It is common to find questions like, “Can an immigrant travel by plane in the US?” Many immigrants ask questions like these a lot.
Traveling by plane within the United States of America is generally stressful for everyone. But it is more stressful if you’re an immigrant, whether documented or undocumented.
The United States government wants to know everyone who enters the country for security and other reasons. So, expect multiple stops, checks, and questions from security about your immigration status, including where you’re traveling to.
Here’s what you should know about traveling by plane in the United States as an immigrant.
Yes, you can travel by plane in the US (domestic flight) as an immigrant, whether documented or undocumented. But ensure you have a valid means of identification because you can’t just walk into an airport and straight into an airplane.
You have to pass through routine security checks before boarding the plane. This act is for your safety and the safety of everyone on the plane.
You can use a valid government ID issued in the country you’re from or a US ID, such as a driver’s license.
You can obtain a driver’s license in some states in the US, even if you’re undocumented.
Some US states offer immigrants the opportunity to obtain valid IDs, such as a driver’s license. Nineteen states in total, as of the time of writing, are allowing unauthorized immigrants to possess a state-issued driver’s license.
Here is the list below:
A Handy Tip: You cannot walk into a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and demand a driver’s license. Note also that the agency would require specific IDs from you before they can issue you a US driver’s license.
Here are the IDs you need to possess and present while applying for a driver’s license in the United States:
You can get your state-issued driver’s license with these details, whether undocumented or documented.
The stakes are higher for international flights. And even if you can travel by plane from the United States to your destination abroad, returning to the US could be an issue.
Travelers must present a valid means of identification when taking domestic flights. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a citizen, documented, or undocumented immigrant.
It is a compulsory airport rule for security reasons, and everyone must abide by it or forget about traveling by plane.
That said, here are valid means of identification immigrants must present to TSA for clearance to board a plane.
A Handy Tip: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues the “Trusted Traveler” cards.” The program allows members of the DHS to use expedited lanes across all US airports when traveling out or to the country.
The “Trusted Traveler” cards have specific fees and various processing times. Here is a breakdown of the cost of each card and processing time.
|Trusted Traveler Program/Card
|Who Is Eligible?
(For commercial trucks)
|1 – 2 weeks
|This program/card is for truck drivers entering and exiting the US. It is also for truck drivers from Mexico and Canada.
Note that this card doesn’t include PreCheck.
(For air travel)
|Helpful when departing from a US airport.
(Land, sea, and air travels
|4-6 months processing time
|Helpful when entering the United States from international destinations
Note that the card includes PreCheck.
(Air, land, and sea)
12 – 14 months
Entering the US from Canada
You can visit the DHS official website occasionally for updates on price, processing time, and changes to eligibility.
There are certain things you can do to make your trip successful, whether you’re documented or documented. Please note that we don’t condone illegality, so we encourage everyone to enter the United States through the right channel and legal means.
This way, you won’t have to keep hiding from the police or let your heart skip upon encountering TSA at the airport.
But if you’re an immigrant, here are things you should know or do starting from booking the flight ticket to entering the plane. Check them out before you take any domestic flight.
It would be best if you had a valid means of identification. The TSA will request a US driver’s license or other photo ID. You can submit an ID from your country of origin, which will be accepted. Check the list we provided above to know the acceptable IDs.
Provide the correct information when buying your flight tickets to avoid being questioned and allow the TSA to conduct a deep background check on you. These background checks can delay your flight and are stressful.
A Handy Tip: The name on your flight ticket should tally with the name on your ID card.
While writing a list of things to carry, include your ID. Why? You may forget to take it along when heading to the airport.
This mistake can result in you spending extra cash on fares, missing your flight, or tipping off TSA.
Are you surprised that immigration officers singled you out where other immigrants like yourself are? Don’t be because you gave them the clues to single you out.
How did you tip immigration or the TSA? You were acting nervous and suspicious. They can see you’re sweating profusely and looking around like someone is chasing you.
You aren’t comfortable and just eager to get on the plane. TSA can see you, and don’t forget that they are trained to identify passengers like you.
You must secure any device you’re carrying. Use passwords such as letters or numbers as opposed to fingerprints or patterns.
Can the security agents demand your phone? Yes, they can. But one thing they cannot take is your password.
This step is essential and needs to be taken seriously by all immigrants before heading to the airport. Have a plan B!
Airport security may find a reason to hold you. And if that happens, do you have plans to get yourself out of trouble?
Your plan B should include giving your family members and those who can help information about where you’re going, including the airport you’re entering the plane.
You should grant them access to helpful information about your attorney or community organization.
A Handy Tip: The information here isn’t a replacement for any legal advice from a qualified attorney. They are for educational purposes.
Can an immigrant travel by plane in the US? Yes, immigrants can, provided they have a valid means of identification. A valid photo ID from their country of origin or US driver’s license to confirm their identity should suffice.
Airport security can also ask you further questions or decide to involve the immigration officers if they have reasons to believe something is suspicious about you.
So, don’t give airport security a reason to suspect you. Act calmly and ensure the name on your ID tallies with what you provided on your flight ticket.