.


How long can I use a Passport Card?


Ten years for adults, five years for children. Passport cards are valid for the same amount of time as traditional books, and largely have the same application process when it comes time to renew.


How to use a Passport Card


The good news is there’s no need to choose one or the other. U.S. citizens can legally hold both a passport book and card at the same time, and have them accepted accordingly.

For example, one could bus in from Seattle to Vancouver, showing a passport card at the land border crossing, then use the passport book to fly to Asia. Having both documents ensures a backup ⁠— and smaller ⁠— form of identification abroad.

If you’re not planning to fly anytime in the next ten years, but still want the option to cross a border, then a passport card may be best for you. Many travelers with a preference for long-distance boat travel or a fear of flying prefers cards which allow them to visit other countries.


Ready to apply for your Passport Card?


With the Real ID Act taking hold across the United States, residents of certain states may start to realize passport cards are better for them than state-issued driver’s licenses. Passport cards issued by the federal government can be used to fly domestically and travel internationally by land or sea.

Before applying for a passport card, think about how you want to travel and which document would be best for you. The experts at Travel Visa Pro are standing by with answers to any questions you might have.

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