Westchester County Clerk’s Office to Begin Accepting Applications for New U.S. Passport Card for Land and Sea travel at U.S. Borders

passportJanuary 31, 2008: As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen security at our nation’s borders, the United States Department of State will make available beginning this spring a new passport card for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. In advance of the launch, the Office of the Westchester County Clerk, the largest passport acceptance agency in the region, will begin accepting applications on February 1st for the new, limited-use U.S. Passport Card.  This new passport card is being offered in anticipation of new travel requirements that are expected to go into effect by 2009 that will require having a U.S. passport to reenter the U.S. via land and sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.  The U.S. Passport Card will provide a less expensive and more efficient alternative to help improve the U.S. border control process while addressing the needs of citizens who do frequent cross-border travel.

“Westchester County residents who anticipate frequent travel by land to Canada or Mexico and by sea to the Caribbean region or Bermuda are urged to take advantage of this new passport card, which at $45 for an adult card is less than half the cost of a regular U.S. passport,” stated Westchester County Clerk Timothy Idoni.  He noted the efficiency and portability of the wallet-sized card, “which resembles a driver’s license and like a regular U.S. passport is valid for ten years for adults and five years for children ages 15 and under”, said Idoni. 

However, Idoni stressed that while the card affords many of the rights and privileges of a traditional passport book “It is intended ONLY as a limited-use travel document, which means it’s valid only for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda. For travel by air, you will need a regular passport.”

By applying now, residents can expect new cards to be available and mailed by spring 2008. And U.S. Passport Card holders can be assured that their private information will be secure and protected. Each card will be embedded with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology chip, which links to secure government databases.  This technology, in use by border control agents successfully since 1995, also can be found on car keys, highway toll tags and passes, and security access cards. There will be no personal information written to the RFID chip.  “Every precaution will be taken to prevent counterfeiting and forgery and protect your private information”, affirmed Idoni.   

In addition to the cost of $45 for an adult card, the fee is $35 for children under 16. When renewing the card, the fee is also more affordable than traditional passports at $20 for adults, compared to $75 for adults (effective February 1st).  What if you already have a passport?  “If you already have a regular passport, you can still apply for the passport card, “said Idoni.  “However,” he advises, “ if your passport is about to expire and your travel plans for the future primarily pertain to North American countries, such as Canada, where many New York State residents travel to or work, then you might consider getting the passport card, rather than the more expensive passport.”

For more information about applying for the U.S. Passport Card or a regular passport, Idoni invites you to contact the Passport and Licensing Division at his office, 995-3086. “My very capable staff will be able to answer any questions you may have about the new card and assist with processing all passport applications.” The office, located at 110 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in White Plains, is open from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays.  Information as well as a video created by the county clerk’s office about applying for a passport can also be found on their website, www.westchesterclerk.com.