What Is a Passport Card?

How do you get a passport card?

Did you know that when you think of a passport, you are actually picturing a “passport book”? This is to differentiate a “passport book” from a “passport card”. So you might be thinking to yourself, Well then, what is a passport card?



A passport card is a small card the size of an American driver’s license. This limited travel document is designed for people who travel by boat or by car often. Passport cards are not valid for air travel. A passport card has a radio frequency ID chip that links your card to records that are kept in a government database. It does not, however, contain any personal information. All the information on a passport card is that which is available on a traditional passport book.



Passport cards are only valid in a certain number of countries—all of which are located close to the United States. This is because passport cards are not meant to replace a passport book, instead it is only meant for people who commute frequently between countries. The following countries accept a US passport card:

  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • Bermuda
  • Caribbean Island Nations



Getting a passport card is less than half as much as getting a passport book, making it a relatively inexpensive solution if you are considering taking a road trip to Baja California for some surf and sand, and the kids don’t have their passports. It costs:

  • $55 USD for an adult (16 and older)
  • $40 USD for children
  • $30 USD for a passport card renewal

*If you already have a passport book, then you can apply for a passport card as a mail in renewal, and you only have to pay the $30 USD.



If you do have a passport book, you can still apply a passport card; and you can save money if you fill out a renewal form. To learn more, click here.

If you don’t already have either form of passport, then you must go to a passport application facility in person. Some passport application facilities allow walk-ins, while others require an appointment, so it’s a good idea to call ahead first. The good news is that passport application facilities are very common. For example any post office or courthouse is a passport application facility.

There you must submit a completed passport application form, one passport photo 2” x 2” (51mm x 51mm), proof of US citizenship such as a birth certificate, and the required fee depending on your age. These documents will be have to be given to a passport official, however you will receive them in the mail separately from your passport card.

*To get a copy of the passport application form, click here.

*To find your nearest passport application facility, click here.



– Mailing Your Passport Card –

Receiving your passport card will take 6 – 8 weeks—and this does not include the time it takes for the card to be shipped back to you. Therefore, it is a good idea to apply for passport cards roughly 3 months before you plan on traveling just in case there are unexpected delays in the processing of your passport card. Passport cards are sent via first class mail.

– Expedite Delivery of Your Passport Card –

You can apply for an expedited processing, however this carried a fee of an additional $60 USD. However, this will cut your processing time in half—to about 2 – 3 weeks. There is no option for overnight delivery of passport cards as there is with a traditional passport book.

– In Person Application for Your Passport Card –

If you need your passport card in less than two weeks, you must make an appointment at one of only 27 Regional Passport Agencies in the United States. To schedule an appointment, you can call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, or you can click here to set up an online appointment.


*To find the nearest Regional Passport Agency office to you, click here.

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