Travelling requires different paperwork, and a passport is the most often needed travel document. They share the same main purpose as proof of U.S. citizenship and identity. But there are significant key differences between a passport book and a passport card that every traveller should know.
With its limitations, a passport card is sometimes preferred by travellers for various reasons. Less expensive and easier to get are two noticeable reasons. However, the passport book is a better choice when you want to travel to a foreign country.
Are you wondering whether you should get a passport book or a card? Continue to read and learn everything that you should know about the difference between a passport book and card before deciding.
Size and Format
Passport books are the most essential document needed for international air travel. Photo by Jeff McCollough on stock.adobe.com
A passport book is used in international trips by all modes of transportation such as by air, sea or land. When you speaks of a passport, you are mostly referring to the passport book. In the U.S, they are blue and has 28 or 52 pages (the Next Generation Passport has 26 or 50 pages).
A standardised passport includes identifying information such as a portrait photo, name, date of birth, place of birth, and passport number (mosty on the first or second page). The following pages will be blank for immigration officials to place visa stickers and stamps.
It is valid for up to 10 years for adults above 16 years old. For children under 16 years old, the validity of passport books is 5 years.
CABINZERO's Tips: If you travel frequently by air, it is useful to consider applying for a TSA Precheck to save time.
How To Get A Passport Book?
Personal information is displayed on the first page of a passport book. Photo by bs_k1d on stock.adobe.com
If you are applying for a new passport book in the United States, you can apply in person and track your application status online. This is applicable for first-time applicants and citizens whose passports expired, lost or damaged. You will need to fill out Form DS-11 first, then provide valid documents as evidence of your U.S. citizenship.
Passport applications can be accepted on behalf of the U.S. Department of State in post offices, public libraries, clerks of court and other government offices. You should have an appointment at one of the nearest acceptance facilities in your area.
The cost for first-time applicants of passport books is US$165 for adults and US$135 for minors. The cost for passport book renewals is US$130. For urgent needs, you can expedite your application by paying for special services of US$35. Different payment methods are accepted in an acceptance facility versus a passport agency.
If you are applying for a passport book from outside of the United States, you can apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate. It is useful to note that each U.S. embassy or consulate has a different processing time and procedures to follow.
If you already have a passport book, you can renew your passport by mail or at a passport agency in-person in the United States. It is important to note that a passport agency is different from a passport acceptance facility. If you plan to apply in-person, making an appointment beforehand is a must.
Passport cards are portable travel documents with the same size as credit cards and travel license that can fit conveniently in wallets. Photo by the U.S. Department of State
A passport card is a travel document issued by the U.S. Department of State since 2008. It is used for land and sea border entry from Canada, Mexico, Caribbean and Bermuda. International travellers who arrive by air from the listed destinations cannot use passport cards to enter.
Passport cards are designed to support the travel needs of communities in the northern and southern border in the United States, who cross the border frequently by land. Passport cards can be used at Ready Lanes for faster travel.
A passport card has a validity up to 10 years for adults and up to 5 years for minors who are under 16 years old. Personal information such as passport card number, nationality, portrait photo, name, date of birth and place of birth are listed on one side of passport cards.
How To Get A Passport Card?
Applicants should book appointments online beforehand and fill out passport forms to save time. Photo by Tierney on stock.adobe.com
To apply for a passport card, you need to fill out passport forms.
- Form DS-11 is used for minor applicants
- Form DS-82 is used for adult applicants.
- Additional documents such as proof of U.S. citizenship and a colour passport photo are required.
It is important to set up an appointment online before visiting the Consulate. Since citizens are not allowed to have two valid passport cards at the same time, be aware that all valid passport cards will be cancelled at your appointment.
The cost for first-time applicants of passport cards is US$65 for adults and US$50 for minors under the age of 16. The renewal cost of passport cards is US$30 for adults.
CABINZERO's Tips: Applying for both a passport book and passport card can save you US$35 with the cost for first-time adults is US$195 and the cost for first-time children is US$150.
Key Differences Between A Passport Book and A Passport Card
Passport cards can only be used for border entry via land and sea. Photo by knelson20 on stock.adobe.com
If you are a US citizen, getting a passport card can be adequate, depending on your travel needs. The U.S. Department of State issues two types of passports: passport books and passport cards for different travel needs.
A passport book can be used for international travel to most countries. A passport card can be used to travel to specific destinations and by certain modes of transportation from the United States.
