Living in the United States will require you to save and protect several vital documents. For example, you should always access your birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage certificate, tax returns, and ownership deeds.
Another essential document that you should protect is your passport. A passport is far less common than a birth certificate, Social Security card, or tax return information.
The US State Department estimates that only about 37 percent of the population has a valid passport. If you are one of these people, you should take steps to keep your passport from being lost or stolen.
Where Is the Best Place To Store a Passport at Home?
Here are three of the most commonly used methods to store a passport:
- Safety deposit box
- Filing cabinet
- Home safe
No matter what color passport you currently own, you're going to need to keep it safe. Replacing a lost or damaged passport is quite a headache because it can take up to a few months and cost you well over a hundred dollars.
What's even worse is if your passport is stolen. The thief could potentially use this information to gain access to your bank account, steal your identity, and travel internationally using your passport.
1. Safety Deposit Box
There are few places more secure than a bank or credit union vault. It would take tremendous planning and expertise for someone to break into a bank vault to steal your passport. The odds of losing it in a fire would also be minimal.
It's hard to beat the level of protection that comes with a safety deposit box. However, there are a few downsides. For starters, a safety deposit box isn't free.
Depending on the size and bank that you're using, it could run you upwards of $60 a year. That's even if your bank provides the option for a safety deposit box in the first place.
If the cost doesn't matter to you, you should still consider the sacrifice of convenience. You can only access your safety deposit box during bank hours and travel to get there.
If you suddenly need your passport on a holiday weekend, you might have to wait several days before accessing it.
2. Filing Cabinet
Many people prefer to keep their important documents together and within their homes. A filing cabinet, desk drawer, or folder is enough to keep these essential items separate from regular clutter. They can be reached within a few minutes if these documents are ever needed.
You can probably imagine how risky of an approach this can be. If a fire ever broke out, these items would almost certainly perish. You would need to procure replacements for all of these documents, which will take time and money.
Another factor is that your house could be robbed. You would keep all of your eggs in one basket by stuffing your important documents into one folder. The thief would easily access your most sensitive information, and it would practically be gift-wrapped for them to take.
3. Home Safe
Using a home safe allows you to receive the best of both of the previous options. You'd have a personal bank vault within the confines of your home. That means your passport and other documents would be protected from fire and thieves but also easily accessed whenever you needed them.
The only possible downside of owning a home safe is that you'll have to spend money on it.
However, the total cost is nothing compared to the fees you'll accrue with a safety deposit box or replacing your documents. You'll save money, time, and stress in the long run by having your safe.
What Is a Passport?
A passport is an official document issued by a country's national government to its citizens. A lot of information is printed on a passport, including your photograph, name, residence, date of birth, sex, nationality, citizenship, and signature.
What Is a Passport Used For?
All of this information can be used for the following purposes:
- Proof of citizenship
The primary purpose of a passport is to correctly identify the holder and permit them to cross international borders to gain entry into foreign countries. Every government will require an individual to have a valid passport when entering or exiting the country.
For this reason, it's next to impossible to get through security checkpoints or board an international flight without a valid passport. You can even be denied re-entry into your home country if your passport is lost, stolen, or expired.
Each country has its versions of identification for its citizens. However, none of these identifications matter internationally. That's where the concept of passports steps in. A passport can be used to identify when traveling abroad or in your home country.
You already know that each passport contains basic information about the owner. However, the most important identifier of a passport is known as the "international standard serial number."
This unique number allows the customs or security officials to quickly access the personal information and history of the passport owner. If any red flags pop up in your record, you could be denied entry despite having a valid passport.
Proof of Citizenship
A passport means you have been verified as a citizen in your home country. The application process for a passport is so extensive that it's virtually impossible to obtain one without being a citizen.
Proof of citizenship is critical if anything were to happen while you're abroad. Governments do their best to care for their citizens when they're at home or traveling internationally.
If you ever get injured or need medical assistance, you'd need to prove your citizenship to get help from your country's embassy.
Are All Passports the Same?
Each country has a unique passport serving the same general purposes listed above. But within each country, there are multiple different types of passports available.
For example, the United States has five different passport options separated by color. Each passport will have unique functions, privileges, and regulations.
What Types of Passports Are Issued by the United States?
Here are the five different types of passports issued by the United States:
- Blue - most common
- Black - diplomatic passport
- Brown - "official passport"
- Gray - US contractors
- Green - refugee travel document
Blue - Most Common
The most common type of passport has a navy blue cover and is often referred to as a "tourist passport." These are the passports that regular citizens in the United States are issued when they desire to travel internationally as a tourist, a businessperson, for work, or education.
Most countries will only allow you to stay for up to 90 days with a blue passport. However, some exemptions can extend this time frame or shorten it. A standard passport will expire after ten years if the owner is over 16 and five years if the owner is under 16.
Black - Diplomatic Passport
A black passport is considered a "diplomatic passport" as they're only issued to United States Department of State employees. These highly exclusive passports are reserved for anyone traveling overseas to conduct business in the interest of the United States government.
The president, vice president, ambassadors, embassy staff, diplomats, and even Supreme Court justices are all issued black passports. A black passport is only valid for five years and is forbidden to use outside diplomatic travel.
Brown - "Official Passport"
Brown (more accurately a shade of maroon) passports are known as "official passports" and are similar to black passports. These passports are issued to officials that work for the United States government and have to travel overseas for official business.
Active members of the military, members of the Senate or Congress, agents in the FBI or CIA, and other bureaucrats are all individuals that would be issued a brown passport. It's also possible for the family members of these individuals to receive brown passports as long as the Department of State authorizes it.
Brown passports don't come with a fee but aren't permitted for leisurely travel. A brown passport lasts only up to five years and must be returned to government officials when the overseas duties have concluded.
Gray - US Contractors
Gray passports are reserved for contractors traveling overseas to aid the United States government in some way. These individuals wouldn't qualify for a brown passport (as they aren't active employees of the State Department) and would be issued a gray one instead.
Generally, these individuals are non-military personnel and work in medical, construction, transport, IT, and communications fields. A gray passport is required to enter countries where a blue passport wouldn't be sufficient.
These passports don't come with a fee, are valid for up to five years, and must be issued by the Special Issuance Agency in Washington, D.C.
Green - Refugee Travel Document
A green passport isn't technically a passport but rather a refugee travel document. These documents are issued by the United States Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services and look very similar to other passports.
The key difference is that it doesn't certify American citizenship as the holder is a non-citizen. Green passports are most commonly issued to any refugee living in a United States territory but cannot get a passport from their home country.
These passports can be used to apply for a travel visa and allow the holder to re-enter the United States.
Protect Your Passport in the Smart Way
The number of essential documents will only increase as you get older and experience more significant life events.
Some people prefer to keep these documents in a safe deposit box guarded by their bank or credit union. In contrast, others prefer to keep them within the confines of their own home in an accordion folder or filing cabinet.
Another option is to use a combination of these two and store them within a safe inside your home. That way, these critical documents are conveniently located and safely protected simultaneously.
Passports are an essential document that you should keep protected. The only way to travel internationally is with a valid passport; replacing them can take a long time.
Many people store their passports in a safety deposit box or filing cabinet at home. However, there are a lot of risks, costs, and inconveniences attached to each of these options. The most intelligent way to protect your passport is to store it in your safe.
Visit MyCube today to determine which safe is the right fit for you. There's just no way to beat the peace of mind, convenience, and security that a personal home safe can provide.