Traveling in the U.S. can be a complicated and stressful process for anyone—even more so if you’re undocumented! But it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re thinking of traveling as an undocumented person (with or without DACA) and are curious about how to travel safely, read on. Safe travels, undocu-travelers!
Note: This document is not intended to serve as legal advice and is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney.
All travelers flying on a domestic flight must present a valid (unexpired) photo ID issued by the state or federal government. Undocumented individuals may use the following forms of ID accepted by TSA:
- State photo identity card
- State driver’s license
- Military ID
- Foreign passport (must be unexpired1)
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Employment Authorization Card
- Trusted traveler cards such as the NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST cards issued by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”)
- Border-crossing cards
- Native American tribal ID cards
- Airline or airport photo ID cards issued in compliance with TSA regulations and transportation worker ID credential
For a full list of TSA-acceptable forms of ID click here.
Preparing for Your Domestic Flight
|1. Have identification ready.
Make sure that when you book your flight, the name on your ticket is an exact match with the ID you will be using.
2. Secure your devices.
3. Develop a safety plan.
FAQ Regarding Domestic Flights
What is considered a “domestic flight” in the U.S.?
Can I fly to Hawaii or Alaska as an undocumented traveler?
Do I need to have a REAL ID License to board?
Note: For individuals in California, those who only qualify for the AB 60 driver’s license are ineligible to receive a REAL ID driver’s license. However, see our REAL ID resource to learn about alternative forms of ID that are also accepted by TSA.
Do I have to respond to the TSA/ICE/CBP agent’s questions?
Can a TSA agent search my luggage and personal items?
Can a pilot order me off the plane?
(CA ONLY) Can I fly with an AB 60 License?
Can I fly with a foreign passport or Employment Authorization Document Card?
Yes, as noted above, the list of approved identification to fly domestically includes foreign government-issued passports (must be valid) and/or a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766). There have been reports of individuals who were not able to fly with these documents due to erroneous TSA agent denials. In such instances, inform the TSA agent that according to posted Transportation Security Administration guidelines, these are acceptable documents. Here is the link: tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification
We recommend that you review TSA’s most up-to-date guidelines before your domestic flight.
Ground Transportation: Public Buses & Trains
There have been reports, especially during the Trump Administration, of Border Patrol agents conducting immigration checks without warrants on buses and trains, such as Greyhound and Amtrak. Although Customs Border Patrol (CBP) has publicly said that its agents are prohibited from boarding buses/trains and questioning passengers without warrants or a company’s consent, it’s a good idea for any passenger to be aware of the following rights:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- When in doubt, do not answer questions about your citizenship or immigration status or sign any paperwork without the advice of a lawyer. Do not lie – silence is often better.
- If you have valid immigration papers, you can provide them. Never provide false documents.
- You can refuse a search of your belongings by saying “I do not consent to a search.”
- You have the right to record video of immigration agents.
- If you are stopped or searched, you have the right to ask for the officer’s name / ID number.
FAQ Regarding Ground Transportation
Can I travel without a photo identification when using the local subway?
Can I travel without a photo identification when using a bus?
Ground Transportation: Driving
Like citizens, certain non-citizens may be eligible to drive legally. In some states, certain non-citizens are eligible to apply for a driver’s license. Check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to determine if you are eligible to apply for a driver’s license regardless of your immigration status. If you are stopped by either law enforcement or immigration enforcement while in your car, consider the following recommendations:
- Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way, and place your hands on the wheel.
- Upon request, show the police your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
- If an officer or immigration agent asks to search your car, you can refuse. However, if the police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, they can search it without your consent.
- Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you’re a passenger, you can also ask if you’re free to leave. If yes, silently leave.
FAQ Regarding Driving
Can the police ask me about my immigration status?
What is a Border Patrol checkpoint?
(CA ONLY) Where are some checkpoints in California?
Below are some noted checkpoints within California. Be prepared. Plan your route of travel and check before traveling.
- San Clemente: located 7 miles south of San Clemente on Interstate 5.
- Temecula: located 24 miles north of Escondido on Interstate 15.
- Highway 79: located 1 mile west of Sunshine Summit.
- I-8 West: located 3 miles east of Pine Valley on Interstate 8.
- Highway 94: located 24 miles east of San Diego on California State Route 94.
- Highway 78/86: located just south of the intersection of California State Routes 78 and 86, just west of the Salton Sea, controlling northbound traffic only.
- Highway 111: located between Niland and Bombay Beach.
- Highway S2: located 7 miles north of Ocotillo and I-8 in eastern San Diego County on S2 (Imperial Hwy/Sweeney Pass Road) between I-8 and State Route 78.
Traveling to U.S. Territories
Undocumented individuals who hold a temporary protection (e.g. TPS/DACA-recipients) may travel to the U.S. Territories without Advance Parole. However, it’s important to know where and how to safely travel overseas to the U.S. Territories.
IMPORTANT: Traveling to the U.S Territories without DACA, even though a person has never technically left the U.S., could result in a referral to ICE for removal.
Preparing for Your Travel to U.S. Territories
|1. Make sure your DACA is valid during your ENTIRE time abroad.
Do NOT allow your DACA to expire during any of the time you are contemplating being outside the U.S. mainland, even if you have a renewal pending. Plan to be in the U.S. mainland before it expires with no chance of any gap.
2. Bring your USCIS documents showing your granted deferred status in order to facilitate your return.
3. Make sure there are NO layovers outside the U.S. states and territories.
You may also find the following information on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) website helpful.
 If you’re traveling with an expired license or passport you may still be able to fly. Acceptable forms of ID cannot be more than 12 months past the identified expiration date. Click here for more information.
This resource was created by Jesús Flores Rodríguez with editing support from Claire Calderón and Denia Pérez, Esq.
Immigrants Rising helps you make decisions based on your potential, not your perceived limits. Visit our website so you can see what’s possible: immigrantsrising.org. For inquiries regarding this resource, please contact Jesus Flores, Legal Services Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Revised 9/2023.
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