Whether you want to vote or simply travel to another city or country, legal identification cards are a necessity for a wide variety of reasons. A driver's licence is the traditional tool for identifying yourself, but what about those who don't know how to drive or who don't have need of a car? Some states do offer alternative identification cards, but a simpler solution can be found right in your community: a photo ID card issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
U.S. citizens need photo identification for everything from getting a library card to flying on a plane. A U.S. passport card, available at every U.S. post office, can take the place of a driver's license and is valid in every state.
Post Office ID Card Advantages
A passport card might seem like just one more piece of paperwork to worry about, but it has some important advantages over other, more local, identification cards:
- You don't have to learn to drive before getting this card.
- You can apply at your local post office, instead of dealing with state government for an ID.
- A passport card is a legal identification card that's valid throughout the country. If you move to another state, you don't need to apply for another type of identification.
- A passport card also works as a limited passport, allowing you to visit Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean by land or sea without needing any other identification. If you choose to fly, you'll need a passport book.
- The passport card is available for minors as well as adults.
Items Needed for a Passport Card
Save time by being prepared when you apply for a post office ID card. You'll need proof of citizenship, which can be a current or expired passport, a U.S. birth certificate, certificates of citizenship or naturalization, or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. Bring the original, plus a photocopy on plain copy paper.
You'll also need your current identification card, a photocopy of this card, a passport photo and the appropriate fees. You will submit the original birth certificate plus a photocopy. A certified copy of your birth certificate or other proof of citizenship is acceptable. The state department will take both the certified copy and the photocopy at application, but will return the certified copy to you after your passport card has been issued.
Fees for Passport Cards
As of 2018, the application fee for an adult is $30 plus the execution fee of $25, which must be paid separately. For applicants who are under 16 years of age, the charge is $15 for the application fee and $25 for the execution fee. The application fee must be paid by check (certified, personal, travelers or cashiers) or money order. Credit or debit cards aren't accepted for this portion of the payment. For the separate execution fee, you may pay with money orders, personal checks or cash. Credit cards are also accepted at the U.S. Postal Service facility for this portion of your fee.
Passport Card Application Method
If you currently have a U.S. passport that is undamaged, less than 15 years old, issued when you were at least 16, and issued in your current name or a name you can document, you can apply for a passport card by mail. Otherwise, you have to apply in person. Print out the DS-11 form from the state department's website (the site includes a preliminary form filler that begins the form for you and chooses the correct version of the form that you need ) and bring it, along with the necessary paperwork, to your local post office. Some locations require an appointment for applying for a passport card, while others allow walk-ins. Call your office ahead of time to make sure.
Present your completed form, along with all the necessary paperwork, to the postal worker at your local office. In general, most passport cards are processed and delivered in four to six weeks. It will be delivered via First Class mail, and your proof of citizenship will be returned to you in a separate envelope.
- U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs: How to Apply for a Passport
- U.S. Department of State:Passport Fees
- U.S. Department of State: Birth of U.S. Citizens Abroad
- U.S. Customs and Border Protections: U.S. Citizens - Documents Needed to Enter the United States and/or to Travel Internationally.
- Photo Identification
- Should I get a Passport Book or Card?
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