Should I get a passport card?
One question we see a lot online is “What is a “Passport Card?” and “Do I need one if I already have a valid passport?”
We’ll clear that up in the article below, and give you a couple good reasons why you may want to have both at the same time.
First, “Can you have both a passport and a passport card at the same time?” The answer is, Yes. In fact, on the DS-11 application to renew or get a passport, at the top you can select whether you are applying for a passport “book” (with pages for foreign visa entry/exit stamps, visas, etc.) or a passport “card” (also called a “passcard” for short) like an I.D. card or drivers license, or both.
When you apply for a U.S. Passport (book), just check the box and apply and pay the additional $55.00 for a U.S. Passport card (Passcard) at the same time. You are allowed to have both.
The U.S. Passport card uses a different passport number, and a RFID chip (with your biometric data), but cannot by itself be used to fly into/out of the USA. It is primarily used for travel to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda since 9-11 and also for cruises, or to use as a form of proof of identity.
“Why would you want both passport book and passport card when traveling overseas?”
Many countries require you to keep your passport on your person at all times. This is a problem due to theft, or loss (as it is a funny size to easily carry, and can be damaged due to sweat or humidity or moisture), and more. In fact, most travel advice sites explicitly tell you to lock it up somewhere safe while abroad. This is a problem if you are required by law to keep your passport on your person at all times. The passcard is laminated, and the size of your credit card and driver’s license, making it much easier to keep on your person at all times overseas, while your “real” passport (book) stays safely locked away so you can always get out of the country. The Passcard is also a bit more convincing than a photocopy or a photo of your passport on your smartphone (in case you are concerned that anyone stopping you won’t be satisfied with a photocopy or a photo). Those are two other methods that I used back in the day, to keep from being forced to carry my passport on my person at all times overseas. It is also easier to carry as a second form of I.D. back home.
Since it is laminated it can also hold up better to the rigors of daily travel in humid environments, sweat, and water damage you may encounter overseas, or if friends throw you in the pool. Realize that a passcard won’t get you back into America if flying however, so keep your passport book handy and don’t travel abroad without it!
I still suggest you take a snapshot of your passport before travels as well as sending a copy to a loved one back home for safekeeping.
But “Should I apply for, or renew my passport now, or wait for the latest updated passports coming out late 2017/early 2018?
You can learn more at: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/card.html
“What other item should I never forget when traveling?”
Travel insurance is the other essential when traveling abroad or even if traveling over 150 miles from home out of network or someplace that may not have good choices in terms of doctors or hospitals on your domestic insurance plan. You may also want to consider if you have a $6500 deductible. A travel policy under $40 would be a much better choice than having to use your domestic insurance with deductible.
“What if I already have a passport? Do I have to reapply?”
No. If you already have a valid passport, you can apply for just a passport card via the mail using Form DS-82.
If you do not already have a passport, then apply using the Form DS-11 here:
On the top of page 5, you will clearly see the checkboxes where you will be requesting a U.S. Passport, a U.S. Passport Card or Both (see example in image below).
Make sure you include enough payment for both the Passport and Passport card when submitting your application.
More info on U.S. Passport Cards:
More instructions can be found at: https://www.usa.gov/passport
The DMV also has a page dedicated to the Passcard: http://www.dmv.org/articles/how-to-apply-for-a-passport-card/
Or watch the video at: https://youtu.be/SDeJqRyL3JY
If that doesn’t answer your question, feel free to post a comment or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to answer it for you. And when thinking about travel preparedness, don’t forget a good travel insurance plan! We have a number of options to fit every traveler and budget – See our recommendations here.
Does the passport even have any basis in law?
No. But as a recognized source of valid proof of identity it had become an important requirement for travel. For a fascinating look at the evolution of the passport over time, check out “The Passport”by Martin Lloyd.
What if my passport or passcard is stolen or lost?
You will need to replace the passport before being allowed back into the USA (If you don’t have both as mentioned above). Contact your local embassy or consulate immediately. You will also be directed to where you can obtain a photo for your replacement passport. Save time by getting a new photo taken and take it with you when you go in to meet with them. You must also complete a statement describing the circumstances under which your passport was lost or stolen.
- DS-11 Application for Passport (may be completed at time of application)
- DS-64 Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen Passport (may be completed at time of application)
If you at at home, and told that a friend or family member overseas has lost their passport, contact the Overseas Citizens Services at (1-888) 407-4747 immediately; they’ll connect you to the proper embassy and assist with the replacement passport application, even often waiving the fee if they were robbed.
And remember, if you purchase a travel insurance plan like Atlas or Outreach for less than $2.00 a day, you’ll also have additional assistance ready to help in addition to all the other emergency medical benefits!