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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

State Department Finally Gets "Passport Card" Program in Gear

The collective government combine of the Secretary of State and Homeland Security has finally meshed the gears and let the clutch out. Taking the RV to Mexico or Canada? Now you don't need to buy an expensive passport, you can spend less and get in with a Passport Card.

We've touched on the idea a number of times. Instead of fully-blown passport, the card is a simple card about the size of a credit card, allowing land or sea crossings of the US border. It's much less expensive, $45 for a first-time applicant, versus $100 for a passport.

But there's still a few glitches in the system. As we wrote earlier, Homeland Security wants you to bring proof of citizenship when crossing the border--for most of us, that translates to a birth certificate. But when applying for the new passport card (or a passport) you'll need to hand over your birth certificate along with the application. Yes, you'll get your birth cert back when your new passport card arrives. But at this point, passport card processing times are taking (supposedly) about two months. So, what do you do about "proof of citizenship" in the meantime? Can you say, "Better have TWO certified copies of your birth certificate?"

When we queried local authorities about this seeming problem, they suggested we forget about the passport card and simply 'go for the gold,' and get a passport. After all, the processing time for a passport is now said to be a lightning fast four weeks.

For more information on Passport Cards, visit Uncle Sam's website.

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