Author: waleed

Traveling Can be Dangerous: What to Do About a Stolen Passport

Traveling abroad is exciting; you get to experience a new culture, see great wonders of the world, and make memories that will last a lifetime. But there’s also a great deal of planning that goes into it: plane tickets, passport applications, travel itineraries, hotel reservations, and more.

So what happens when a piece of your care plan goes wrong?

Running into trouble while you’re abroad is always stressful, and if your passport gets stolen, you may find yourself panicking. However, while a stolen passport is a serious matter, it’s not unfixable. Read on to learn what to do if your passport gets stolen while you’re traveling.

Report to the Local Police

The first step when you discover your passport is gone is to report to the local police. You’ll want to tell them that your passport is missing and that you think it’s stolen. They’ll be able to start an investigation, but more importantly, they’ll be able to file a report.

The police report will do a couple of things. First of all, it will create a record that will help track down the thief if they try to use your passport inappropriately. Second, and more important to you, that police report will help you get a new passport as quickly as possible.

Get a Photo

When you’re in a foreign country with no passport and a deadline to get out of the country on time, we know the first thing on your list is probably having a photo shoot done. Well, in fact, it should be. Before you even head for your embassy, you’ll want to go get a new passport picture taken.

As a note, some embassies will take a photo for you, but not all of them do. Having a passport photo already in hand will help speed up the process. Remember, there are guidelines to what constitutes an acceptable passport photo.

Gather Documentation

Okay, so you’ve been to the police station and you’ve had your photo made. Now it’s time to head for the embassy, right? Well, not quite; there are a few more things you’ll want to round up before you go to the embassy.

In addition to your photo, you’ll need some sort of identification, such as a driver’s license or expired passport. (If you’re planning an overseas trip, keep this in mind; you may want to bring another form of photo ID and store it in a different place than your passport.) You’ll also need evidence of U.S. citizenship (a photocopy of your passport will do), a travel itinerary, and the police report.

Go to Your Embassy

Now at last, you’re ready to go to your country’s embassy wherever you are. They are the ones who will be able to help you get a new temporary passport, and they can also help monitor whether someone else uses your stolen passport. You’ll need the police report and the passport photo you took for this process.

At the embassy, they’ll file a report saying your passport is missing and have you fill out another form applying for a new passport. You’ll want to let them know when you’re leaving the country so they can get you a replacement in time. If it’s a weekend, keep in mind that most embassies don’t work on the weekend, so you’ll need to wait until Monday.

Phone a Friend

If you’re not sure how to find your embassy or you feel you need some outside help, it might be a good idea to phone someone back home. The U.S. Department of State has an Office of Overseas Citizens dedicated to helping people abroad who run into situations like this.

They can sometimes help clarify or expedite the process.

Ask your friend to call the Office of Overseas Citizens and let them know where you are and that your passport has been stolen. The office will be able to put you in touch with the nearest consulate or embassy. You will still need to go to the embassy in person to apply for a new passport.

Know the Cost

Another factor you’ll want to plan for is passport fees. You’ll need to pay all the same fees to get your new passport as you did to get your old one. In fact, there can be some additional fees associated with the rushed process.

If you’re an adult, your new passport will cost you $110 before extra fees. The cost to get an expedited passport (which you’ll almost certainly need unless you’re on a study abroad) is an additional $60. Before you leave the country, you need to make sure you have a valid credit card with at least that much money available on it.

Keep Your Documentation Safe

While it’s too late in this case, the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still applies here. Your old passport may be gone, but you can keep it from happening in the future. Make sure you take steps to protect your documents, passport and otherwise, in the future.

Pickpocketing is a common problem, so make sure you don’t store your passport in a backpack, bag, or jacket. Instead, get a pouch you can wear inside your shirt or at your waist (not a fanny pack) to keep your documentation in. Have multiple forms of ID, as well as a photocopy of your passport, and store them all in different places, just in case.

Get the Best Help with Your Stolen Passport

Dealing with a stolen passport while you’re abroad is a special kind of stressful. But if you’re careful in your preparation and smart about handling the situation, things will turn out alright. You’ll be back on to the next leg of your trip in no time, and this will be a funny story you can tell at home someday.

If you’re trying to cope with getting a new passport, reach out to us at U.S. Passport Help Guide. We help with expedited passports with 24-hour processing, personalized service, online chat support, and easy checklists. Learn more about what to do about a lost passport and how to replace it.

How to Know if You Need a Passport Book or Passport Card

42% of Americans hold a passport book, the kind with your identification portion and the pages to stamp and 60% of American does not know if a passport book or passport card is good for internetional traveling.

In 2008, the United States government introduced a passport card, which can be used to travel to some countries. This has, unsurprisingly, caused a lot of confusion for individuals who are getting ready to travel.

Knowing whether you need a passport book or a passport card is relatively simple and can be explained in just a few simple steps.

