Can illegal immigrants still take U.S. domestic flights?

Each one of my many Brazilian friends seems to have a different opinion about this. Some think it’s impossible, other say they do this all the time with no problem.

In summary:

–Two Brazilians who have been living illegally in the U.S. for nine years.
–One is an adult, the other a minor.
–They came here with tourist visas, and overstayed.
–They are not wanted for any other crimes.
–They both have valid, current Brazilian passports.
–They intend to take a domestic flight from one major U.S. airport to another.

The last paragraphs of this page on the TSA website would appear to say that foreigners visiting the U.S. should carry their (presumably home-country-issued) passports. Of course, it makes no mention of “visitors” who have overstayed their visas.

When i was here on a student visa, i often traveled on domestic flights using my foreign passport as ID.

The airline employees and the TSA staff only ever looked at the front page, with my picture and information. they never leafed through the passport to look at visa stamps, inserts, or anything like that. They never had any interest in whether or not i was in the country legally.

So, in my experience at least, the practical answer to your question is “yes.” That’s quite separate from the legal question, of course.

No legal answer, just one from a friend who works for the agency.

TSA agents will be satisfied with the foreign passport, and use it only to compare the boarding pass with the ID page. Your average TSA agent probably isn’t concerned with who may or may not be an illegal immigrant, only that the person named on the boarding pass is the one passing through the checkpoint.

I’ve travelled on domestic flights in the US whilst on holiday and all anyone did was check that the name on the passport matched the one on the boarding ticket, and that the photo in the passport looked something like the person presenting it.

I have used my valid foreign passport to fly domestically. They only look at the first page, which has your photo and other identifying information. Visa and I-94 are in the middle and stapled to the back page, respectively, but they don’t flip any pages in your passport.

ETA: Note that ID is only checked by the first official you encounter in the queue to security check. Their job is to confirm that your valid ID matches your boarding pass. When you go through the metal detector, you only need your boarding pass.

I believe there is no law that states that you must have ID to fly. You might be subject to greater search or questioning, but depending on the airline policies you might still be able to fly without any ID. I don’t have first hand knowledge of this though.

From the TSA.Gov


See TSA (dot) Gov for more info

Back in 2006 I was able to use my foreign issued Driving Licence to travel. It had a picture, was sufficient as far as they were concerned.

In 2007, I was unable to board a domestic flight because my driver’s license had expired. I don’t recall the airline, I think it was Continental. It appears that illegal immigrants sometimes have more leeway than citizens, but nobody ever promised me that the world was fair.

What’s not fair? I presume that the key is having a valid ID. You didn’t have a valid ID. A current passport is a valid ID.

xash’s comment still stands. The TSA web site does state you must have valid ID with the information required at Markxxx correctly pointed out. But is that TSA “policy” and from where does it originate? Did it go through the delegated rule-making authority so that it’s in the CFR? Is it law as passed by Congress? Or something else? Government agencies often state what can, and cannot be done. What is important whether they have the legal authoring behind making the statement.

Do a Google search on “flying without id”.

I researched this a couple of months ago, because of a (perfectly legal US citizen) friend who was staying with me who needed to fly to Florida. He’s 22, doesn’t have a driver’s license, and has never gotten around to ordering a copy of his birth certificate. His only id was his Social Security card; since he was staying with me, he didn’t have so much as a bank statement or utility bill to show as proof of who he is.

The above quoted TSA regulation is correct and has been in place since 2008. What they don’t go out of their way to publicize, however, is that only applies to people who actually refuse to show their id! If you walk up to a check in counter and tell them that that you don’t have your id, they will allow you to board after going through a special screening process (i.e., searching you and your belongings down to microscopic level). Completely bizarre, I know, but at least you don’t get stuck on the other side of the country when your id has been stolen on vacation.

I have flown twice in the past few years with no I.D. Both were domestic flights, and both were on return home, not on the outbound (at the beginning) leg of my trip. These were also both post 9/11 flights…

Both were due to my own jackassery—I flew out to see Bob Dylan in Philadelphia (I was able to get a dirt-cheap flight on Priceline) and at some point, I lost my drivers licence in the back of a cab. I found out that I had lost it a day or so before my flight home, (I stayed for the whole weekend to do some sightseeing for the couple of days after the Dylan concert) so I called up the airline and explained my situation. They told me I needed to make a police report and bring a copy to the airport with me on the day of my return flight. I found a cop in front of my hotel, he pulled out a little form, which I then filled out and he signed it. I then made sure to get to the airport very early, where I explained the situation to the ticket agent. He had record of my calling ahead, and he marched me and my bag up to the front of the TSA line, (saving me at least an hour’s wait as it was really crowded that day) talked to the TSA agent and I was then able to walk right to the gate, although I was over two hours early for my flight—I found a bar that served Yuengling (not available in Utah) so all was good…
The second one was a flight home from New Orleans—I had been there for a full week, and I was out very late the night before my flight home. I got to the airport, where I discovered that I didn’t have my wallet. I assumed that I had left it at the hotel, but there was no time to go back and try to retrieve it. I talked to the Delta ticket agent (I was flying a lot with Delta back then, and may had just hit the Silver Medallion level) and told him the situation. He told me that this was out of his hands, there was a law requiring photo identification to board a plane and that I was SOL until I could find some ID. I told him (in so many words, but politely) that that was unacceptable, and I intended to be on that flight, even if they had to strip-search me and do a full body-cavity search. I asked to speak to a supervisor, who came out and pulled up my frequent-flier account. He asked me a few questions about my recent flights and personal information (mothers maiden name) and after just a few min. he printed me out a boarding pass and I was all set to fly home. Upon arriving at home, while doing my laundry, I discovered that my wallet was in my bag the whole time, in the clothing that I was wearing the night before.

Being polite but firm in my resolve to be allowed to get home was key, and in the first situation, letting the airline know in advance that my ID had been lost was crucial, as I don’t think I would have been allowed on that flight (being a Priceline last min. bargain deal on an airline I had no history with) without pre-authorization.

I am much more careful now with my ID…

As long as the passengers have a valid government issued ID (including a passport issued by a foreign government) they should not be stopped from flying on a US domestic flight. The minor is not even required to have an ID.