To travel in Flight within the USA, proper Photo ID is required. Vijay asked about the possibility of flying in the US without passport.

I am travelling to New York for Thanksgiving. I will be taking a flight from Chicago. So, I would first need to travel by bus to Chicago. I plan to get my passport renewed at the Chicago consulate of India. That would require me to submit my passport. I will get it back by postal mail after 3 weeks.
My question is, can I travel from Chicago via flight and back without the passport? Can I show some other kind of ID at the airport? I have my SSN and university ID card.
I have applied for  state ID but I am not sure if I will get it before I travel. But they gave me a print out which they say can be used as temporary ID till i get the actual ID by mail.
Which of these IDs will work and which won’t at the airport? I am a little skeptical about sending my passport by mail. I have never sent any mail in US before.
I was skeptical about sending passport via postal mail. I have some tips about mailing documents later in this article. But, first let’s talk about flying in the US without the passport.

TSA ID Requirements

You can find the Travel ID Requirements in TSA. I’m reproducing the contents from TSA.

Acceptable IDs include:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS “Trusted Traveler” cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DOD civilians)
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Border Crossing Card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • A Native American Tribal Photo ID
  • An airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • A foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Non-US/Canadian citizens are not required to carry their passports if they have documents issued by the U.S. government such as Permanent Resident Cards.

Don’t worry, if you lost your ID. You would be still allowed to fly with additional screening and after TSA have verified your identity.

ID for International Students within America

For trips within USA (Domestic flights), Drivers License is sufficient. You don’t have to carry the Passport with you.  If you plan to travel to the U.S. Border cities, then take your Passport.

If you are going on an adventurous trip, it may not be feasible to carry your passport. Then take the following:

  • Copy of your passport
  • Copy of I-94
  • Copy of I-20

Have them in your phone, email and cloud drive like Dropbox or Google Drive.

If you carry your passport, make sure to protect it. It’s a hassle to get new passport and it’s expensive too. You may have to travel to nearest consulate or embassy.

Tip: Use Money Belt that goes under your pants to carry your passport during trips.

Solution for your ID Question

  • Take your passport or Take your state ID (and passport)
  • Come back from the trip and apply for passport renewal via Mail.

It’s common within the USA to mail high-value documents via mail.

I understand you are not used to sending mail within America. If so, ask for help. It’s all part of the learning process. I’m sure there will be a post office within your campus, a FedEx or UPS store nearby. I prefer to mail passport or important documents via FedEx or UPS. I would not send them via USPS.

Why Not USPS?

I had to send our passports to Canadian Embassy once, and UPS didn’t update the status for ten days. I sent the documents via Express next day delivery option. We had to drive from North Carolina to Washington DC to Canadian Embassy to confirm they received our documents. UPS couldn’t confirm if they delivered the documents.

We had to drive from North Carolina to Washington DC. Then to Canadian Embassy to confirm they received our documents. UPS couldn’t confirm if they delivered the documents.

I had a similar experience with USPS when I sent some document to India. There was no tracking available after it reached India. About 1 week after the package was delivered; they updated the online status.

So, stick with FedEx or UPS. UPS is cheaper compared to FedEx.

If you feel overwhelmed by the various shipping options available, then just ask for help. Explain, how fast you documents have to get there and how much you want to spend.Then you can decide on shipping option.


  • Flying in US without Passport – Yes, you can fly with other forms of ID
  • Mailing Passport  for renewal – Yes, you can mail them.
  • Protect your passport during travel using money belt
  • Always have a photocopy or scanned copy of your immigration documents.


  1. Sean Bradford on May 8, 2017 at 12:47 AM

    This is an interesting post. I hadn’t thought about what you would use in a situation like that… I think it’s also important to not that before long, some states’ ids and drivers licensees won’t be valid for air travel. I’m not sure of the whole list of states, but one is SC. I don’t know the reason for it but it goes into effect in coming years and there were signs about it at security last time I was in the airport.

  2. D on January 2, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    I would advise International Students to carry their passport as your ID while travelling by air, and also if possible carry I20 or I hope photocopy of your I20 will work because I94 is attached in your passport. Because I am sure you will not be familiar with different immigration laws of different states, and it is also not practical and feasible to read immigration laws of your state and other states where you are travelling. Having an ID issued by US government like driving license are always helpful but they might not show your immigration status. So, to minimize the potential trouble while traveling and to make your travel more fun, it is advisable to carry your immigration documents like passport.

    If one will say carrying passport is not safe then I can’t say anything because carrying passport is like carrying a wallet around. And if anybody cannot protect at least their passport while they are abroad, then that is their weakness. One should try to take and fulfill the responsibility at least for themselves while they are abroad.


    • HSB on January 2, 2012 at 5:48 PM

      Very good response. When I go on trip, Passport and Wallet are my top priority.

  3. Rohan Jadhav on November 22, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    Only state issued drivers license or state Id card is fine for any sorts of travel within the country. Drivers License is the national identity document to do whatever you want freely in the United States. International passport is not required even to visit Hawaii or Alaska if traveling from continental United States. Drivers license is same for international visitors and citizens. There is no need to know the nationality if you have US drivers license or State ID card. So travel without fear. I have traveled many times by air to different parts of the country and never took my passport with me. I never had any problems whatsoever.

    • HSB on November 22, 2011 at 8:17 PM

      @Rohan – Perfect answer.

      Plus info for New Immigration Laws in Alabama and Arizona. They are making it tough. If you are stopped in Alabama and don’t have papers to prove your immigration status, you can be arrested. See what happened to Mercedes Benz Executive last week.

  4. musa on November 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    I am very happy for such an enlightment i hope this will continue.

  5. Vijay on November 14, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    thanks for your detailed reply !

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