The U.S. State Department is beginning to produce new U.S. Passport Cards, but they’re only good for land and sea travel in North America.
The new cards will not be valid for international air
travel. So, if you’re planning an educational tour or just
traveling abroad, you’ll still need the regular U.S. passport book.
The pocket-sized cards are aimed at helping U.S. travelers re-enter the country from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. It seems the new card is only useful for people who regularly cross the border, such as business travelers.
More than 350,000 Americans already have applied for the new card. And, according to USA Today, “The U.S. State Department expects the number of applicants to swell to
4 million by June 1, 2009. That’s when U.S. travelers cannot re-enter
the country from Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean without a passport, a
new passport card or an equivalent document.”
The new card costs $45 for adults (compared with $100 for a traditional
passport). Although if you’re a U.S. passport holder or if you apply
for the passport and the card at the same time, you can get the new
card for an extra $20.
Right now, the expected turnaround on the new passport cards is four weeks. But, as always, if you need your first passport (or need to renew), don’t wait. Apply as soon as possible.