The Real ID Act requires that all stat-issued identification documents meet a minimum set of security standards. Luckily, the passport card is accepted as a Real ID.
In the beginning, the passport card was designed to increase the speed and security at U.S. land and sea border crossings. A U.S. passport card can be used as U.S. identification when entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. It can be used at land crossings and sea ports. The passport card is more convenient (smaller) and less expensive than the traditional passport book.
Here’s why you may want a passport card in your wallet
- The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, accepts the passport card as valid ID for domestic flights. If you lose your driver’s license while traveling – you can still get home!
- The passport card is valid ID when entering the U.S. from land-border crossings and sea ports from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Leave your passport at home to limit the number of important documents you travel with.
- The passport card is inexpensive to obtain, especially if you already have a passport. You can get both at the same time when you renew your passport.
Ideal for travelers
For travelers, passport cards are ideal in these travel situations:
- Cruise travelers departing from the U.S. on cruises that travel in the approved regions.
- Business travelers who frequently have to cross U.S. borders by land or sea.
- When your passport is lost or stolen and you are at the embassy trying to prove you had one.
With some cautions
The passport card cannot be used for international travel by air – only land and sea and only in the regions previously mentioned. If you miss your connection and the cruise sails away without you, you may be routed through a country where a passport card is not accepted. In those situations, you’ll be turned away at the gate or forced to return to the U.S. without catching up to your cruise.
Passport card safety
The passport card contains a radio frequency identification, or RFID, chip that allows border inspectors to access photographs and biographical information stored in secure government databases. Important to know: no personal information is stored on the RFID chip, so you are not exposed to risk or loss of your personally identifying information when you pass through an inspection station.
Still, it’s important to keep your passport card inside its protective sleeve to be safe from unauthorized reading or tracking when the card is not in use.
See the instructions to apply for a U.S. Passport Card on the U.S. State Department website.