So which do you need for your upcoming trip? Read on to find out.

Do I Need a Passport Book or Passport Card for My International Vacation?

It all depends on where you’re going.

With a passport book, you can enter over 170 countries without the need for a visa. With a passport card, there are many more restrictions.

The passport card cannot be used for air travel, no matter if the country you’re going to accepts the passport card. As a rule of thumb, if you’re going to take an airplane, always bring your passport book.

You can only use your passport card by air for domestic travel or when you travel by land or sea.

Which Countries Accept the Passport Card in Lieu of the Passport Book?

If you’re traveling by land or by sea to Mexico, Bermuda or Canada, your passport card will be valid for entry. You won’t need further documentation to enter via these ports.

Many countries in the Caribbean accept passengers arriving from the US by sea with a passport card, but not all of them. Some countries are still territories of European countries, and therefore, you will need a valid passport to enter them.

The United States government states that you should always check with the cruise line you’re traveling with to see whether the Caribbean country will allow you entry without a valid passport book.

Domestic Travel

For domestic travel, a passport card is an acceptable form of identification. This will allow you to travel from state to state via airplane. You will not need any other form of identification, including a driver’s license, to fly.

The Passport Card vs. Real-ID

Some individuals may think they need a passport card to fly domestically because their state is not Real-ID compliant. However, it depends on your state and if your driver’s license is already Read-ID compliant. You should be able to check the status of this relatively easily.

If your state does not provide Real-ID compliant driver’s licenses, you will need an alternate form of identification, such as a passport card after October 2018 for domestic air travel.

The purpose of this new system is to further prevent terrorists from boarding an airplane.

How Much Does the Passport Card Cost?

A passport card costs $55 for first-time adult applicants. Those under the age of 16 will pay $40. Renewals by mail will cost $30.

How Much Do Passport Books Cost?

A passport book costs $130 for first-time adult applications. Those younger than 16 will pay $105 and renewals are $110.

How Long Are They Valid?

Both passport cards and passport books have the same validity. For an adult over the age of 16, they are valid for 10 years. For a child under the age of 16, they are valid for 5 years.

Can You Apply For Both at the Same Time?

If your driver’s license is not Real-ID compliant and you would like another form of ID aside from your passport book, you can do so. You can apply for both at the same time by filling out the DS-11 form (if you’re applying for the first time in person) or the DS-82 (renewing your passport or ID).

You will merely have to indicate on the forms you are filling out that you would like both forms of identification. The same photo you use for your passport will be acceptable.

How Much Does It Cost to Receive Both at the Same Time?

If you apply for both the passport card and passport book at the same time, you will pay a reduced fee. For adults, you will pay $165. Those under 16 will pay $120.

Why Should I Get a Passport Card?

A passport card is a convenient form of identification. It is sized to fit into your wallet, just like other forms of necessary ID, bank cards, gym membership cards, gift cards, and anything else you cart around with you each day. Because of its convenient size, it makes it easier for you to have it with you at all times.

Many people lose their passports. It is a classic situation for travelers to get to the airport only to find they left their passport at home. With one of these cards, you won’t have to worry about it, especially if you’re traveling domestically a lot.

Instead, you’ll only have to worry about what you’re bringing with you on vacation.

Is It Better to Have a Passport Card?

It really depends on your needs. If you simply travel a lot domestically or live in a non-Real-ID compliant state, it is a good thing to have. If you have no friends and family who live abroad and you don’t foresee an emergency visit across the ocean, a passport card can be all you need.

As stated previously, the ease of use and convenience of it makes it highly recommended, especially for those who will be going on cruises to Mexico or other ports of call that accept the IDs. You won’t be searching your quarters every time you’re disembarking the boat.

Should I Choose a Passport Book or Passport Card?

Whether you choose a passport book or a passport card is up to you. For many people, especially those who are not United States expats, having both is an advantage. You can use the passport card to keep in your wallet at all times, with the passport book at home and ready to go should the need to travel internationally by air arises.

Visit our blog for more information about United States passports and other travel information.

Time Crunch! How Can I Rush My Passport?

There’s no feeling quite like the excitement of booking an overseas flight for your next vacation. Whether you’re heading back to one of your favorite places or going somewhere completely new, the thrill of traveling never fades. Some you would ask yourself “How do I rush my passport?”

But sometimes, vacation planning turns into a bit of a headache. This is especially true if you realize you need a new passport at the last minute.

Passports aren’t exactly something you can go to the mall and pick up before you start packing. They’re a must-have travel item that you need to secure long before your trip arrives. If you’re crunched for time and you’re asking yourself, “is it too late to rush my passport?”, don’t worry.

Here’s what you need to do to get your passport ASAP.

If you’re not sure what these are, take a look below for the top 3 ways people get a replacement/renewed passport. Note, they each vary in processing time and financial cost.

