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Passport Rules: Know the Essentials

Re-Entering the U.S.

Planning an international trip? Read on to learn the basic passport rules.

When re-entering the U.S. by air from a foreign country, all U.S. citizens must have a Passport. Citizens re-entering by land and sea may use a passport or other accepted secure documents, such as a Passport Card, Enhanced Drivers License or Nexus Pass. Children 18 and younger may re-enter by land and sea with just a birth certificate.

First-time passport applicants must apply in person at a passport facility. Passport regulations can be found on the U.S State Department’s website.​

Tip: Planning an international vacation? Get travel insurance with AAA Washington’s trusted partner Allianz before you go. Click here to learn more.

Two female hiker friends stand arm and arm while stand at the lost city of the Incas on Machu Picchu
Anyone who has invested a significant amount on a vacation should seriously consider obtaining travel insurance. Photo: AdobeStock

Passport Card

The U.S. State Department offers a U.S. Passport Card to facilitate entry and expedite document processing at U.S. land and sea ports-of-entry when arriving from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The card may not be used to travel by air, but will otherwise carry the rights and privileges of the U.S. Passport book and will be adjudicated to the exact same standards. The Passport Card costs $45 ($35 for children) for first-time applicants. For adults who already have a standard Passport, the cost is $20. For more information, click here.

Tip: Get expert vacation planning help from a AAA Travel agent. Click here to connect with an agent.

Enhanced Drivers License

Approved and developed with federal authorities, the Washington Enhanced Drivers License can be used in lieu of a passport (or the birth certificate/photo ID requirement) for land and sea travel to Canada — for example a driving trip or ferry to British Columbia — and other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative countries. The Enhanced Drivers License is not valid for air travel. For more information on the EDL, visit the Washington Department of Licensing website.

Tip: Planning a big vacation? Use these tips from a nurse to stay healthy while traveling. Click here to learn more.

Stay healthy while traveling with these travel tips. Hikers on a beautiful trail.
Use these tips from a nurse to learn how to prevent common illnesses and mishaps on vacation. Photo: AdobeStock

Border Identification Regulations

For details, consult the Department of Homeland Security’s site.

Tip: You can get your passport photos taken at any AAA store

Nexus, Global Entry and other pass programs

If you’ve traveled on an airplane or crossed the border by car into Canada or Mexico, you know that the security lines and customs and immigration wait times can be long. But there are ways to skip the main security line and make your experience quicker and less stressful. 

Several pre-check programs are available to U.S. residents travelling at home or returning internationally where you can enter a separate, faster lane through the ID check or security, and get on your way. Click here to learn more about TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, NEXUS, Clear and SENTRI.

Tip: Don’t forget to bring some foreign currency with you when you travel outside the U.S. To make it easy and convenient, you can order foreign currency from a AAA Washington store. Click here to learn more.

the shot of the inside of a AAA Washington travel store to illustrate that you can obtain foreign currency there.
An easy way to obtain foreign currency is by ordering it through AAA Washington at one of many stores across the region. Photo: AAA Washington staff
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Travel Planning Tips

Get expert advice: Your perfect getaway awaits. No matter what destination you choose, or how you wish to travel, AAA Travel experts can help you plan a perfect experience that you will remember for years to come.

Purchase travel insurance: Protect your trip investment with travel insurance.

Consider Concierge: AAA’s Concierge Vacations feature done-for-you details and special amenities for travel to world-wide destinations. AAA Travel Agents will make your planning a breeze and your vacation unforgettable.

On the road: Get ready for every trip with a AAA Membership. Get peace-of-mind on the road and much more.

Save with discounts: AAA membership gives you access to exclusive discounts nationwide.

Talk with a AAA Travel Advisor

Let AAA Travel experts plan an experience you will remember for years to come.

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