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New passport card makes it easier, cheaper, to travel to Canada

Headed by car to Canada? If you don't plan to fly outside of the united States, you can save the $100 cost of a passport by instead getting a handy new "Passport Card" for $45.

It's a good deal for those who don't need a traditional passport, but it's still an unfortunate expense for those who are used to traveling to and from Canada for free, with just a driver's license, says Becker County Recorder Darlene Maneval.

Applications for the new passport cards are being taken now, but the cards won't be issued until spring, Maneval said.

"Anyone can get one -- I just talked to a woman who has to loop through Canada to get to her in-laws house. To get a passport for that is ludicrous."

There are a lot of fishing enthusiasts who travel back and forth to Canada by car, and the passport card would be perfect for them, she said.

"You cannot use this card to get on an airplane, that is the limitation to it," she said. "If you're ever going to fly in the next 10 years," you may want to get a traditional passport."

A passport card would work for someone flying to Florida to catch a cruise ship, however. "As long as you're flying only stateside, the card will work for cruises, too," Maneval said.

The wallet-sized passport card is good for land and sea crossings between the U.S, and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

Another change in the passport law will bring divorced couples together again, if only briefly. Both parents now have to appear at a passport acceptance facility (such as the Becker County Recorder's Office) and sign the passport application for children aged 16 and under.

The change is designed to protect children from parental abduction and address concerns with runaway children.

If one parent lives abroad, he or she can sign at a U.S. consular section.

"They want both parents to know that a child is going to another country," Maneval said. "We now require both parents signatures."

Passport fees have increased by $3, but the federal government will see an $8 increase, since it cut the processing fee paid to counties by $5, Maneval said. The county will now receive $25 instead of $30.

"We were OK with it when we heard they were reducing our portion by $5, because it's for the people, and passports are kind of expensive," she said. "But then the feds raised their fee by $8."

The total fee for a new adult passport is now $100. A child's passport is $85. An adult passport card costs $45 and a child's passport card costs $35.