Passport Cards: How and Where to Get One

Many of us who have ever had a passport are familiar with them, palm sized bluebooks that contain an unflattering mugshot and some empty pages to fill with travel stamps, fewer have heard of a passport card. Beginning in 2008, the US Department of State began issuing another form of passport. These new passports were smaller, easier to carry, and initially meant to be a cheaper and easier alternative to the typical passport book. Passport cards were intended to be used as an official form of identification for all travelers following a requirement for those traveling by plane, think of them as the initial ‘real ID’ driver’s licenses which states only recently began to issue. 

Things haven’t shaped up the way the USDA intended. For most, a passport card isn’t even something they consider when applying for a passport. In fact, many Americans aren’t even aware of what a passport card is or where they can use it to travel! This leads to many situations where passport applicants apply for a passport card when they really need a passport book! So let’s navigate the reasoning behind getting a passport card, and when you should consider getting one!

Passport Card Travel Usage

First and foremost, a passport card has limits placed on it compared to a traditional passport book. A passport card can ONLY be used for land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico, and countries located within the Caribbean. This is important because you cannot board a plane using a passport card if you intend to travel to one of the countries listed above. Passport books are required for all transit via air! This one fact might make obtaining a passport card seem obsolete for most, and in many cases you don’t really need to acquire a passport card if you don’t need one. 

There are some niche cases where owning a passport card can prove to be an advantage. For one, those who live near the US/Mexico or US/Canada border who transit over regularly by land may want a passport card for its ease of use. Passport cards are not stamped, and therefore have unlimited usage. This goes for those using a passport card to travel by sea as well! Boat captains, or those who work on cruises may find it more useful to carry and use their passport card for the entire duration of its 10 year validity, rather than using their passport book until they’ve exhausted all of its pages! One more benefit of a passport card, even for those who are not traveling by land or sea, is the fact that it’s an ID. If you are abroad and don’t want to carry your passport book with you to prove your age, you can whip out your passport card which will be accepted all the same.

Acquiring a Passport Card

Obtaining a passport card isn’t much different than obtaining a normal passport. The same application requirements apply. A passport card can be purchased in addition to your passport book for an additional $30 (for an adult) or $15 (for a child). 

Issues with Passport Cards

The main issue with passport cards is when you forget that you had one! A lot of adventurous travelers originally applied for their passport cards when they were initially issued in 2008. Since passport cards don’t have many use cases, many of these original applicants and those who followed ended up misplacing or losing their passport cards. The issue arises when it comes time to renew their passports. If someone has been issued a passport card they must submit the passport card every time they attempt to process a passport renewal. This applies even if the applicant is not trying to renew their passport card. 

As one can imagine, this leads to issues when applicants are unaware of this quirk. Oftentimes, people forget they even had a passport card because they never used it! Alternatively, if an applicant cannot find their passport card, they can report it as lost/stolen on their passport application. Doing this will waive the requirement to present the passport card for renewal, however this may lead to you being issued a temporary issue passport if the applicant has lost other passport documents in the past. All this to say: DO NOT apply for a passport card if you don’t need one or if you don’t think you can keep it safe for 10 years!

Expedited Passport Card Requirements

To be eligible to apply for our expedited passport service, you’ll need to be traveling within 14 days of the day you apply. That means you’ll either need to have a flight ticket, cruise itinerary, or business letter that clearly states your name and date of departure. Proof of travel is required to ensure that those who are applying for rush service meet the federal requirements of what constitutes an ‘emergency’. If you have any questions about your specific situation, or if you need to apply for a visa to a foreign country, we ask that you inquire by contacting us by phone during normal business hours. 

Beyond those requirements, you’ll also need to have the normal passport requirements for whatever your process is. For renewals, you’ll just need your previous passport as well as passport photos and the DS-82 passport renewal application. New passport applicants will have to provide proof of citizenship, ID, passport photos, and the DS-11 passport application. Child applicants have the same requirements as new passport applicants, but both of their parents must be present and be able to provide a valid ID.

Get started today by placing an order with The Passport Office!

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