Understandng the U.S. Passport

In September 1, 2016

Understanding the U.S. passport can sometimes seem daunting, especially when you are applying for one for the first time. However, once you are familiar with some of the passport terminology, it becomes less stressful trying to get your passport ready for your travels. In honor of Passport Awareness Month, we will try to help you understand the U.S. Passport so you can easily renew or apply for your first passport with ease. Here are a few common questions and answers about the U.S. Passport.

What is a passport? A passport is an official government document that certifies your identity and citizenship. It can be used for international travel and as a valid form of ID within the United States.

What is a passport card? A passport card is also an official government document that certifies your identity and citizenship, however it does not grant travel access to foreign countries by air travel. It will only grant you access to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry.

What is the difference between a U.S. Passport and a Visa? This is a common question as both documents are used for travel, making it a bit confusing. A U.S. passport, issued by the United States, will grant U.S. citizens access into 174* countries. However, some of these countries may require you to also have a travel visa, issued by the embassy of the foreign country you are visiting, as a second form of approval for your trip. . While you won’t always need a travel visa, you will always need a passport to travel internationally. Travel Visas are often used for employment or trips lasting a long time, but you should check your destinations requirements to be sure you are fully prepared. To find out if you need a visa to travel to your destination, view more information here. If you are looking for more information on how to use a U.S. Visa to enter the United States as an immigrant or nonimmigrant, you can find information here.

* These numbers may change due to any travel alerts or bans.

What are common passport problems? Many countries have specific restrictions on accepting a United States passport for valid entry, like requiring two or more blank pages in your passport book. Certain countries may also require that the expiration date on your passport is 6 months or more from your date of entry into that country. This means if you are traveling in September and your passport expires in November, many countries will not allow you to enter. You can check all entry requirements by location here.  

Are children, including infants required to have a passport? Yes, if you and your child are traveling internationally, they will be required to have a valid U.S. passport. Learn more about obtaining a passport for minors here.

Understanding the U.S. passport should be a little bit easier now that you have had a few common questions answered for you. Be sure to always check the requirements of any international destination you plan to visit before planning your trip so you will have all of the required travel documents in order. For any questions on obtaining vital records to submit for your passport, visit VitalChek.com to learn more!

2 Comments

  1. I wanna get a duplicate copy of my passport card since it was lost. How can I file for a duplicate?

    1. Hello Rudy – You will need to contact the passport office and report your passport lost or stolen, then apply for a replacement passport.
      Thank you,
      Nichole H.

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