A Breakdown of the U.S. Passport Card

You may have heard about the United States passport card, but perhaps you aren’t sure how it differs from a traditional passport book. The U.S. passport card is a relatively new document that only came into use starting in July of 2008. When passports became required for entry from any country bordering the United States (like Canada and Mexico), the government wanted to offer a more affordable alternative to the passport book. Thus, the U.S. passport card was born as a new official document which could be used as proof of identity for U.S. citizens in specific situations. Below we discuss a few more facts about the passport card you may not have realized.

A passport card is only valid for land and sea travel from countries that border the United States, as well as Bermuda and the Caribbean. The biggest difference between a passport card and a passport book is that a passport card cannot be used for international air travel. For U.S. travelers who won’t be flying internationally, here are a few benefits to having a passport card:

    • Cost: The cost of the passport card is considerably less than that of a passport book. At $55 for first time applicants, a passport card is half the cost of a passport book. If you happen to have a passport book already, the cost of the card is only $30. For children under the age of 16 the cost of a passport card is $40.


  • Application Process: The application process will varying depending on whether or not you currently have a valid passport book. If you do not have a passport book you will need to follow these steps to apply for a passport card.


    • Proof of United States citizenship, such as a valid birth certificate
    • Completed DS-11 form, either printed out or filled out online
    • 1 passport photo
    • Photocopy of a valid photo ID – a driver’s license or state photo ID. If a minor is applying, they will need to include a photocopy of either parent’s passports or driver’s licenses.
    • Mail all items into a National Passport Center or schedule an appointment to bring items into the National Passport Center nearest you. You can find a list of centers here.

NOTE: If you have a U.S. passport book already, you can apply online to get your passport card here.

  • Timeline: On average it takes about 8 weeks to receive a passport card, however much like a passport book, you can have it expedited and can pay more to receive it in 2 weeks.

If you will be traveling across the Canadian or Mexican border, or to the Caribbean via sea travel, a passport card may be the right option for you. Make sure you have all of the vital records you will need to apply for a U.S. passport card such as your birth certificate. If you need a government certified copy, you can easily order your birth certificate securely online right here.

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