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Passport Card Facts and FAQ

The US passport card is smaller, cheaper, and more convenient than a passport book. That said, it is not for everyone. So who is it for? How do you get one? What does the card look like?

We answer these and other frequently asked questions below.

What is a passport card?

A passport card works the same way as a passport book. It proves both your United States citizenship and your identity.

The card is a valid passport, but it is similar in size to a credit card or driver's license. It has a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that stores your identifying details. When a customs official scans your card, the RFID chip transmits this information.

What does the passport card look like?

Below are images of the front and back of the card before the applicant's photo and data are printed on them.

Passport Card FrontPassport Card Back

What's the difference between a passport book and a passport card?

A passport book and a passport card serve the same purpose: proving your U.S. citizenship and identity.

All American citizens are required to present a valid passport to exit and re-enter the United States. A passport is also required when entering, exiting, and traveling between foreign countries.

You can apply for both the book and card with the same application, but it is not required to get both. There is no significant difference in processing time for a passport card versus a passport book. Both can be expedited. However, some passport agencies do not expedite passport cards.

A reputable registered passport expediter like RushMyPassport can submit your passport application on your behalf. This can ensure the fastest possible processing times for your passport card and/or passport book application. In some cases, you can get a new or renewed passport or passport card in as few as 24 hours.

While there are similarities between the two, the table below shows the differences between a passport book and a passport card.

table of differences between us passport card and us passport book

The main differences are:

  • Size - The passport card's smaller size makes it more convenient to carry than the regular U.S. passport book.
  • Cost - It is cheaper to get a passport card than a standard passport book.
  • Usefulness - A passport card is only useful in a limited number of situations. A passport card can only be used for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. A passport card can't be used to board a plane for an international flight.

    However, a passport book is valid for all types of travel (land, sea, or air) to any destination.

Who is the passport card for?

Any American citizen can apply for a passport card. But, it may not be the ideal choice for everyone.

The purpose of a passport card is to make it easier for Americans who have to cross land or sea borders often. For example, many people living in border communities must cross a border for work, shopping, or leisure. They must show a proper credential each time they cross. A plastic card is sturdier and easier to carry than a paper passport book.

Know that citizens still need a passport book to travel outside of North America or fly abroad. There is a good reason for this. Passport books are the international gold standard for travel ID. As such, the passport card was never meant to replace the passport book. The card is simply a convenient tool more suitable for specific use cases.

Should you choose a passport card or a passport book?

Simply put, applying for a passport card only makes sense if you meet the following criteria:

  • You do not plan to leave or enter the United States by air.
  • You only plan to travel to Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, and/or the Caribbean.
  • Both of the above apply to your anticipated plans for the next 10 years.

The passport card is a convenient option for those who live near U.S. borders and frequently cross for work or pleasure. In these cases, being able to keep a durable travel credential in your wallet or purse - just as you would your license - makes sense. If you plan on using a passport card often enough that it must always be on your person, it is worth considering.

For everyone else, the alternative is the traditional U.S. passport book. The book version comes in both a standard, 24-page version and a bigger, 52-page version for those who travel a lot.

Where can a U.S. citizen apply for a passport card?

If you are applying for a passport for the first time, you can do so at one of the 8,400 Passport Application Acceptance Facilities across the country. Most facilities require an appointment and many have limited spots available.

If you already have a passport book and are eligible to use Form DS-82, you may apply for the passport card by mail.

What documents will I need in order to apply for a passport card?

The passport card is a valid passport that attests to the U.S. citizenship and identity of the bearer. As such, the passport card follows the same application rules as the passport book.

Applicants must provide documents that attest to their U.S. citizenship. The most common examples of acceptable documentation include:

  • an original birth certificate
  • an original naturalization certificate
  • a previously issued passport

A completed application and a passport photo are also required.

For specific instructions on how to apply for a new U.S. passport card, see how to apply for a passport.

