You may have heard about passport cards, which are smaller, less expensive, and may seem more convenient than the standard passport book. Despite their apparent benefits, passport cards do have their drawbacks. There are certain circumstances where a passport card can work better than a traditional passport and other situations where they won’t work at all.
Below, we’ve summarized the differences between a passport card and the standard passport book.
Should I Get a Passport Card?
Passport cards are designed for use when entering the U.S. at land borders and ports of entry from sea at the following locations:
- The Caribbean
They are also valid for use as a REAL ID, which is a federal program that set standards for issuing identification cards. Most state-issued driver’s licenses and state non-driver identification cards are valid forms of REAL ID, as are passport cards.
That means you can use your passport card for domestic flights in lieu of a state-issued license or ID.
You cannot use passport cards for international air travel. When flying overseas, you’ll still need a standard passport. While standard passports can work the same as passport cards to enter Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean, passport cards do not work the same as standard passports for entering other countries by air.
Should I Get a Passport Card and a Standard Passport?
The best way to cover all bases is to get both a passport card and standard passport, which you can easily do the next time you renew your passport. You’ll need to submit the same documentation for getting a passport card as you do for a passport book, so getting them both at the same time makes things easier.
Required documentation includes:
- Your existing passport and DS-82 application for renewals
- Proof of citizenship and DS-11 application for new passports
- Passport photo
- Government processing fees
If you’re in a hurry and need rapid passport processing from Swift, you’ll also need:
- Letter authorizing a third party to submit materials on your behalf
- Proof of departure
Swift makes it incredibly simple to add a passport card to passport renewals. All you need to do is check the box that says to include the card and pay the additional fee for the card. The fee depends on if you’re renewing or obtaining a new passport.
Summing It Up
Passport cards are meant to supplement standard passports, not replace them. Because they are the same size as other identification cards, they can fit in your wallet for convenient carrying. They’re good to have if you frequently travel between the U.S. and Mexico or Canada, allowing you entrance back into the U.S. without having to carry around your passport book.
Getting a standard passport is ultimately more useful than getting just a passport card, although getting both is still the best bet to have all your bases covered. Want more info on passport cards or other travel documentation? Contact Swift any time!
Rob Lee is co-founder and CFO of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.