The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a joint statement today announcing that the new U.S. Passport Card is now being produced and being distributed. The U.S. Passport Card, according to the organizations, “is a convenient, wallet-sized document for land and sea travel between the United States and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.” Note that the Passport Card can not be used for international travel by air.
Starting June 2009, travelers entering the U.S. via land or sea will be required to show a single Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative-compliant document that displays both their citizenship and identity. The Passport Card will fulfill this requirement. In addition, the card will enable a more smooth travel process for frequent travelers (especially those living in border communities). Officials will be able to access photographs and other biographical data stored in secure government databases from a RFID chip included in the card.
Over 350,000 U.S. citizens pre-ordered the cards since the government started accepting orders in February of this year. More than 7,000 cards have already been mailed out and the remaining, according to the organizations, should be completed by the end of September 2008. After that date, the processing time for passport cards should be less than four weeks.
“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 Janice L. Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. “The passport card is the newest addition to the Department’s long history of providing secure, reliable services to the American traveling public.”
“We have been working closely with the U.S. Department of State to be able to provide another type of secure identification that is vital to protecting our nation’s borders” said Stewart Baker, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy. “The new passport cards will help facilitate legitimate travel while allowing our frontline personnel to focus more on those who may pose a threat.”
The costs for Passport Cards are $45 for first-time adult applicants and $35 for children under the age of 16. Adults with currently valid passports can apply for Passport Cards by mail for $20.