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Friday, March 18, 2016

The Passport Card

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
(I had a headache all afternoon, so I'm taking a break from my Radiation series to give you this quick-but-relevant post.)

The Passport Card, much like the Mora knife, is one of those things which isn't actually a secret but is so little known outside of certain circles that it might as well be.

What Is It?
It's a photo ID the same size as your driver's license. It's issued by the federal government, meaning that (like a passport book) it's identification that must be recognized as valid by state and local governments. And because it's a passport, it allows you re-entry to the country -- although it has limitations compared to the passport book.


Differences
Unlike the passport book, which is good for all forms of entry into the US, the passport card (hereafter called passcard) is valid only for entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. It is not valid for international travel by air.

These limitations do come with some benefits, though. The passcard is much less expensive than a passport ($55 vs. $135 for adults), costs less to renew ($30 vs. $110 for adults), and lasts for the same amount of time as a passport (10 years).

And unlike the booklet, the passcard is waterproof!

Why Carry One If It's Limited?
I will admit that if you're in the middle of the country -- say, Nebraska -- its utility is limited. If you live near one of the borders (Canadian or Mexican) then it makes a lot more sense. For someone like me, who lives in Gulf state and who could (if she had the money) book a cruise to the Caribbean, it's ideal. I specifically got mine in case I needed to leave the state in an emergency, and the only way out was via boat.

But there are other good reasons for carrying it outside of border crossings. As I said earlier, it's federal identification, meaning that if some bureaucratic drone requires a photo ID that isn't a driver's license, this will work. It's also absolute proof of American citizenship, which in a true SHTF scenario might be a necessity to be evacuated or receive medical care.

As a point of interest, the passcard has RFID technology inside of it. To prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing that information, keep it in a signal-blocking sleeve when it is not being used. Fortunately, it comes with a blocking sleeve, and I keep mine inside an RFID-blocking wallet.


How Do I Get One?
You apply for one just like a passport booklet, online or at the post office. If you've ever gotten a regular passport, you know how to get a passcard. In fact, if you get both, there's a discount: getting them separately would cost $190, but when applied for simultaneously it only costs $165. 

Think Of It Like Cheap Insurance
For $55 (plus the cost of having your photograph taken and whatever processing fees may apply), you get a Federal ID that lasts for a decade and allows you to re-enter the country along its most common border. You can keep it in your wallet, so you'll likely always have it with you. And because it's made of plastic, it's a lot more durable than a paper booklet. 

Get one. They're great. 

The Fine Print


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