Passport cards available for travel to Canada

Travelers to Canada will be able to use a U.S.-issued passport card rather than the more expensive full passport, the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

Travelers to Canada will be able to use a U.S.-issued passport card rather than the more expensive full passport, the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

The State Department on Feb. 1 will begin taking applications for the cards, which will serve as an acceptable document for land and sea border crossings between the U.S. and Canada -- and also to Mexico and the Caribbean.

A traditional passport will still be needed for air travel between those sites, however, the State Department said.

The passport cards will cost $45 for adults and $35 for children, much cheaper than the $100-plus cost of a regular passport as required under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. People already possessing a passport can get the new passport card for $20.

The new cards are issued for a 10-year period.


Long an opponent of requiring regular passports between the U.S. and Canada, U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., called the move will ensure a secure but affordable identification for border crossings. Earlier, he fought and succeeded to delay implementing the WHTI until no earlier than June 2009.

"While I am pleased that Congress moved back the final date for WHTI implementation until June 2009, (Thursday's) announcement means folks will be able to start planning for the future," Coleman said in a statement. "This secure, wallet-sized card, which will be half as expensive as a regular passport, is certainly a better option than a full-scale passport for many of our border residents.

"Also, by making the card available starting this year, I am hopeful that we will not see a repeat of the passport problems that plagued the State Department last year," Coleman added. "In the meantime, I would encourage folks planning to cross the border between now and next June to get copies of your birth certificates ready at a minimum."

The portion of the WHTI that went into effect last year requires passports for air travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Extending that provision to land and sea travel was to have taken affect earlier this month, but was delayed by Congress.

A rush last year for passports stacked up at the State Department, causing several months' delay to secure a passport.

The new passport cards will not be required until June 2009, but citizens can begin applying for them Feb. 1, with the first cards expected to be issued later this spring.

Children carrying a birth certificate will still be allowed to cross the border without a passport or passport card if they are traveling with their parents or in a school or civic group.

Coleman notes, however, that notwithstanding the June 2009 extension, all travelers will be required to present a passport, passport card or combination of birth certificate and driver's license beginning Jan. 31.


The State Department, on its Web page describing the new card, states that it "is issuing this passport card in response to the needs of border resident communities for a less expensive and more portable alternative to the traditional passport book."

The card will contain a radio frequency identification chip -- RFID -- which the State Department says will link the card to a stored record in secure government databases. There will be no personal information written to the RFID chip itself, it said.

"However, to address concerns that passport card bearers can be tracked by this technology, we are requiring that the vendor provide a sleeve that will prevent the card from being read while inside it," the State Department said.

On the Web:

For more information, pvisit the State Department's Web site at: .

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