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  • Writer's pictureParviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

Why You Should Get a U.S. Passport Card

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

(sample U.S. passport card)

Sometimes a useful tool can hide right in plain sight, disguised as an unnecessary redundancy.

Since 2008, American citizens have been able to obtain a U.S. passport card (“passport card” or “the card”), in addition to the well-known blue jacketed U.S. passport book. With a U.S. passport book, one can travel to any country, by any method of travel (air, sea, overland) assuming the holder has the right of entry to the country.

By contrast, with a U.S. passport card, the holder can only travel internationally by land to and from only Mexico and Canada, or by sea to a few Caribbean countries.

So why get a U.S. passport card in addition to a U.S. passport book?

Well, even with the travel limitation, the U.S. passport card is an underestimated tool for freedom of movement for at least three reasons, mentioned below.

#1 U.S. Passport Card as Alternate Real ID

A U.S. passport card is Real ID compliant.

You can use it to fly domestically, notarize a document, order vital records, and enter a bar. I’ve done all of those activities with a passport card. Basically, it serves as another form of alternate official ID.

The card is small, thin, made of plastic, and is the same size as a standard issue U.S. driver license so it fits in a pocket wallet easily.

If you doubt this is a valuable feature, ask anyone having to go about their life for more than a few days with an expired ID whether having an additional valid ID would have been of use to them. A few million Americans learned this lesson the hard way when their driver licenses expired during the start of the pandemic while DMVs nationwide were closed indefinitely.

#2 U.S. Passport Card for Overland Crossing

The passport card makes a weekend or day trip to Mexico and Canada easier.

On at least eight occasions, I’ve used the U.S. passport card to enter the U.S. walking overland from Mexico, as well as by car. I’ve also used it twice to travel to and from Canada (Quebec, specifically), by amtrak train. Smooth as silk with the passport card tucked in the wallet.

Notably, the passport card can also be used for sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda (although I’ve never used it at a sea of port entry).

On a darker note, the card is a valuable tool for freedom of movement preppers because it serves as an additional travel document that allows you to go north or south in a hurry if your passport book is lost, stolen, damaged or left in another city.

In my opinion, this may be the most valuable purpose of a U.S. passport card in helping bolster freedom of movement, especially in an national emergency such as wartime, economic collapse or famine.

As grandmothers worldwide say: “better safe than sorry.”

U.S. Passport Card for Privacy

If you’re privacy or security minded then you know that best practice is to give your personal address out as infrequently as possible.

Unfortunately, nearly all state-issued driver licenses contain your address on the face of the card. Anytime you give your driver license to be copied, emailed, or stored electronically, your personal address is exposed to the public.

(Sample California driver license with home address)

By contrast, the U.S. passport card does not include your address on it. Using a passport card instead, avoids the issue. Huge win for the privacy-minded person

The verdict is in: the U.S. passport card is an underestimated tool for any American citizen who values convenience, privacy and freedom of movement.

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The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.

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