Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Cheaper Passport – Sorta

<<--See also: “Suggested but not required, for now.”

My current passport is set to expire next year and I am now considering whether or not I want to renew soon. I could wait until next summer to make a decision but considering that some places require your passport to be at least six months old when entering, means I’d have to start the renewal process in the next few months. The cost is $75 for a renewal but I’m considering the new Passport Card with it which would cost an extra $20.

A few years ago, the government, in consideration of border security (ha!) wanted to tighten the land and sea borders—essentially with Canada and Mexico. Although flying to these countries required passports, traveling by car or boat only required a driver’s license or birth certificate. In some instances, all a traveler had to do was verbally declare their residency. So the government considered making passports needed for non-air crossings as well. Imagine how disruptive that would have been.

Passes such as NEXUS and SENTRI for Americans, Mexicans, and Canadians are available but they were mainly aimed at commercial travelers. This new passport card is similar to those cards except that they are just like a passport. Like a passport, they are only available to US citizens and nationals. Unlike a passport, they are not valid for air travel nor are they any good beyond Canada, Mexico, and certain Caribbean locations.

It may not seem like a great idea since a regular passport would suffice. Then again, it’s only $20 extra. And even though I’m not hoping in my car and driving to Windsor every other weekend, I think it would be more convenient than worrying about a passport book.

5 comments:

John Provis said...

I have to say the passport card actually sounds like a really useful idea - although $75 for a passport itself is insanely cheap, I think mine cost over $300 last time I renewed it. The main problem with the book-style passport is that it starts to look pretty shabby after a few years of semi-regular travel - maybe being crammed into the pocket of my jeans on a 20-hour flight isn't exactly what they were designed for though...

John Provis said...

And also... has anyone else noticed that Mr Happy Traveller as pictured in the official example card (born 1981) seems to have a severe premature ageing problem, and looks closer to 45 than 27?

David said...

John, frequent travelers such as you need those fat passports that cost an arm and a leg.

I just checked out what it would take to get to Australia and I was a bit surprised that I just couldn't arrive with my passport in hand and expect to get in. As if I'd be an illegal immigrant! :-P

John Provis said...

This was just for a regular passport - the fat ones here only cost about an extra $100 - but almost nobody bothers stamping passports any more, it's mainly done electronically. Most of the pages in my current passport just have little staple-holes from US visa waiver cards...

And just in case you weren't sure exactly how keen Australia is about keeping would-be tourists out, we have an entire top-rating TV show dedicated to it. I can't tell you if it's any good, because I think it's moronic and refuse to watch it on principle...

David said...

^Not that I really have a problem with your country's ETA (actually, I think it's something that my gov't should consider doing) it just peeves me that it's not actually free. I'd have to fork over thousands of dollars to Quantas anyways... do I really need to be squeezed out of another $20?