Types of Border Entry
The key difference between a passport book and a passport card is the types of border entry allowed. A passport book can be used for all modes of transportation including international travel by air, sea and land. A passport card can only be used for international travel by sea and land.
Passport books allow global access to every country, whether via land, air or sea travel. Passport cards allow access to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and Caribbean countries via land and sea travel only. Another perk exclusive to the passport card is the access to designated Ready Lanes when crossing the U.S. and Mexico borders.
Passport books are subjected to higher fees. The application fee for first-time applicants of passport books is US$165 per adult and US$135 per minor. Passport cards are less costly with the application fees of US$65 per adult and US$50 per minor.
Size and Format
A passport book can fit into your pocket with the standardised dimension of 5”x 3 ½”. Passport books are thicker in size as compared to passport cards. A passport card can fit into your wallet with a size similar to common credit cards.
Similarities Between A Passport Book and A Passport Card
The validity of passport books is the same with passport cards. Photo by Alla on stock.adobe.com
Issued by the U.S. Department of State, both travel documents have the same validity, in which adults have up to 10 years of validity whilst minors under 16 years old have up to 5 years validity.
Processing time is both about 4 to 5 weeks, depending on individual cases. If you are planning to apply for both a passport book and a passport card at the same time, you can do so by using the same application.
Both passport books and passport cards are approved IDs for travellers with domestic flights within the United States. Passport books and passport cards are approved alternatives to state-issued IDs.
Is It Better To Get A Passport Book Or Card?
If you are an international traveller, especially by air, a passport book is a must. Furthermore, you will need it when your travel destinations require a visa, as visas are stamped directly into the book.
For cruise holiday enjoyers, having a passport book ensures you can fly back to the U.S. in case of emergencies. First-time traveller, or anyone who is unsure of their travel patterns, should starts with a passport book given its wide acceptance.
On the other hand, a passport card is good enough if you frequently make trips between the US and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda through land or sea ports-of-entry. It is cheaper than a passport book and can even be used as a federally recognised ID domestically
When Should You Get Both?
If you plan a mix of international air travel and frequent land/sea travels to the specific regions (where the passport card is accepted), having both can offer the most flexibility.
Moreover, this option makes sense if you prefer a handy card for eligible land and sea travels while keeping your book safe at home. If you lose one, at least you still have the other for backup.
Just a reminder, applying for both of them at the same time save you $35. We recommend families, especially with young children, going for this route.
1. What Does A Passport Card Do?
A passport card is a form of passport available for US citizens since 2008. It is used by travellers who travel by land and sea, from the United States to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda and back. Passport cards are the size of a standardised credit card so it can fit conveniently in travellers' wallets.
2. What Countries Can You Go To With A Passport Card?
Holders of passport cards can travel to these following countries:
- Virgin Islands (British)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Caribbean Netherlands
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Cayman Islands
- Dominican Republic
3. Should I Get A Passport Book And Card Or Just The Book?
Depending on your travel needs, you can apply for a passport card if you frequently travel by land and sea to Canada, Mexico and other countries listed above. You can save more time by using a passport card in Ready Lanes at the United States and Mexico border. There is a Radio Frequency Identification technology that enables passport card reading at Ready Lanes.
If you travel internationally frequently and prefer to travel by flying, it is best that you get a passport book for worldwide access and visa application process.
4. How Can I Change My Passport Card To Full Passport?
If you already have a valid passport card, you can try to apply for a passport book using the DS-82 form. You can submit this form via mail. DS-82 form is used for first-time applicants for a U.S. passport.
If you already have a passport book and you want to renew your passport, you can use DS-82 form for adults and DS-11 form for children under age 16.
5. How Long Does It Take To Process A Passport Book Or Card Application?
Processing times include the time that your application is received at a passport agency or centre. This excludes mailing times. This is helpful to keep in mind when applying for a passport card/ passport book and planning your trip.
For passport books and passport cards, routine processing time is from 10 to 13 weeks and expedited processing time is from 7 to 9 weeks. For passport cards,
Difference Between Passport Book And Card: What To Know
There are clear differences between a passport book and a passport card. From being used for different travel purposes to having different sizes and application fees, if you are a U.S. citizen, you can apply for either one or both documents.
For international air travel, a passport book is the travel document that you should get. For border crossings via land or sea between the United States and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean or Bermuda, a passport card is a more portable and less expensive travel document to get.
Be sure to use this guide to understand the key differences and know how to apply for passport cards and/or passport books. Have fun travelling and enjoy your stress-free trips!