The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that the new U.S. Passport Card is in production and is being distributed. The Passport Card is a wallet-sized document for land and sea travel between the United States and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda. It is not valid for international travel by air.
More than 350,000 Americans ordered the Passport Cards since the State Department began taking orders on February 1. More than 7,600 cards have already been mailed to customers, and preorders will be filled by September 30. After that initial distribution, the processing time for passport cards should be the same as for passport books – less than four weeks. Customers will be able to track the progress of their passport card application online starting in mid-August.
The passport card is designed to help facilitate the frequent travel of Americans living in border communities by utilizing a long-range radio frequency identification chip. With this technology, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will be able to access photographs and other biographical information stored in secure government databases before the traveler reaches the inspection booth so that inspection can be expedited. For privacy protection, no personal information is stored on the electronic chip; it stores a unique number pointing to a stored record contained in government databases.
Beginning in June 2009, travelers will be required to present a single Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative-compliant document denoting both citizenship and identity when entering the United States through a land or sea border. They must have either a traditional passport book or the passport card.
L-1 Identity Solutions is producing the cards for the State Department. Unisys Corp. is deploying the RFID readers and other systems at the borders for Homeland Security.