Today, my husband and I applied for our new baby’s first passport, and we made sure to request that he be issued both a passport book and a passport card. When our older son was a baby, US passport cards hadn’t yet been introduced; the US State Department started issuing passport cards in 2008. We got our son a passport card then, and when that one expired, we got him a new one! As a passport industry veteran, a traveler, and a mom, I’m a great believer in the value of US passport cards for children.
A Card-Sized ID for Children
Even if you have a valid passport book, the likelihood is that you don’t carry it around all the time. If you’re like most of us, you rely on your driver’s license as the official ID in your wallet. But what about kids who are too young to drive? A passport card is the perfect alternative. It is the same size as a driver’s license or credit card, and it is a solid proof of identity and citizenship.
Passport Cards for Domestic Travel
My favorite time to use my children’s passport cards is when we fly inside the US. We clear TSA security much faster than families who don’t have official identification for their children. We watch other families having to answer the security officers’ questions, as they try to confirm that the children belong to the parents, but we sail right through, even though I have a different last name than my kids. My son has also always loved being able to hand over his own passport card and boarding pass, just like the grown-ups!
When we fly with the baby, his passport card will also serve as his proof of age. Most airlines require that you bring a birth certificate to prove your little one is under age 2 and eligible to fly for free as a “lap child.” We’ll be able to pull out his passport card instead!
Official ID for College Testing
It won’t be long before my oldest child needs to start taking critical exams like the SATs and ACTs. Since 2012, these important college placement exams have required that students show an official ID, in order to prevent fraud. With his passport card in hand, my son will be able to start taking these exams before he takes his driver’s test!
Getting a Passport Card for Your Child
It’s easy to get a passport card for your child when you apply for their minor passport book. All you have to do is mark the passport application to show you are requesting both the passport book and passport card. Passport cards for children under age 16 cost an additional $15 if you apply for a passport book at the same time. They are valid for five years from the date of issue, just like a minor passport book. If you are applying for both a book and a card at the same time, you only need to submit one passport photo. Your child’s completed passport card will be mailed to you separately after the passport book has been issued and returned to you.