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Passport Card & Enhanced Driver License

The U.S. has introduced a couple new government-approved documents to help us travel easier:

  • Passport card—Basically a limited-use passport.
  • Enhanced driver's license—Acts both as a driver license AND a travel document, but also with limits.

We'll walk you through the basic differences of each of these documents, and help you determine which one is right for you.

Passport Cards

The U.S. Passport Card (also known as a PASS Card) is a less expensive, wallet-sized version of a traditional passport—with a few travel-use conditions.

PASS Cards come equipped with a microchip that assigns a distinct number to its owner. This number, through vicinity-read radio frequency technology, matches up with a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) database to promote more secure crossings with faster queuing.

Thus, your passport card acts as approved identification at border communities—for example, when you travel by land or sea crossings between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean)—however, it is NOT approved for air travel and CANNOT be used as an international travel document recognized worldwide.

Differences: Passport Card vs. Passport

Perhaps the biggest difference between a passport card and a traditional passport is that:

  • Traditional passports are valid for international travel by air, sea, and land;
    WHEREAS
  • Passport cards are valid only for re-entering the U.S. at land borders or sea ports-of-entry from:
    • Canada.
    • Mexico.
    • Bermuda.
    • The Caribbean.

Aside from traveling abilities/restrictions, other differences include:

  • Size: Traditional passports are larger than wallet-sized passport cards.
  • Cost: Both first-time applicants and renewing applicants pay more for passports than they do for passport cards.

However, both traditional passports and U.S. passport cards are valid for the same length of time.

Applying for a Passport Card

All U.S. citizens can apply for a passport card; however, if you already have a valid traditional passport, you don't need a passport card to travel internationally.

The application process depends on whether you need to apply as a:

  • In-person applicant.
  • Mail-in application.
    OR
  • Expedited passport.

In-Person Applicants

Anyone who has never before applied for a passport or passport card must apply in person.

Additionally, you must apply in person if you:

  • Are younger than 16 years old.
  • Had a previous passport that was:
    • Issued when you were under 16 years old.
    • Damaged, lost or stolen.
    • Issued more than 15 years ago.
  • Have changed your name since your last passport issuance AND are unable to legally document the name change.

Refer to the U.S. State Department's page on first-time applicants for additional information regarding special requirements for minors of various ages, applying outside of the U.S., applying for a Diplomatic passport, and more.

When you're ready, apply at your nearest passport acceptance facility using the Application For a U.S. Passport (Form DS-11). This form provides all information about all application requirements including how to prove U.S. citizenship, ways to prove your identity, acceptable color photographs, and more.

Your passport card is valid for:

  • Under 16 years old: 5 years.
  • 16 years old and up: 10 years.

Currently, passport card fees for first-time applicants are:

  • Passport card:
    • Under 16 years old: $15.
    • All other applicants: $30.
  • Execution fee (ALL applicants): $25.

Call ahead to your passport acceptance facility for acceptable forms of payment.

By-Mail Applicants

You may apply for a passport card by mail if you're able to submit your current valid passport or passport card with your application.

You're eligible for mail-in application if you have a current passport or card that:

  • Was obtained:
    • When you were 16 years old or older.
    • Within the last 15 years.
  • Is NOT damaged, lost, or stolen.
  • Features your current legal name OR the you can show legal documentation of a name change.

Refer to the U.S. State Department's page on renewing a passport for additional information regarding special requirements such as applying outside of the U.S.

To apply for a passport card by mail, you must:

  • Complete the Application for a U.S. Passport by Mail (Form DS-82).
    • You can print and complete the application by hand, or complete the application online and print it. Refer to the State Department's renewal guide for further instructions.
  • Mail the completed form and the following documents to the applicable address listed on the form:
    • Your valid U.S. passport or passport card.
    • Your acceptable passport photo.
      • Passport photo requirements are detailed on the application.
    • Name change documents, if applicable.
    • The $30 application fee.
      • An execution fee does not apply for mail-in requests.

Expedited Passport Cards

Expedited passport cards are available in person or by mail (see application instructions above); you are able to notify the U.S. State Department of this need using the appropriate application.

Generally, expedited passport cards are available within 6 weeks of application; however, you might be able to get it sooner if you can prove an urgent need.

An expedited passport card costs an additional $60, as well as any applicable delivery costs.

For more details, refer to the State Department's guide to expedited passports.

Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDL)

As the name suggests, an enhanced driver's license (EDL) is a driver license with a few extra perks. For example, an EDL resembles a passport card in that it:

  • Offers both convenience and easy portability.
  • Provides proof of:
    • Identification.
    • U.S. citizenship.
  • Allows you to re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Also like a passport card, an EDL is accepted only at land and sea border crossings—not for air travel. It also contains radio-frequency microchipping that uniquely identifies you in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) databases, which should promote a more expeditious cross. They are also in full compliance with the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) security measures.

Applying for an Enhanced Driver's License

Unfortunately, not all U.S. states (or Canadian provinces) issue EDLs—yet.

The best way to find out if your state offers an enhanced driver's license (and get the state-specific application process and fees) is to check your state within our Applying for a New License section or contact your state's motor vehicle agency directly.

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