What Is the Difference between a Passport Book and a Passport Card?

If you are planning to travel to a foreign country, then you likely know that you need to have a valid passport regardless of your destination. However, you may not be aware that the US State Department issues 2 different types of passport document: a passport book and a passport card.

There are several differences between a passport card and a passport book that you should take into consideration before deciding which one you wish to apply for. Some of the factors that may influence your decision include the cost of the document, where you are planning to visit, and how frequently you plan to travel.

Passport Book vs. Passport Card

The most obvious difference between a traditional passport book and a passport card is their appearance. A passport book is roughly the size of a wallet and contains a number of paper pages to receive entry or exit stamps and visas in foreign destinations.

On the other hand, a passport card is made of plastic and is the same size as a driver’s license or credit card.

However, the most important difference is that a passport card can only be used as travel ID in a limited number of situations. It can only be used to re-enter the US via a land border crossing or seaport from Canada or the border zone of Mexico, as well as the following destinations:

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Bonaire, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius and Saba, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos Islands

These destinations also generally accept a US passport card for entry to their territory by land or sea as well. However, it is not valid for entry by air.

To travel to any other international destination, whether by land, sea, or air, as well as to re-enter the US upon your return, it is necessary to have a valid passport book. Depending on the visa policy of your destination, it may also be necessary to have an approved visa in addition to this document.

Therefore, if you are a frequent traveler planning to visit a range of international destinations, or plan to visit a foreign country by air, then it is probably in your best interest to apply for a passport book rather than a passport card.

However, if you only plan to visit the destinations listed above by land or sea, then you may want to consider applying for a passport card. Not only is a passport card much cheaper than a passport book, but it can also comfortably fit in your wallet and is more convenient to carry.

Similarities between a Passport Book and a Passport Card

The biggest similarity between a passport card and a passport book is that both documents are valid for 10 years from the date of issue for adult citizens. Additionally, both types of passports are valid for 5 years for minors under the age of 16.

Another similarity is that it takes roughly the same time for these passport types to be processed and approved. The average processing time for both a passport book and a passport card is within 4-6 weeks of submitting an application.

Can I Use a Passport Card on a Cruise?

You can use a passport card on a cruise if you are traveling on a ‘closed loop’ sailing. These are cruises which, although they call at foreign ports, sail round-trip from the US. However, it is also possible to present proof of citizenship like a birth certificate and proof of ID such as a driver’s license in lieu of a passport document in these situations.

However, even if you are sailing on a ‘closed loop’ cruise, it is advisable to travel with a passport book just in case you need to unexpectedly disembark on foreign territory. If you only have a passport card as a travel ID in such an emergency situation, you may face delays in being able to return to the US.