Passport Books versus Passport Cards

A Passport is one of the most important documents in the case of traveling to other countries. It is normally provided by the government of which you are a citizen. It is also called a travel document. It certifies one’s identity and nationality with personal information including name, date of birth, a recent photograph, signature and so on. Nowadays a person’s biometric information is embedded in the passport using a microchip and that is called a machine-readable passport. The U.S. is very stringent about immigration passports which are issued by the department of state. There are two types of regular passports in the U.S. where one is called passport book and the other is called passport card. Both passports are ID compliant. On this page, USCIS Guide will discuss broadly the difference between passport book and passport card in the following parts.

Types of Passports

Aside from regular passport card and passport book, there are some other types of passport issued by the United States.

Service passport: This grey cover passport is issued to certain non-personal contractors who travel in support and pursuant to a contract with the U.S. government.

Official passport: This reddish-brown cover passport is issued to citizen-employees who are assigned overseas or to an official businessman or to military personnel deployed overseas.

Diplomatic passport: This black covered passport is issued to American diplomats like President, Vice-president, former presidents, supreme court justices, current cabinet members, Attorney general, etc.

Refugee passport: This is not a full passport but issued to refugees as a passport with a cover that is a blue-green color.

Re-entry permit: This is also not a full passport but it is issued to permanent resident foreigners in lieu of passport with two years validity. It gives re-entry permission into the U.S.

Emergency passport: In urgent situations, this is  issued to citizens overseas with one-year validity which can be exchanged into a full-term passport.

U.S. Passport Card

The U.S. passport card is the national identification card and a limited travel document of the United States which is provided by the federal government. It is only issued to U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals as a document of identification. The passport card was previously known as the People Access Security Service (PASS) Card considered as a list A document. It is checked to verify newly hired employees in the United States. However, passport card permits you only to cross the land border or sea port, not air.

U.S. Passport Book

A U.S. passport book is the proof of U.S. citizenship and a travel document which can be used for international travel by air. If anyone wants to leave or to enter the United States by air, a passport book must be shown to the U.S. immigration agent at the customs area. You can also use it where a passport card is needed such as to cross the border through land or sea port.

Differences between passport card and passport book

There are several differences between a passport card and a passport book if we talk about uses, validity, size, and cost of the two passports. Here we briefly discuss those differences one by one.


A passport card is like a driving license or credit card which can easily be kept within a wallet. On the other hand, passport books are larger than a card (the exact size is 5’’ x 3.5”) and filled with blank pages used for visas and stamps anytime you enter or exit the U.S.


A passport book is used for international travel by air, sea, or land which can be used for domestic air travel also. On the other hand, passport cards can’t permit anyone to travel internationally by air. It can be used for domestic air travel and land border crossings and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.


A passport book validity time limit is 10 years for people aged 16 and older and 5 years for those under 16 years old. Passport cards also have the same time frames of validity.


Passport book fees are more than passport card fees.

Passport book cost according to the age limit:

  • It costs $145 for people aged 16 years and older
  • It costs $115 for those under 16 years old
  • Renewal cost is $110

Passport card cost according to the age limit:

  • It costs $65 for people aged 16 years and older
  • It costs $50 for those under 16 years old
  • Renewal cost is $30

Shipping options

If anyone applies for a passport book, it will cost an additional $15.89 and be delivered within 1-2 days. On the contrary, if anyone applies for a passport card, it will cost no extra money and be delivered within 1-2 days via first class mail.

Passport requirements

To get a passport you must be a United States citizen. Then you have to apply for the passport. Whether you want a passport book or passport card the application process is the same. First, you have to fill an application form online or by hand. Then you are obliged to give some personal documents which are mentioned in the following:

  • 2×2 photo; the photograph has some requirements:
    • Full head from top of hair to shoulders
    • Off-white or plain white background
    • No sunglasses are allowed
    • No shadows on face
    • No hat or cap
    • Normal contrast and lighting
    • Top of hair to bottom of chin should be 25 to 35 mm
    • Eye height should be 29 to 35 mm
    • Eyes should be full open and mouth should be fully closed
    • Front view, full face and neutral expression should be in the photo
  • A proof of your own citizenship document whether it is a birth certificate or naturalization certificate
  • A photocopy of the front and back of the ID document


Though there are some differences between passport cards and passport books, they are both a valid proof of identity and citizenship of the U.S. It is clear that if you need international travel you, must use a passport book. However, if you don’t plan on traveling extensively, using a passport book or passport card doesn’t matter.