If you’re not sure what these are, take a look below for the top 3 ways people get a replacement/renewed passport. Note, they each vary in processing time and financial cost.

1. Figure Out a Plan of Action

Before you get all frazzled, stop and think. Count the number of days you have from now until your day of travel and assess all the rush passport options available to you.

If you’re not sure what these are, take a look below for the top 3 ways people get a replacement/renewed passport. Note, they each vary in processing time and financial cost.

Apply Online

Applying for your passport online is one of the fastest ways to get your side of the process done. But, it has no guarantee for how long it will take to actually get your passport in-hand.

Traditional passport processing time takes anywhere from 6-8 weeks, and it’s rare for people to get theirs much faster. If you only have two weeks or even less time until you fly off, this may not be the best option for you.

Traditional passport processing time takes anywhere from 6-8 weeks, and it’s rare for people to get theirs much faster. If you only have two weeks or even less time until you fly off, this may not be the best option for you.

Go Through an Official Government Office

Your next option is to make an appointment with an official government office.

Your appointment may be with your local passport agency center, or, you can make one with an acceptance facility. These are two unique emergency passport processes, each requiring different paperwork.

A passport agency center will ask for a standard passport application and proof of international travel. Renewing through an acceptance facility, on the other hand, means you need to use Form DS-11. This is in addition to your application.

The passport application process comes with a fee, and there’s an additional rate you’ll have to pay if you renew with an acceptance facility. However, this tends to be the faster way of doing things.

Pay for a Third-Party Courier Service

What if you’re slammed with work until your vacation begins and have no time to set appointments, let alone show up to them? Invest in a passport courier service.

These are not available through the U.S. Government. A passport courier service ensures your application ships in a short amount of time. It gets the standard mail application (issued by the government) to the right office fast, often within 24 hours.

From there, though, the fate of your passport application is in the hands of the officials. A courier service can’t guarantee you get your passport super fast, but they do everything in their power to speed the process along. Be sure you write “expedite” somewhere on the envelope you send. This lets passport officials know you need your application processed quickly.

2. Get All Your Information Together, Stat

Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, it’s time to take action. Gather all the information you need for your passport application. The application asks for the following documents:

People born in the U.S. show their birth certificate as proof of citizenship. Those who have immigrated to the country must show their citizenship documentation.

Keep in mind that if this is a life or death situation, you still need a full application in addition to proof of the emergency at hand. The good news is, though, such last-minute passport situations are usually resolved within 3 days or less.

3. Check Your Passport Status

Ship your application out the second you have all of your information together. Make sure you get a tracking number when you do.

This allows you to check the progress of your application from the moment it leaves the post office to the time it ships back out to you. You can also check the status of the application itself through U.S. government services. This allows you to see when the application has gone from in-progress to approved, which means your new passport is being created and about to ship out.

4. Drive to the Nearest Regional Passport Office

If you absolutely can’t afford to risk whether your application will get a new passport to you in time, hop in the car. Take all of your application documents and information and drive to your nearest regional passport office.

Keep in mind that this may mean you’re going on a 1-hour drive or a 5-hour drive – or maybe even more! Not all states have an office and those that do don’t have a bunch of them sitting around. If you do happen to be close to one, though, this is your best bet.

You can show up as a walk in and process your application on the same day. This doesn’t mean you’ll leave with your passport in-hand, but there’s a good chance you will. If you don’t, you’ll at least have the application part of the process complete and the peace of mind that your passport will be shipped soon.

Go From “I Need to Rush My Passport” to “Here’s My Passport!”

Just as it’s quite a panic to realize, “oh, I need to rush my passport!”, it’s an incredible relief when your passport finally arrives. Maybe all it takes is a few hours at the regional passport office to get your new passport or maybe you have to wait a few days.

Either way, this is much better than the 6-8 week waiting period, which is often too long for people who are in a jam. Don’t wait another second to get your passport renewed, whether you have an upcoming trip or not!

You never know when you might need it.

For more passport insights, click here.

What Parents Need to Know About Getting Passports for Kids

You’re planning a beautiful family vacation to a destination you’ve always wanted to visit.

It goes without saying that you want even the youngest members of your family to be able to enjoy the trip and to come along with you.

But if you’re going out of the country, do children need passports?

Yes.

Plus, you need to make sure that you know how to get a passport for a child.

There are lots of rules that you might not initially expect, but the good news is that they’re not terribly difficult to follow.

Whether you need a passport for a teenager under 18, or if you need an infant passport, read on to learn what you need to know.

How to Get a Passport for Baby

First, let’s talk about the steps you need to take in order to secure an infant passport.

When you apply for the passport, you’ll need to make sure that both parents and the baby themselves are present.

You’ll need to make sure that you bring the following primary documents (so, no copies):

  • A birth certificate
  • Proof that you are the parents
  • Adoption decree (if needed)
  • The government-issued ID of both parents
  • Your Social Security card

We suggest that you make at least one copy all of these documents, and bring them with you in addition to the original.