If you already have a traditional passport book and you are eligible to submit Form DS-82, you may apply for a passport card as a Renewal by Mail - even if it is your first passport card!

How much does the passport card cost?

The first passport card for an adult costs $65, and $50 for any minor under the age of 16. This includes the $35 execution fee.

Adults who received their most recently issued traditional passport when they were age 16 or older can apply for the passport card at a cost of $30, as long as their traditional passport is still valid or has expired no more than 5 years ago.

How long does it take to receive your passport card?

It takes the same amount of time for the U.S. Department of State Passport Services to process and issue a passport card as it does for a traditional passport book.

This process can take from 4 weeks to 3 months, depending on the demand at the time that you apply.

Can a passport card be renewed?

Yes. You can renew a passport card by following the same procedures you would follow to renew a passport book.

Similarly, you also have the ability to rush your passport card renewal in the same ways that you would expedite a passport book renewal.

How can a passport card application be expedited?

You can request expedited passport service when you submit the application. There is an extra fee of $60 for this service. Expedited processing takes up to 3 weeks by mail. This can save you weeks compared to the standard wait time.

If you need to get a passport card in less than 2 weeks, several, but not all, passport agencies expedite passport cards.

Applicants who need to obtain the travel document this quickly, but are unable to visit a regional agency in person, can authorize a registered expediter - such as Rush My Passport - to submit the application for them.

Can a passport card be used as a RealID?

Yes. One of the extra benefits of a valid passport card is that it is considered an acceptable RealID. This means, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, a passport card can be used to:

  • Board a federally regulated commercial aircraft
  • Access certain federal facilities
  • Enter a nuclear power plant

How many passport cards have been issued?

The passport card has only been around since July 14, 2008. Only 189,560 cards were issued that year.

Just a few years later, the number of passport cards issued rose to over one million. Due to this growth, more and more questions are sent to us about this travel document.

Additional FAQ About Passport Cards

Click the links below to see the answers to questions that other visitors have submitted.

Where can I look to see the status up-date for the processing of a Passport Card? 
Question: I submitted the forms and documents needed for a Passport Card, including my Passport. My check was cashed, but I can't located the status...

Will a passport card be sufficient for a child or adult traveling to Bahamas from the U.S. 
Question: If we are traveling to Bahamas from US, will a passport card work fine for that, and will it last for 5 years like the passport book does for...

Should I get a passport card for my children instead of a passport book when traveling on a cruise to Bahamas? 
Question: We are traveling with a 4 and 2 year old on a Disney cruise. We fly from Maryland to Florida where we board our ship and sail to the Bahamas...

Passport Card in addition to Passport Book 
Question: If my US passport book does not expire for 6 more years, can I complete the DS-82 for a passport card without renewing my passport book?...

My son lost his passport card--NOT his passport. What do we need to do? 
Question: My 12 year old son lost his wallet and it contained his small passport card, with the passport number on it. He DID NOT lose his passport...

Can I get a passport card for my honeymoon so I don't have to pay the extra cost of a passport book? 
Question: My fiance and I are planning a honeymoon, but its based on whether we will have a passport. I'd rather pay the $55 pp for the passport card ...

I have a passport card but need a passport book to travel to Barbados. 
Question: I currently have a passport card that was issued in June 2009. I will be needing to get a passport book within the next couple of years so ...

Can you use the passport card instead of the passport book when traveling to Bahamas? 
Question: Travel from metro Detroit to Bahamas do I need a book passport or card passport? Answer: The Bahamian government only requires proof of...

What's the difference between a passport book and a passport card? 
Question: What's the difference between a passport book and a passport card? Do I need both? My passport was issued to me when i was 17 years old and ...

Can I renew a passport book that is not expired for a passport card and change the name?  
Question: I will be traveling this Feb. 2011 to Mexico (cruise) and would prefer to renew my passport just in case of an emergency. I have two children...


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