Visa vs. Passport: What’s the Difference?
When planning a trip abroad, there are certain necessities travelers must attain before departure. The most important of these are travel documents. Every traveler should be aware of whether they need a passport or a visa, yet, many of us fall short of knowing what exactly the difference is between the two.
What is it?
A passport is a government issued document that verifies the holder’s identity and citizenship to a specific country. A passport also allows holders to travel under the issued country’s protection. Travelers may either purchase a passport book or a passport card. A passport book is valid for international travel by air, sea, and land. A passport card is valid for entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. Both documents last 5 years for minors, ages 16 and under, and 10 years for adults, ages 16 and up. Passport books cost around $105 for minors and $135 for adults, with renewals priced at $110. Passport cards cost around $40 for minors and $55 for adults, with renewals priced at $30.
Who needs one?
According to the U.S. State Department, “All U.S. individuals, regardless of age, must have their own passport when traveling internationally by air.” If traveling by sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean, U.S. citizens must also present their passport. Land travel requires fewer restrictions, only needing adults traveling from Canada or Mexico to have a passport and minors to present a certified copy of his or her birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or Certificate of Citizenship. A passport card can also be used if traveling from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean.
What is it?
A visa is an official document that is placed in a traveler’s passport to show that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified purpose and period of time in a country. All travelers wishing to visit the U.S. must obtain a specific kind of visa, depending on the traveler’s purpose of stay. U.S. visa categories vary between tourism and visit, business, employment, study and exchange, and immigration. Visas are valid for use from the time between visa issuance and expiration date, otherwise known as your visa validity.
Who needs one?
Again, anyone traveling to the U.S. needs to obtain a visa before entry. For U.S. travelers, certain countries require visas, while others do not. In countries like France, South Africa, Poland, and Costa Rica a visa is not required for a stay under 90 days. However, countries like China, India, Australia, and Brazil require visas for entry. Just as the requirement of a visa varies from country to country, so does cost.
You can find out more information on passports, visas, and other travel specifics by going to the U.S. State Department website. You can also access more information by checking the websites of any nations’ consulates.