You’ll also need to complete the DS-11 application form for an American passport. You should write only in black ink, but remember not to sign it until you’re in the Passport Acceptance building.

Let’s say that, due to travel or work obligations, it becomes impossible for both parents to be present at the passport application meeting.

In this case, you’ll need to make sure that you have a notarized letter of consent from the absent parents. This is called the DS-3053 form.

If you’re a parent with sole custody of a baby?

Then you’ll also need to bring a judicial declaration supporting the fact that you’re a sole parent. If the baby’s mother or father has died, you should bring their death certificate.

In general, you’ll need to wait between four and six weeks to receive your infant’s passport. Of course, you’ll also need to pay a passport processing fee to the Department of State.

The Baby Passport Photo

Let’s talk about some of the rules surrounding the baby passport photo.

You’ll need to bring two passport photos, that are copies of one another. They need to have a white background and need to be 2 by 2 inches in size.

The head of the baby needs to be uncovered, and not even the hand of a parent supporting the child should be in the photo.

An infant’s eyes should try to be somewhat open, if possible.

Avoid casting any shadows on your baby’s face, and aim for an all-white background. You can put the baby down on a white sheet and take the photo from above.

How to Get a Passport for a Child

Now, let’s discuss how to get a passport for a child.

It’s important for you to keep in mind that passports created for children who are under the age of 16 will only be valid for five years.

Additionally, if you’re applying for a passport for someone under 16 years of age, you will need to apply in person. Both parents will need to be present, as a means of showing parental consent.

The first step is to download and fill out the DS-11 form. As with the baby passport, don’t sign it until you’ve been instructed to do so during the in-person application process.

You’ll need to give your child’s Social Security number, as well as documents that can help you to show your child is a U.S citizen.

This can include an older expired passport, a birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship, or a report of a birth abroad if needed.

Bring both the originals and copies and if it’s not possible to get an original, bring a certified copy.

You’ll also need to prove that you have a parental relationship with the child. This can be your birth certificate, a custody decree, an adoption decree, or a foreign birth certificate.

You’ll also need to bring your government-issued ID and a photocopy of it.

You’ll also need to pay fees, which can be calculated on the U.S. Department of State Travel website.

Photos for a Child Passport

Your child needs to have a neutral expression, and they need to be directly facing the camera.

They need to keep both eyes open, and they should also show the tops of their ears.

As with the infant passport, you’ll need a plain white background for the photo.

When it comes to size, the photo will need to be in color, and 2 by 2 inches in size.

Ready to Get a Passport for a Minor?

We hope that this post has helped you to better understand how to get a passport for a child.

Whether you need to get an infant passport, or if you want to get one for your teenager, it’s important that you become as familiar with the rules as you can.

This will save you a lot of headaches down the line.

Of course, we know that you sometimes leave the job of getting a passport to the last minute.

If you’re in need of an expedited passport, we want to help you to be able to get it.

Spend some time on our website to learn more, and reach out to us when you need help.

Not Planning an International Trip? Here’s Why You Need a Passport Anyway

According to research as recently as five years ago, only 36% of Americans actually possess a valid passport. A large percentage of Americans have never left the country, so they don’t think they need a passport if they have no plans to do so.

While you may think it’s not necessary to have one as you currently have no plans to leave the country, there are several reasons why you should always have one anyway.

Read on to find out some of the top reasons that answer the question, “Why do you need a passport?”

Why Do You Need a Passport? In Case of Emergency

You may not have plans to go abroad, but many people have family members who actively travel or live abroad. If your sister or son decides to spend a week in Japan, for example, you may think this won’t affect your need for a passport.

If an emergency occurred while your family member was visiting Japan, you may want to get to them immediately. Say they got incredibly ill suddenly or were in an accident and you wanted to be with them in the hospital as soon as humanly possible. If you had a valid passport in your drawer, you would be able to book a seat on the next flight out.

However, if you don’t have a passport, it can take up to eight days to receive one, even if you purchase a rush service. This could mean waiting at least that long to see your loved one who may need you.

You’ll Always Have Proof of Citizenship

If there’s any question about your legal status or if you can work in the United States, having a passport will clear that up immediately. You can present it to your employer or any agent who is curious as to your status. The passport is an official document testifying to your citizenship.

You Can Save on Fees

In the emergency case scenario, we mentioned that it could take as long as eight days to receive an expedited passport.

While you’ll not only have to wait for it to come, you’ll also have to pay for the rush service. At present, that’s an extra $60 you wouldn’t have had to spend if you had your passport waiting for you.

You Can Use It for Starting a New Job or for Enrolling in School

When you start a new job, you’ll likely have to provide proof of your ability to work in the United States. A US passport proves this without a shadow of a doubt.

