The Passport book and Passport card are both proof of your citizenship and identity while traveling outside of the US. Currently, all citizens of the United States need a one or the other for international travel, even to neighboring countries such as Mexico and Canada. There are two options available: the traditional passport book and more recently (since 2008) the passport card. Both documents have a validity of 10 years for adults 16 or older and 5 years for minors under the age of 16. Both come with an electronic chip which assigns a number that’s read from a distance by U.S Customs and Border Protection. The chip has no biographical information, so there is no concern for identity theft if either the book or card is lost or stolen.
THE PASSPORT CARD
The passport card is about the size of of a standard driver’s license or state ID, thus it fits conveniently in your wallet. The passport card is only valid for land and sea border crossings to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. It is not valid for air travel of any sort to any destination which makes it a good fit mostly only for those who travel to Canada or Mexico frequently by car or train. The passport card is approved for the Ready Lanes at border crossings. This allows for faster crossing.
Children who are too young for a driver’s license or other state ID, or other non-drivers who want a wallet sized ID document, can also use the passport card. Sailors and other boatmen who travel international seas between the Unites States, Canada, the Caribbean, or Bermuda may also use a passport card. If you’re taking a cruise between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean, you can use the card, however, in the event you need to return to the United States by air due to an emergency, you will need to have the passport book to do so. This one point alone is why most applicants opt to get the passport book or both the card and the book together. The last thing you or your family would want in the case of a medical emergency is to be delayed while awaiting the nearest local US Embassy to issue and get you a temporary passport book.
The passport card is cheaper to obtain than the passport book. The current fees for the card are $55 for applicants ages 16 or older and $40 for applicants under age 16. This is the base fee and does not include any fees to expedite.
THE PASSPORT BOOK
The traditional passport book allows for international travel of any form to any destination and is the one that you are most likely used to seeing. The first page of the passport book has the information of its carrier. The central and bulk of the following pages are for visa, entry and exit stamps. The last few pages in the passport book are “amendment pages” and are for US government use only and may not be used for any other purpose. The passport book allows for all travel whether by air, land, or sea. You will also need the passport book in order to receive a travel visa from countries that require an issue them. The current cost for a passport book is $135 for adults 16 years or older and $105 for those under 16 (child passports cannot be renewed). This is the base fee and does not include any fees to expedite. As far as restrictions go, there are none with the passport book which makes it both the logical and safest choice between the two.
So which one is right for me? Should I get both?
You can definitely get both, but if you already have the passport book, there’s no real need to obtain the card. As stated above, the passport book covers all the international requirements you need and there are no travel restrictions. If you do have the book and travel frequently between through the boarders of Canada and Mexico or on ships to Bermuda, Mexico, and the Caribbean, you might want to consider applying for both when renewing your passport for the sake of convenience and to not wasted your visa pages on entry and exit stamps, especially now as they no longer add visa pages to passports.
If you have the passport card, you may want to get the book as well in case you need to make unexpected flights. Otherwise, If you’re certain that you’ll only be traveling by land or sea, then the card should suit your needs. Keep in mind that if you do have the card, you will need to complete a new application for the book. You may use your card as identification on your application.
Even if you have no immediate travel plans, it’s good to have at least one of these forms of ID. The passport is an accepted form of identification both domestically and internationally. Also, if an emergency arises, you won’t have to wait weeks for a passport – and if you do wind up needing a passport quickly because of a medical emergency or other unexpected travel, US Visa Connection is here to help!