Planning an international trip? Understanding your travel documents is crucial. Among the various options, you might have heard about the passport card. But what is a passport card, and how does it differ from a passport book? Let’s dive into the details and help you decide which one suits your needs best.

What is a Passport Card?

The U.S. Department of State issues passport cards, which are wallet-sized travel documents. It serves as an alternative to the traditional passport book. While it can't be used for international air travel, it’s perfect for land and sea crossings between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Think of it as a convenient, compact option for frequent travelers to these nearby destinations.

Passport Card vs. Passport Book

When deciding between a passport card and a passport book, consider your travel plans.

  • Passport Card: Ideal for frequent travelers to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean via land or sea. It's also useful as a secondary ID within the U.S.
  • Passport Book: Required for international air travel. It's more versatile, allowing you to travel to any country around the world.

Remember, the passport card can't replace a passport book for international flights.

Benefits of a Passport Card

So, why might you choose a passport card? Here are a few reasons:

  • Convenience: Its compact size fits easily in your wallet, making it more portable than a passport book.
  • Cost: It’s cheaper to obtain and renew than a passport book.
  • Security: It provides an extra layer of identification, useful in case you lose your primary ID.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Passport Card?

The processing time for a passport card is typically similar to that of a passport book. Standard processing can take about 8-11 weeks, while expedited processing (for an additional fee) takes 5-7 weeks. If you need it urgently, consider applying for expedited service at a passport agency or center.

How to Apply for a Passport Card

Applying for a passport card is straightforward. Here's a quick guide:

For First-Time Applicants:

  • Fill out Form DS-11.
  • Submit proof of U.S. citizenship (e.g., a birth certificate).
  • Provide a government-issued photo ID (e.g., a driver’s license).
  • Include a passport photo that meets specific requirements.
  • Pay the applicable fees.
  • Apply in person at a passport acceptance facility.

For Renewals:

  • Fill out Form DS-82.
  • Submit your most recent passport.
  • Include a passport photo.
  • Pay the renewal fee.
  • Mail your application to the address provided on the form.


It will be much easier to organize your trip if you know that a passport card is different from a passport book. A passport card is an economical and practical choice for frequent land or sea travelers to surrounding areas. But the old-fashioned passport book is still the way to go for flights across foreign borders. Think about how often you travel and pick the form that works for you. Best regards!


  1. Can I use a passport card for international flights? No, a passport card is not valid for international air travel. You need a passport book for that.
  2. How much does a passport card cost? For first-time applicants, it costs $65 for adults and $50 for children under 16. Renewal fees are $30 for adults.
  3. Can I have both a passport card and a passport book? Yes, you can hold both a passport card and a passport book simultaneously.
  4. Is the passport card valid for domestic travel within the U.S.? Yes, it can serve as an additional form of ID within the U.S.
  5. What is the validity period of a passport card? For adults, it's valid for 10 years. For children under 16, it's valid for 5 years.