Do You Need a Passport Book or Passport Card?

how to apply for a passportJohn’s U.S.-based company just won the business of an account in Toronto, Canada which will be added to the New York sales territory. John will rent a car and drive from Buffalo to Toronto on his quarterly sales calls. Mary works for a Florida company that does business throughout the Caribbean. She flies to a different island each month to oversee operations. Do John and Mary need a passport book or a passport card? We’ll outline the differences between the two so you’ll know the correct answer.

The Passport Book

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Visa pages of the passport book.

The passport book is proof of citizenship that a country issues to its own citizens to identify them to foreign countries and allow them reentry back into their home country. The U.S. passport is a 28-page blue book bearing the name, date birthdate and signature of the citizen, as well as the issue and expiration date of the passport. 17 of the pages are designated for visa and immigration stamps from foreign countries; three pages are reserved for special endorsements. Some countries require a certain number of blank visa pages upon entry, so frequent travelers may request a 52-page book or have additional pages added to their original book. The U.S. passport is issued by the Department of State and is valid for 10 years for adults over 16 years of age. Younger U.S. citizens’ passports are valid for five years.

The Passport Card

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Passport card sample, image courtesy

The U.S. passport card, also issued by the U.S. Department of State, performs the same function of identifying the holder as a U.S. citizen with all the attending rights, and allows them readmittance back into the United States. The difference is that the card’s use is limited to travel to or from only Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean and only for travel by land or sea – not air. It is a credit card-sized, laminated document that is less expensive than the passport book, and discounted further if the traveler also holds a valid passport book, but it is not necessary to have a passport book to get the passport card. The passport card is valid for the same 10 year period (5 years for under 16 years old) and is convenient for U.S. citizens who travel frequently by land or sea between the U.S. and the aforementioned countries.

John and Mary

Since John will be driving between Buffalo, New York and Toronto, Canada at least once each quarter, he can use the passport card, but if he drives one way from Buffalo to Toronto and flies home, he’ll need a passport book for the flight. Mary will be flying from the U.S. to various Caribbean islands, so she can’t use the passport card. Did you score 100% on that little quiz? Of course you did!
For more information on applying for a new passport book or card, a renewal or other passport questions, please contact Covington’s helpful Business Travel Advisors. To apply directly online, please visit Covington’s CIBTvisas partner portal and automatically get a 20% discount!


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