You can also use a passport to enroll yourself or your children in school. A passport provides proof of age and identity. Most public schools will accept them as a document to allow you or your child to enroll. However, it is a good idea to check with them before relying on it solely.

What If Something Good Happens?

So we’ve covered a catastrophic emergency abroad, but what if you have a good emergency? Some companies send employees abroad at relatively short notice for work assignments. If you don’t have a passport, you’ll have to turn it down, or they won’t pick you knowing you don’t have the credentials.

You could also suddenly be gifted a holiday by your spouse or a family member that requires you to leave on short notice. Without a passport, there’s a lot of stress required in the lead up to what is supposed to be a good time.

Although not likely, you could also always win a sweepstakes or gambling prize in which you’re given a free vacation abroad. If you can’t get your passport together before you go, then you’ll have missed the chance for an all-expenses-paid vacation abroad!

If You Don’t Drive, You Can Use It For ID

While many people in the United States are dependent on cars, not everyone drives. Some people live extremely close to their work and do not see the need for a car. Others live in big cities where public transportation is reliable and a car is an unnecessary expense.

If that’s the case for you, you may have let your driver’s license lapse. As a result, you may not have an official ID to allow you to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, enter into a club or even buy a glass of wine at a restaurant. The last thing you want is a hassle when you’re trying to enjoy yourself, and having a passport provides instant proof.

You Can Use It to Get Another ID

If you need a driver’s license or state ID, you’ll typically need another form of identification to get it. A passport can be all you need in order to do so and will save a lot of time and effort of gathering other documents you may not have lying around your house.

Having a Passport Opens Up Possibilities

Currently, Americans can visit over 170 countries with their passports. Having one makes the idea of traveling more of a reality. Even if you don’t have plans in the near future to travel, you may decide to do so, and having the passport in your pocket means one extra hurdle you don’t have to jump over.

If you and your spouse are mulling over a dream vacation in Paris, having a passport makes it much more of a reality. You’re much more likely to bite the bullet and order your plane tickets and make hotel reservations if you have your passport all ready to go.

Should I Get a Passport?

We’ve answered the question of “Why do I need a passport?” rather thoroughly in this article, but whether or not you decide to get one is up to you. It is an excellent tool not only for travel, but for identification, and can be more powerful than some other forms of identification. With it, there is no question your country of citizenship or your work status.

For more on all things passport and travel, visit our blog.

Passport vs Travel Visa: What is the Difference?

In most cases, traveling to a new country is an exciting experience which presents adventures and life-changing opportunities. Some of the reasons why people move to foreign countries are tourism, to pursue studies and careers, and to do business.

If you are conversant with the process of traveling to a foreign country, you know that travel documents are necessary. Many people are familiar with the terms passport and visa since they go hand in hand in most cases. However, some do not know the difference.

These travel documents are vital, and they serve different purposes. You can get a better understanding of these official papers once you know the use of each. This article will demystify the mix-up between passport vs. travel visa for you.

What is a Passport?

A passport is an official document which you receive from the government of your country to serve as proof of identity and citizenship. The document helps to identify you when you are in a foreign country. It bears your personal information and a photograph, and it has several blank pages.

Countries across the globe are adopting electronic security measures including adding biometric data to a chip embedded on the passport. The development is an attempt to curb forgery. Passports come with a validity period after which you have to renew.

passport also allows its holder to return to the issuing country. This privilege may extend to foreigners with the right of abode in the country. However, the document does not automatically grant you any rights in the state you are visiting.

Validity of Passports

Passports belong to the state under the law of most countries. The government can revoke it on specified grounds at any time. The rules surrounding passports may have slight variations in different countries.

Most countries issue their citizens with only one passport at a time. Nationals can apply for replacements when the old ones expire or have no blank pages. In such a case, the issuing authority may demand the surrender of the old document for invalidation.

Some countries could allow you to have more than one passports under special conditions. For instance, if you are always traveling for business. You could get another passport to use while the first one awaits a visa for somewhere else, but you must prove the need.

Sometimes you will not need to surrender the expired passport. An example of such a case is when the passport contains a valid visa. In most countries, the validity of passports is five or ten years.

What is a Travel Visa?

A travel visa is an official document which you receive from the government of the country you are visiting. It serves as a permit for you to be in the country. A visa is in the form of a stamp or a sticker attached on a blank page in the passport.

Sometimes the need for a visa depends on your citizenship, the purpose of your visit, and the planned duration of your stay.

In the past, immigration officers had the power to allow or reject the entry of visitors into a country. It is after granting the visitor entry that they would stamp the passport. Nowadays, most states require you to apply for a visa in advance.

You obtain a travel visa from the embassy of the country you are visiting or its local consulates. A visit in this context is the reason for entry into a foreign country. Some countries allow visitors to acquire visas on arrival for brief visits.

