U.S. Passport Card: How Do You Get One?

Are you looking to get a passport card? This is a question frequently asked by our readers. If you are traveling to Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean as a U.S. citizen, you can use an alternative to the traditional passport book, such as a passport card.

Required Documents

A passport card comes in very handy because it is much easier to handle. You can put it in your wallet and not worry about carrying a bulky document. Getting a routine or expedited passport card is simple with our step-by-step how-to guide on obtaining your card.

The passport card requirements are the same as applying for a new passport. Follow the instructions below:

  • DS-11 Application Form for New Passport
  • Passport Photos
  • Supporting Documents

Which Countries Accept Passport Card?

It is imperative to understand the difference between a passport book and a card. You should know there are restrictions on a passport card.

  • If you are traveling outside the United States via air travel, you will still need a traditional passport book, as a card is not valid for air travel.
  • Passport cards are only valid for Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

A U.S. passport card could be used at any land or sea crossing port of entry from Mexico, Canada,  the Caribbean, and Bermuda. However, it cannot be used for any international air travel.

Passport Tips: Carry both the card and the passport book in an emergency and you need to fly home. The passport card is not valid for air travel.

Applying for a regular or expediting passport card is very simple if you follow the instructions below. First, you will need to gather the required documents for a passport card.

Passport Processing Time

Routine 6 to 8 weeks
Expedite (Post Offices) 2 to 3 weeks
Expedited (Passport Agency)1 to 7 DaysAppointment and Proof of Travel is Required.

Additionally, you will need to submit an appropriate passport photo for inclusion on your card. This will need to be a two-inch by two-inch photo of the front of your head that accurately represents how you will look during your upcoming trip.

You will need to pay the appropriate passport card fees (typically $30 application + $35 acceptance fee for an adult passport card), but this ultimately will vary depending on the situation and needs.

The standard processing time can take between two weeks and four weeks, and one to two weeks to expedite a passport card, depending on several factors, including the time of year that you apply.

A card is valid for ten years for an adult and five years for a child. Usually, the time frame is the same as a routine passport book: 4 – 6 weeks to get your new card.

Step 1: Fill out the Application Form

The first step in obtaining a passport card is downloading and filling out the DS-11 form.

Fill out the application using a black ink pen or use the State Department online tool to fill out the application, and select “passport card.” DO NOT sign the passport form until asked to sign the document in front of an acceptance agent.

Step 2: Gather Supporting Documents

Once you have completed the passport form and selected the passport card, you will need to gather all supporting documents, such as proof of citizenship, proof of identification, and a passport photo. You will have obtained all the original documents and visited an acceptance agent to have an official federal witness your signature on your application.

If you are using the form DS-11 ONLY for the DS 82 application, an acceptance agent is not required.

Step 3: Package & Send Documents

You will need to package all your documents in a Tyvek envelope.

Include payment for the passport card, which should be made to the “Department of State.”

Be sure to write your full name and date of birth on the check.

Expedited Passport Card Services

Suppose you need to card the documents from you and take them to the nearest passport processing location. After paying an additional fee, an expedited passport courier service can have your passport card in your hand as soon as 24 to 48 hours.

We recommend that you do your research on the company’s quality as reputation is very important in this industry. Feel free to contact us for recommendations.

What is a Passport Card?

Passport cards were largely designed to be a smaller, less expensive alternative to a traditional passport book. It serves the same purpose as a regular passport book in that it allows you to prove both your United States citizenship and your identity while traveling around the world.

Instead of a large book such as a passport book, a card is similar in size to a traditional credit or debit card like the one you may have obtained from your bank.

It also contains a radio frequency identification chip, also called RFID, as a security measure to help protect against identity theft.

Questions & Answers

Below are some passport card questions our readers usually ask us.

Passport Card vs REAL ID: What is the Difference?

A REAL ID is used for U.S. Domestic air travel as a passport card for international travel for anyone traveling by land and sea to selected countries.

Do You Need a REAL ID if you have a Passport Card?

No! You do not need a REAL ID if you have a passport card.

Can You Buy a Passport Card?

Yes, when you are filling out either the DS-11 OR DS-82 Application Form, you would need to select “Card” if you only want the card.

How Does a Passport Card Look Like?

Passport card is a driver size card that works on land and sea border crossing.

A photo of a passport card


The card acts as a fully valid passport for travel to destinations contiguous to the United States. They were created largely to make it easier for citizens of the United States who may live on the border between the US and another country.

As a result, they can only be used when traveling between the United States and Bermuda, the Caribbean Islands, Canada, and Mexico.

Get an Expedited Passport in As Little as 24 Hours!

Looking to travel in 30 days? And need to replace your passport, renew passport or get a new passport. U.S. Passport Help Guide provides all passport expediting services with passport services starting as low $199.00

Get an Expedited Passport Today!