Maybe I'm the only one around the office who's constantly contemplating my escape abroad ... but I was surprised to find out the U.S. government would begin issuing so-called passport cards this spring.
Passports can cost upwards of $75 to obtain, but the wallet-sized passport card can be had for as low as $20 (for a renewal). (Or submit applications for both at the same time and save!)
Though the passport card is valid only for land and water crossings between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean, the card's cost and size is expected to ease travel for U.S. residents in border communities.
As with the e-passport, the passport card will contain a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip. Unlike the e-passport, the passport card's RFID chip will be capable of being "vicinity read," which "will allow CBP [Customs and Border Protection] officers, in advance of the traveler's arrival at the inspection booth, to quickly access information on the traveler from secure government databases, and allow for automated terrorist watch list checks without impeding traffic flow. In addition, they foresee that multiple cards can be read at a distance and simultaneously, allowing an entire car of people to be processed at once."
I just had this vision of a carload of people all happily waving their passport cards in the air. Somehow I doubt going through the border will be any more fun. Though the government hasn't yet set a release date for the card, it's already accepting applications.
U.S. Passport Card (Dept. of State)
Crossing U.S. Borders, including the latest rules (Dept. of Homeland Security)
"Here's What You Need to Get Back into U.S." (Chicago Tribune)
Previously: "Passport Woes"