Typical information captured in a travel visa is the duration of your stay, the day you may enter, and the territory you may access in the country. The visa may also state whether you have the permission to work in the country you are visiting.

A travel visa is subject to checks by immigration officials at the point of entry. The government of the country you are visiting can revoke your visa at any time.

In rare occasions, some states provide mandatory exit visas. Whether citizen or noncitizen, you have to apply for this document before leaving the country. Some countries, on the other hand, have bilateral agreements to allow their citizens to visit or leave without visas.

In the event the country you wish to visit does not have an embassy or a consulate, you may have to look for visa application services in another country. Otherwise, the host country can process your visa and make arrangements for you to collect it at the entry port.

Categories of Travel Visas

Various countries have different types of visas. Below are some of the universal classes.

Immigrant Visas

People who qualify for this visa can move to the issuing country and acquire permanent residence. Example include marriage visa and spouse visa.

Visitor Visa

This type of visa permits you into a country for a specified purpose within a limited period. Examples include tourist visa, private visa (when invited), visa for medical reasons, business visa, and refugee visa, among others.

Long-Stay Visa

This visa permits its holder to stay in the country for an extended but limited period. Examples are temporary worker visa, student visa, asylum visa, and journalist visa.

Transit Visa

This type of visa allows you to pass through a country to a destination in another country. The duration for the visit could be anything from a few hours to some days.

An excellent example of a transit visa is the driver, steward, or crew member visa. The issued person is usually an employee of an aircraft, sea vessel, train, or another locomotive traversing the issuing country.

Official Visas

These are visas for people working for their governments in foreign countries. They include diplomatic visas and courtesy visas.

Passport vs. Travel Visa – Conclusion

We hope that the distinction between a passport vs. travel visa is now clear. The main difference is the issuing authority. You get a passport from the immigration department of your country whereas you obtain a visa from the country you want to visit.

However, countries have different laws governing international visits. Some states require both the documents whereas others accept the passport only. Others allow the movement of visitors from specified nations with neither a passport nor a visa.

If you have any passport question, be sure to ask the pros.

Where Can I Travel With Just A Passport Card?

In 2017, the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs reported there were 21,378,994 passports in circulation. Of those, 2,511,778. And these numbers are on the rise.

In 2008 when the Passport Card was first introduced, there were only 189,560 issued. That is an average increase of 122% over the course of 10 years.

If these passport cards are so amazing, why doesn’t everyone have one? Should you have one? What are the differences between a Passport Card and a Passport Book?

Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more!

What is a U.S. Passport Card?

A passport card is a wallet-sized, limited-scope U.S. Passport. Just like a standard Passport book, passport cards prove you are a U.S. citizen and confirms your Identity.

When traveling to “border” countries from the U.S. a passport card speeds up the security check process by using a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Chip. The RFID chip contains a unique number generated by the U.S. government when the card is issued.

The card is scanned and the Customs & Border Protection agency (CBP) use the number to look up your information before you arrive at the security station. To protect your identity, there is no personally identifying information on the chip itself.

Passport Card vs Passport Book

Be it a card or a book, a Passport is still a Passport. That is not to say these two pieces of identification are equal. They are not.

How are They Different?

Size: Passport Cards are wallet-sized. This makes them very convenient. Passport Books are a bit bulkier. When closed, they are 5″ x 3.5. By no means are they huge, but they aren’t going to fit snuggly in your billfold either.

Travel Visas: Passport books are required for Travel Visas. Passport Cards do not support Travel Visas because they do not have the blank pages for them to go on.

Where you can go: You can only go to and reenter the U.S. from border countries with the Passport Card. Border countries are Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

How you can get there: You can travel internationally via air, sea or land with the use of a Passport Book. With the card, you can only travel by sea or land. International air travel is not allowed with the card even if you go to a border country.

Cost: Depending on your circumstances, additional fees may apply, but the basic pricing information is as follows:

  • Applicants 16 or older can get a passport book for $145 or a card for $65.
  • Applicants under 16 can get a passport book for $115 or a card for $50.
  • Renewal Applicants can get a new passport book by mail for $110 or a card for $30.

How are They the Same?

Who issues them: As previously mentioned, both the Passport book and the Passport card are Passports. As such, the Passport Services of the U.S. Department of State -Bureau of Consular Affairs issues them both.

Real ID Compliant: The passport book and the passport card are Real ID compliant. This means you can access federal buildings and fly domestically with either. You are no longer able to do so with a standard-issue state driver’s license.

Validity: How long is a passport card good for? For the same amount of time as Passport Book. If you are 16 or older, both are good for 10 years. Otherwise, they are valid for up to 5 years.

Do I need a Passport Card?

Since they are comparatively inexpensive, a passport card for a cruise is ideal! As long as you go by sea or air, they are also great for other types of one-time trips to border countries.

Because they speed up the security process, passport cards are also great if you frequent border countries but don’t stay long or travel outside of the U.S. otherwise.

