Answers to Your Questions About Passport Cards
People about to travel overseas frequently ask questions like “Do I need a passport card?”, “How do I get one?” and “Should I bring it when traveling overseas?” Maybe you’re about to travel and are wondering the same thing. Learn all about passport cards and find the answers to these questions in this article.
What is a passport card?
The passport card is an official national identity and limited travel document issued by the U.S. Department of State to U.S. nationals. It is the size of a credit card and was created in 2007 as a less expensive and more portable alternative to northern and southern U.S. border communities with residents that cross the border frequently.
It is not the same as a passport book. The passport book is larger in size and has multiple pages in it. The passport book is also the only document approved for international air travel.
What is a it used for?
The passport card can be used to enter the U.S. at land border crossings and seaports of entry. It is also accepted for entry by land or sea into Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and some countries in the Caribbean.
Adults and children with U.S. passport cards can save time at the U.S.-Mexico border by using designated Ready Lanes that read the card’s Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. It can also be used as an identity card for domestic air travel, proof of U.S. citizenship and other purposes, but it cannot be used for international air travel.
Should I bring it along when traveling overseas?
We recommend bringing your passport card with you when traveling overseas. Why? Many countries require you to keep your passport book on your person at all times. Since a passport book is too large to fit in an average wallet, there is a greater risk of losing it, damaging it or having it stolen.
However, the card is laminated and is the size of a credit card, so it’s easier and safer to keep with you at all times. It is also more convincing than a photo or photocopy of your passport. Carrying a card allows you to keep your passport book safely locked away for the time when you’re ready to leave the country.
How long is it valid?
The card has the same validity period as the passport book – 10 years for age 16 and older, and 5 years for age 16 and under.
How much does it cost?
The card costs $30 for adults if you already have a passport book, and $65 for first time adult applicants.
How do I apply for or renew it?
If you already have a passport book or card, you can renew by mail using Form DS-82. Your current passport book or card must be:
- Submitted with your DS-82 application
- Undamaged (other than normal “wear and tear”)
- Issued when you were age 16 or older
- Issued within the last 15 years
- Issued in your current name (or you can document your name change with an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order)
If you only applied for the card, it will be sent to you via First Class Mail. 1-2 day delivery service is not available for the cards.
Can I apply for the passport book and card using the same application?
Yes, you can apply for both a passport book and card at the same time using either Form DS-11 (apply in person) or Form DS-82 (renew by mail – must be eligible). To apply for or renew both the book and card, check the appropriate box at the top of the form to indicate that you would like to apply for both products.
If you have a passport book and you are eligible to use Form DS-82, you may apply for the card as a renewal by mail even if it is your first card. If you’re renewing your passport book and card, you must submit both documents. If you can submit a passport book, but you lost your passport card, you cannot renew the passport card using Form DS-82.
Here are three websites containing additional information about applying for passport books and cards:
What if my passport book or card is lost or stolen?
You will need to replace the passport before being allowed back into the USA. 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.
If you’re at home and are 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.
If this article doesn’t answer all of your questions about passport cards, 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.