The U.S. Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday that the new U.S. passport card is in full production and is being distributed. The passport card is a wallet-sized document for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda. It is not valid for international travel by air.
Beginning in June next year, travelers will be required to present a single Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative-compliant document denoting both citizenship and identity when entering the U.S. through a land or sea border.
More than 350,000 Americans pre-ordered the passport cards since the State Department began taking orders on Feb. 1, officials report. More than 7,600 cards have already been mailed to advance customers, and all pre-orders are expected to be filled by Sept. 30. After that initial distribution, the government expects the processing time for passport cards to be the same as for passport books--less than four weeks. Customers will be able to track the progress of their passport card application online beginning in mid-August.
The passport card should smooth the way of Americans living in border communities through its embedded vicinity-read radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. The chip will enable U.S. customs and border protection officers to access photographs and other biographical information stored in secure government databases before the traveler reaches the inspection booth. For privacy protection, no personal information is stored on the electronic chip itself, officials say. The chip will have only a unique number pointing to a stored record contained in secure government databases.
“We are pleased to offer Americans a choice of documents, the traditional passport book and now the passport card to meet their personal needs for international travel,” said assistant secretary of state for consular affairs Janice L. Jacobs.
The passport card is available for $45 for first-time adult applicants and $35 for children under 16. Adults who currently have valid passports can apply for the passport card by mail for $20. For information on how to apply for a U.S. passport card, click here.