How do I get my Passport Card?

Print and fill out form DS-11 or form DS-82 and head to a local Passport Application Acceptance Facility. Do not sign the application because giving it to an agent at the passport agency or you will have to fill it out again.

If you qualify to apply for your passport with the DS-82 form, you can mail it in instead of going to the agency in person. If you have to go, there are 8,400 facilities in the U.S. You will be able to find one with ease, but some locations require an appointment.

Once your application is filed, you can expect your new card in as little time as 4 weeks or it could take up to 3 months. The exact amount of time will depend on the demand at the time you submit the application.

Take a look at this article if you need more information about the specific documentation to apply for a Passport Card.

Which Form Should I use?

The form you should use to apply for a Passport Card depends on whether you have had a passport before. It can also be affected by how long ago you had a valid passport.

If you have had a passport in the past, it does not matter if it was a card or a book, it is still a passport. It is important to keep that in mind when reading the below information.

You need to fill out a DS-11 form if:

  • You have never had a U.S. Passport
  • Your last passport was lost, stolen or severely damaged
  • Your last passport was issued when you were 15 years of age or younger
  • You are currently under the age of 16
  • Your last passport expired more than 5 years ago.

If you do not fall within the above criteria, you can apply to renew your current password with form DS82.

Ready for Your New Passport Card?

Considering the amount of time it can take to get your Passport card after applying, you should get one as soon as possible if you plan to travel to a border country. Do not wait until it is too late, or you will have to pay $60 to expedite the process.

No one wants to shell out extra money.

If you have additional questions about the Passport Card, all you need to do is ask! We are always happy to help with your passport needs.

Help! When Should I Update My Passport Photo?

You’re getting ready for the vacation of a lifetime.

You’ve packed your bags, booked a dreamy hotel room, and you’re ready to leave your desk and the drama that comes with it behind for a few weeks.

The only thing left to really consider?

Whether or not you need to update passport photos. After all, you were going through some, well, interesting hair and style choices when you first had the photos taken. Now, you’re worried that the old passport photo doesn’t look like you.

So, when should you update passport photo — and how long is a passport good for, anyway?

Keep on reading this post in order to find out everything that you need to know.

How Long Is a Passport Good For?

First of all, let’s get some basics out of the way regarding passport laws first.

Your passport will be good for ten years — though if you’re planning to travel to certain countries, you’ll need to be certain that your passport doesn’t expire within six months of your travel date.

If you need to renew a passport, you can use the DS-82 form and mail it into the National Passport Processing Center.

Be aware, however, that you’ll need to provide a new photo whenever you renew passport. If you’ve changed your name, you’ll also need to complete name change documents and include them with your passport application.

You’ll also need to mail in your old passport — but don’t worry, you’ll get it back.

The main drawback to this method?

The long processing times.

You can expect a standard passport renewal to take anywhere from four to six weeks. If you’re in a time crunch, sometimes this just isn’t going to work.

Luckily, we can help you to apply for an emergency passport that could get you a renewed passport in as little as 24 hours.

When to Update Passport Photo

Let’s make one thing clear about passport photos right out of the gate.

You need to understand that you can’t just switch up your old passport photo and paste a new one into your passport.

If you want to change your picture, then, unfortunately, you’ll have to apply for a completely new passport.

But when do you need to update your passport photo?

The good news is that the State Department is surprisingly more understanding than you might initially expect.

If you’ve switched up the length or the color of your hair, for example, this won’t require you to get a new passport altogether. The same goes if you’ve decided to get rid of your beard, or if you’ve gotten a new piercing on your face or your ear.

Even if you’ve gotten a tattoo on your neck, you most likely won’t need to update your passport photo.

Even children most likely won’t need to get new passport photos, even if the way they’ve grown means they look almost nothing like their old photos! Because children need to get their passports renewed every five years, the State Department offers leniency to your little ones.

But when is it truly necessary for you to update your passport photo — and therefore apply for a new passport altogether?

If you’ve lost — or even gained — a serious amount of weight?

Then you’ll likely need to apply for a new passport.

The same goes if you’ve gotten into an accident or even had plastic or reconstructive surgery that has completely changed the look of your face.

If you’ve been able to receive gender confirmation surgery since the last time your passport photo was taken? You’ll also need to make sure your photo has changed to reflect your journey.

Understanding Passport Photo Requirements

You know that your passport photo likely isn’t going to be a glamour shot.

And while you can still look good in your passport photo, the main thing is that you take care to follow all of the rules and regulations regarding how the photo should be taken.

First of all, your face needs to be in full view, and your eyes need to be open.

You can have a natural smile, but in most cases, a more neutral expression is the best way to go.

The background of your photo should be white or off-white, and the clothes that you wear should be solid-colored. To avoid any potential problems, do not wear a headband, hat, or any other hair accessory. (If your religion indicates that you must cover your hair, a hijab or headscarf is allowed. You’ll just need to submit a statement saying so.)

