• As of April 2nd, 2018 Passport Fees have gone up. Please see our updated content on how much a passport costs for the most up to date information.

What’s The Difference Between A Passport Card And A Passport Book?

Getting your passport stamped is a wonderful way to remember your travels, but carrying a passport around isn’t always convenient or safe. Get a U.S. passport card to fit in your wallet. You can get a US passport card, whether or not you currently hold a passport book. A passport card is the same size as a driver’s license, and is official proof of your identity and US citizenship. They are particularly useful as identification for children who are too young to get a driver’s license.

The main difference between a passport card and a passport book – other than the physical size and format – is that the card can not be used for any international travel by air. Any time you board an international flight, you’ll need your valid US passport book.

Passport cards, like passport books, are valid for 10 years from the date of issue (or 5 years, for children age 15 and younger). If you already hold a passport book, your card will be issued with a different number. You do not need a valid passport book in order to apply for a passport ID card, and you can apply for either the card only, or you can apply for a passport book and a passport card at the same time.

How do you get a passport card and where can you go with it? Read below for more information on U.S. passport cards including passport card renewals, restrictions, eligibility, and fees.

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What is A Passport Card?

What Can A Passport Card Be Used For?

You can use your valid passport ID card for all of the following purposes:

  • You can travel to Canada, Mexico, or most Caribbean nations by land or sea.
  • You can use your passport card as Real ID to board domestic flights in the US or enter US military facilities or federal buildings.
  • Your passport card can be used as an ID card for purposes like buying alcohol, getting a driver’s license, or checking in at the doctor.
  • If you ever lose your passport book, you can use your passport card as proof of citizenship as a backup.
  • While you are traveling overseas, you can carry your passport card in your wallet so you can prove your identity and citizenship. You can keep your passport book safe at the hotel if you also have a passport card!

Who is Eligible for a Passport Card?

All US citizens are eligible to obtain a passport card. It does not matter if you currently have a valid passport book or not. You can get the card even if you have never been issued a passport before.

Where Can You Go With a Passport Card?

US passport cards can be used to enter Canada or Mexico by land or sea. That means you can use a passport card if you are going to Mexico or Canada by car, bus, train, ferry, yacht, or even on foot. But remember, any travel by air requires a valid passport book, even to Canada and Mexico.

Your passport card can also be used to enter most Caribbean nations by sea.  The Caribbean island nations that accept the US passport card include Bermuda, Jamaica, Aruba, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and Dominican Republic.

No matter where you are going, you will need a passport book if you are traveling internationally by air. Most cruise lines also will want you to have a valid passport book, in case you have to fly home in an emergency.

Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for a Passport Card

What documents do I need to get a U.S. Passport Card?

The documents you will need will vary depending on whether you currently hold a valid passport book. You can apply in any one of the following scenarios:

  • Applying for a card alone when you already have a valid passport book
  • Applying for a card alone when you have never held a US passport
  • Getting a card at the same time you are applying for a new passport book (either for an adult or a minor under age 16)
  • Getting a card at the same time you are applying for a renewal of your passport book (adults whose passport was issued after they turned 16)

Requirements for Passport Card – Applicants who hold a valid Passport Book

  • Your current US passport – This must be the actual book, not a photocopy
  • Passport Application Form (DS-82), completed offline or filled out online at https://pptform.state.gov/, printed and signed. You will need to select on this application whether you are applying for just a passport card or for both a passport card and a passport book renewal.
  • One passport photo
  • Photocopy of your driver’s license or other state-issued ID (front and back)
  • Passport card fee – A check for $30 ($90 if you need expedited service) made payable to “US Department of State.”
  • Flight itinerary or other proof of travel plans (only required if you need expedited service for a passport card.)

Once you have collected these items, you can proceed to Step Two.

Requirements for Passport Card – Applicants who have not been issued a US Passport (or Minors under age 16)

  • Proof of US Citizenship (birth certificate)
  • New Passport Application Form (DS-11), completed offline or filled out online at https://pptform.state.gov/. You will need to specify on the application whether you are applying only for the passport card or for both a passport book and a passport card.
  • One passport photo
  • Photocopy of your driver’s license or other state-issued ID (front and back). Minors under age 16 will need to submit copies of both parents’ passports or driver’s licenses.
  • Flight itinerary or other proof of travel plans (only required if you need expedited service for the passport card.)
  • Passport card fee – you will need two checks, one for $25 for the Passport Acceptance Agent fee and one made payable to “US Department of State” for $30 ($15 for applicants under age 16.) Add $60 to the US Department of State check if you need expedited service for your passport card.

If you have never had a U.S. passport, or if you’re under 16, you will need to appear in person at a Passport Acceptance Agent in order to have your documents reviewed and sealed into an official envelope before you proceed to Step Two. Children under age 16 will need to appear at the Passport Acceptance Agent with both of their parents. (See our Passport for Minors page for more details.) Passport Acceptance Agents are usually found at major post offices or at Clerk of the Court offices. You can find a convenient passport location.

Where Do I Submit My Passport Card Application?

  1. By Mail – Your passport card application can be sent in by mail to be processed at the National Passport Center.
  2. At a Passport Agency – If you need expedited service for your passport ID card, you can visit a US Passport Agency in person.
  3. By a Passport Expediting Company – If you really need to get your passport card fast, you can send your application to a reputable passport expediting company for service in as little as 24 hours.

How Do I Get a Passport Card Fast?

Click here to get a Passport CardGetting a passport card by mail can take between 6 to 8 weeks. If you are also applying for a renewal of your passport book and you opt for expedited service by mail, your passport book will arrive in 2-3 weeks, but your passport card may arrive in a separate envelope several weeks later. Passport cards requested by mail are always shipped back to you via First Class Mail (regular mail).

If you need your passport card in a hurry, the best way to do it is to use the services of a passport expediting company. These companies can get you a passport card in as little as 24 hours.

You can request expedited service by appearing in person at a Passport Agency, but not all Passport Agencies make passport cards on site. You may still need to wait 2 or more weeks for your passport card to be sent to you by mail. There are 26 Passport Agencies across the US, and you must call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 to make an appointment. Many Passport Agencies will not allow you to appear in person unless you have proof of very urgent travel.

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