All people traveling to Mexico will need to have their U.S. passport or passport card in order to cross the border and reenter the United States. This requirement includes travel by land, sea, and air. If you do not have a U.S. passport, you’ll need to procure one in advance of your travels to Mexico.
To obtain a U.S. passport, you must be a United States citizen. To apply, you must be able to show proof that you are a U.S. citizen as well as show proof of your identity. To show proof of your citizenship you must present a birth certificate. A previous passport can also be used to prove citizenship. If you were not born within the U.S., you may present a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or a Naturalization Certificate.
To prove identity, you may present a driver’s license, naturalization certificate, or a government or military identification. Secondary identification items like a social security card and credit card may also be used provided you show two forms of secondary identification. You can clickto access the government website with links to the application form and a full listing of required documents that are acceptable proofs of citizenship and identity.
When applying for your U.S. passport, you will need to provide photocopies of the identifying documents to accompany your application. You must also present your application in person if it is your first time applying for a U.S. passport. To find an agency in your vicinity, you can visit the above website or call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778. Though you can print your application online and fill out a considerable portion, be sure not to sign until you are in the presence of a passport office at the time you present your documentation.
Finally, don’t forget that you’ll need a passport photo. If you don’t submit the right type of photo, your application can face delays. Be sure to visit the website to find out the particulars of your photo. Currently, the application requires that a 2×2 inch color photo accompany your request for a U.S. passport. The photo also must have been taken within six months of your application. The background of the photo should be white and you must present your full face in the photo.
The government website also provides a fee schedule for a U.S. passport. A passport book for a first-time applicant age 16 and older can expect to pay $110. You can also apply for a passport card at the same time; however, the fee increases. Check the fee schedule before you visit your passport office to ensure you have the correct amount.
Obtaining your U.S. passport is essential if you plan to travel outside of the country. If you need to procure a passport quickly, there are fees that may be paid for expedited applications. Check with your passport office or by calling the above number to find out more about fast-track passports as well as passports for children under age 16.
It used to be that travelers to Mexico could cross and recross the border with little more than a driver’s license. Today, of course, passports are a must for getting back into the U.S. When crossing the border, customs officials must be presented with either a book or passport card or the traveler will not be allowed re-entry to the United States.
The traditional passport book is good for ten years for adults and five years for minors before renewal is necessary. A passport card can be conveniently stored in a wallet, unlike the book. The card can be used to reenter the U.S. from the following approved locations: Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean Islands. Cards are less expensive than their booklet counterparts which are used throughout the world.
The availability of new passport substitutes is (finally) here with the PASS card; you can apply for a passport card here. The PASS card and other potential passport substitutes will enable US citizens to cross land borders between Canada, Mexico, and the US without a traditional and more expensive passport. A passport card is cheaper than a passport; a high-tech driver’s license is also available in some states.
The PASS card is a credit card-sized substitute available to all US citizens who are also eligible for passports. PASS stands for (People Access Security Service). It costs $45 (renewals $20 for adults over 16). For comparison, the book is $95.
Travelers can present the PASS card at any land and sea border between the US and Mexico and Canada. You will present it just as you do a book.
This card has been controversial in part because it contains chips using insecure RFID technology. Critics say can allow anybody with the right Radio Shack equipment to read the information stored on the chip. The government says it’s perfectly fine and that they have been working on that technology. The government assures us that none of our personal information is stored on your chip.
Where to get a Passport Book or Card?
There are well over 9,000 facilities throughout the U.S. where citizens can go to apply including U.S. Post Offices. In some cases, federal courts, municipal offices, and even some public libraries have been authorized to handle applications. Applicants must apply in person for their first U.S. passport. The DS-11 form must be completed in person at one of these authorized locations. Applicants will be asked to present proof of citizenship such as:
- a city, state, or county-issued birth certificate
- a consular report of birth abroad (or a certification of birth)
- a certificate of naturalization
- a certificate of U.S. citizenship
Moreover, other forms of identification must also be presented for proof of identity such as:
- a valid driver’s license
- a certificate of naturalization
- a valid (and current) government ID
- a current military ID
For renewing a passport, the previously issued passport may also suffice as an accepted form of identification.
Applicants must also provide an accepted photo at the time of their application. The State Department has very specific stipulations regarding photos so it is ideal to visit their website for this information: http://travel.state.gov/passport/pptphotoreq/pptphotoreq_5333.html
Information regarding photos can also be obtained from U.S. Post Offices or other participating passport agencies. Many offices that issue passports, like the post office, also provide photographing services for issuance.
Along with the fee for your photo, applicants can expect to pay a total of $135 if they are aged sixteen or older and it is their first passport. A card, on the other hand, will cost $55. Applicants can visit the State Department website for more information regarding passport fees.
Renewing can usually be done by mail, but applicants should be sure they follow the requirements found on the State Department website. Under certain conditions (the old book is damaged or lost) a person will have to reapply in person for their replacement book). Also, keep in mind that cards, while a more inexpensive option, work fine for crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico; however, they do not allow for border crossings throughout the world like a traditional passport booklet.