Be aware that you can’t wear glasses in your passport photo — this is a detail that many people get wrong!

Make sure that you have the photos printed out in 2 x 2-inch dimensions, and of course, make sure that you’ve printed your photos in color.

Let Us Help You to Update Passport Photo

We hope that this post has helped you to understand when you do and do not need to update passport photo.

Whether you need help understanding how to apply for an international drivers permit, or if you need to get an emergency passport, we’re here to help you.

We know that you’re terrified by the thought of losing or having to seriously adjust your travel plans. We’ll work with you to do everything that we can to prevent that from happening.

No matter what you need help with, get in touch with us today to learn how we can help you.

Say Cheese! Taking a Look at Passport Photo Requirements

Picture this: you’ve just booked an international vacation, and you’re already counting down the days. You apply for a passport ASAP, because you don’t want any hiccups.

Then disaster strikes. Two months later, your trip is three weeks away and you find out your passport application was denied. Is it because you have a long lost identical twin with arrest warrants?

Nope. It’s because your head is crooked in your passport photo.

Passport photos have very strict requirements. In fact, photo problems are among the most common reasons passport applications are delayed or denied. To avoid this problem, read up on these photo requirements:

Passport Photo Requirements in the US

To make your photo identifiable, there are restrictions on almost every aspect of your picture. Here are the requirements you need to follow:

Facial Expression

In years past, you had to have a neutral facial expression in your photo: a resting face. However, that rule has changed. You can now smile in your passport photo, as long as it’s a natural smile.

You are still not permitted to make any facial expressions besides a natural smile or neutral resting face, however. Kids and babies can’t be crying in their photos, so be prepared for several re-dos.

You also need to have both eyes open in your passport photo, with no squinting. Young infants and newborns are an exception to this rule.

Attire

In your passport photo, you need to wear the type of clothing you wear on a daily basis. There are more specific regulations about your attire from the neck up, though:

Headwear

For the most part, you can’t wear a hat or headwear. There are two exceptions to this rule. If you wear a head covering as a custom of a recognized religion, it is permitted in your photo. However, you need to include a signed statement in your passport application explaining this.

You can also wear a head covering if you need to wear it on a daily basis for medical purposes. In this case, you need a signed note from a doctor explaining this in your application.

Even if you wear a head covering for one of these reasons, it can’t obscure your face. It needs to show your full face clearly and it can’t cast shadows on your face.

Glasses

Until a recent change, you could wear glasses in your photo as long as there was no glare on them. However, this has recently changed. Glasses are no longer permitted in passport photos.

In addition to these rules, you can’t have anything obscuring your face in your photo. For instance, babies can’t have a pacifier in their mouths and your hair can’t be in front of your face. You also can’t wear headphones or in-ear devices other than hearing aids.

Framing

Your final photo must be two inches wide and two inches tall, but there are also specific restrictions about the framing. Your face must be between one inch and 1.4 inches tall. In most cases, standing four feet from the camera will give you the right size.

The photo needs to show your entire face, and your face must be centered. You must also be at a straight-on angle with your shoulders squared to the camera. Your head can’t be tilted or turned in any way.

Background

You need to take your photo against a plain background that is white or off-white. The background can’t have texture. For example, a white brick wall is not acceptable. The photo also needs to have adequate lighting without shadows on your face.

This can be tricky when it comes it an infant’s photo. If you have a baby, you can’t hold your baby for his/her photo. The easiest method is to put your baby on a white blanket or in a car seat with a white blanket behind him/her. Keep in mind that the blanket needs to be inside the car seat, not behind it.

Quality

While it doesn’t need to be a work of art, your picture must be of high quality. It can’t be blurry or grainy, and it can’t have any motion blur.

The picture can’t be stretched to meet the correct dimensions because this distorts your face. You also can’t have red-eye in the photo, because this blocks your eye color.

Unaltered

As much as you may want to look thinner or more attractive in your new passport, you can’t digitally alter the photo. You can’t use any retouching, nor can you crop your face out of another photo to give it a white background.

In a similar vein, your photo needs to be from the past six months. The only altering that is acceptable is to crop the photo to the required size and to remove red-eye.

The Finished Product

It might be 2018, but passport photos still need to be in printed form. They must be printed in full color on matte or glossy photo paper. Many people choose to go to a drug store with a photo lab because these stores often have passport photo stations and they can print your photo according to regulations.

Taking a Successful Passport Photo

When it comes to taking a passport photo, it’s not about getting the right look or getting a flattering angle. Knowing the regulations for your passport photo and following them to the letter can help your application get approved in as little time as possible.

Now that you know how to ace your passport photo, don’t forget the other complex aspects of the application process. For more tips on a successful passport application, check out our US passport tips blog.