How to get a passport card

Recently the U.S. Department of State created an inexpensive and convenient alternative to carrying a passport when traveling between the U.S and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda called the passport card. The production of the U.S passport card began on July 14, 2008 and as of March 2010 according to the U.S. Department of State; more than 2,700,000 passport cards have been issued to U.S. citizens.

Although a passport card is invalid for international air travel it can be used at sea ports-of-entry or land border crossings and is valid up to 10 years for adults and 5 years for minors.

Benefits

The passport card or formally known as the People Access Security Service Card (PASS) is small in size compared to a passport. The passport card is the size of a credit card and can easily fit in a wallet while the size of a passport is 5×3-1/2 inches.

Additionally, the passport card is a lot more economical than a traditional passport. Currently the price of a passport for first time applicants is $135 for adults and $105 for minors under age 16. The cost to renew a passport is $110 for adults. The cost of a passport card for first time applicants is $55 for adults and $40 for minors under age 16. To renew a passport card the cost is $30 for adults.

It is even cheaper to buy both a passport and passport card at one time. The cost for first time applicants when applying for both cards is $165 for adults and $120 for minors.

How to Apply

All U.S. citizens can apply for a passport card. If you have a regular passport and are qualified to use a DS-82 form then the application can be sent by mail. Additionally, a passport can be renewed at the same time that you apply for a passport card. To be eligible for a DS-82 form a passport cannot be damaged, was issued when you were 16 years or older, was issued within the last 15 years, and was issued in your current name or there is legal documentation of your name change.

If you are not qualified to use the DS-82 form or have never had a passport then you must apply in person at a Passport Application Acceptance Facility. An Application Acceptance Facility is located in most all major cities and even in many small towns across the U.S. There are approximately 9,300 Passport Acceptance Facilities in the U.S that includes some U.S. Post offices, courthouses and town halls.

To apply for a passport card the following documents are needed:

- Two 2×2-inch passport photos
- Application and execution fees
- A completed application, form DS-11 Note: Sign the form in front of a passport agent
- A completed unsigned application form DS-82 if renewing a passport or passport card
- Proof of U.S. citizenship and identity: birth certificates, naturalization certificates (certified copies with raised seal)

Once the application is completed it usually takes four weeks to process and is sent by first class mail. A passport card cannot be sent using overnight delivery but can be delivered within two weeks with expedited service that cost an additional $60. If expedited service is needed then an appointment with a passport agency is required. The expedited service appointment service is free.


Security

The passport card is comprised of a vicinity-read radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. As stated by the U.S. Department of State, the chip is directed to a stored register in secure government databases and has no personal information inscribed on it.

The high-tech features allow Customs and Border Protection examiners to access biographical information and photographs to prevent forgery and counterfeiting. As well, each card has a protective RFID-blocking sleeve that safeguards against unapproved tracking or reading of the card when it is not being used.

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