You are currently viewing Can an illegal immigrant fly within the US

In some cases, an illegal immigrant can fly within the US and travel in general. This is because there is no law that prevents it, but there are certain considerations to take into account. For example, if traveling within or outside the US.

But, how can I travel by plane when it is illegal in the USA? Although federal laws do not prohibit it, immigration status plays a key role in this. 

That said, we will answer various questions that we usually receive such as: “Can I travel by plane within the United States if I am undocumented but with a work permit” or “Can an illegal immigrant fly within the United States.”


Tell Us Your Case

Can An Illegal Immigrant Fly Within The US In 2024

Although undocumented immigrants can travel within the United States without papers, they are required to have some form of identification. Every traveler boarding a flight must present a current identification issued by the state or federal government.

can illegal immigrants fly within the US

In the case of undocumented immigrants, they can use any of the forms of identification accepted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). 

Some of these documents may be a foreign passport or the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS.

How Is It Possible That Undocumented Immigrants Can Fly Domestically In The United States? 

Despite this, traveling may prove to be more complicated. In fact, the new law that will go into effect in 2025 for travel within the United States imposes minimum standards on state licenses for domestic travel. 

According to this law, states that issue a Real ID must require the following:

  • Full legal name.
  • Birthdate.
  • Social Security number.
  • Legal status.
  • Two proofs of address. 

In the event that you are unable to obtain a Real ID, you may still be able to fly with a foreign passport. But to do this, please contact our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles.

What Happens If My Documents Have Expired?

Traveling with expired identification documents is not allowed in the United States. However, TSA currently accepts expired driver’s licenses and identification documents up to one year old.

Can Minors Fly Within The United States If They Are Illegal Immigrants?

Minors do not need any type of identification to travel within the US. However, for trips outside the country, they will need a passport.

Requirements To Travel By Plane Within The United States In 2024

Although an illegal immigrant can fly within the United States, they must present one of the following forms of identification:

  • State-issued enhanced driver’s license.
  • US or foreign passport.
  • Traveler card issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). For example, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST or Global Entry.
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
  • US Merchant Mariner Credential
  • HSPD-12 PIV card.
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card.
  • Identification of the United States Department of Defense.
  • Lawful permanent residence card.
how to get a green card

There are many ways to obtain the Green Card, in our blog we reveal all the possible ways in which you could legalize yourself in the country. 

Can You Travel Without A Passport Within The United States?

American citizens do not need a passport to travel within the country, but will need to have one when traveling abroad.

Another question that we are asked very often in addition to whether an illegal immigrant can fly within the USA is: Why wasn’t my passport stamped when entering the United States?

What Else Do I Need To Travel Within The United States?

Other than what was mentioned above, you will need certain identification papers to travel by air, land or sea within the US:

Air Travel

To fly within the US, illegal immigrants can use documents such as:

  • State ID,
  • State driver’s license, or
  • Foreign passport. 

However, starting in 2025, only REAL ID format documents will be accepted. As a result, it is necessary to demonstrate lawful presence in the country. 

Otherwise, the only option will be to travel with a foreign passport. For international travel, only the use of a passport will be permitted.

Travelling By Sea

For sea travel within the country, documentation varies depending on the transport company. For example, when taking a ferry from New York to Connecticut, it is recommended to check with the company to find out the required documents. 

For international travel, such as on a ferry from California to Baja California, Mexico, a passport is required.

Ground Transportation

Ground travel between cities in the United States also varies by transportation company. Therefore, it is advisable to contact the company in advance to find out the necessary documents. 

On public transport within a city, identification is not required. But, when taking a bus or train crossing the border into Mexico or Canada, a passport will be required.

Can I Re-Enter The United States Without Papers If I Left The Country?

Staying illegally in the United States, whether due to irregular entry or visa extension, may result in a re-entry ban. The duration of this depends on the length of the unlawful presence:

  • Less than 180 days: There is no automatic ban, but entry may be denied.
  • Between 180 days and one year: You may be banned from re-entry for three years.
  • More than one year: You could face a re-entry ban of up to ten years.

If you have been bared or are inadmissible to the US, you may be eligible for a type of immigration waiver.

Can I Travel Outside The United States If I Have A Pending Immigration Case?

If you are involved in an immigration process and plan to leave the country, you will need the appropriate documents to return. These can be advance travel permission (advance parole) or re-entry permission.

Such requirements are applicable to applicants and/or beneficiaries of:

If you are looking for immigration relief or want to legalize your status in the country, call us. Our professionals at Lluis Law will help you with these processes.

What Happens If you are arrested or detained by immigration?

If you are stopped by immigration officials, you are not required to answer their questions beyond identifying yourself. 

Not knowing that you are undocumented and not having an arrest warrant, you will likely be released. Revealing your immigration status may result in your detention, so you have the right to remain silent. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can be scary, especially if you are undocumented. However, in our blog we have explained your options if ICE agents show up at your door or the consequences of  illegal reentry after deportation

Traveling While Having A Deportation Order 

immigrants travelling the usa without papers

If you are in removal proceedings, you may still be able to travel. But to do this, you must present:

  • The notice of appearance (Form I-862), and
  • Some identification document.

If you have the notice to appear, it means that you have already been interviewed by immigration and they have initiated the procedures to deport you. 

Even so, if you find yourself in this scenario, our immigration lawyers are specialists in deportations, so they will be able to fight your removal proceedings. 

Immigration Status And Eligibility To Fly Within The United States

Normally, an individual cannot fly illegally within the United States, that is, without identification documentation. Although they can do it without having a Green Card.

Therefore, an individual’s immigration status plays a vital role when traveling through the country. What’s more, each of these affects the ability to fly, whether they are:

Lawful Permanent Residents

Lawful permanent residents have the right to travel freely throughout the country. Therefore, they have no restrictions and do not require additional documentation beyond their Green Card.

In fact, Green Card holders have the same privileges as American citizens . 

If you are about to apply for citizenship, remember that there are criminal bars to citizenship

Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented immigrants face a variety of challenges. This occurs because airlines require passengers to provide some form of government-issued identification.

As if that were not enough, airports have rigorous security controls where they verify the identification of passengers. 

DACA Recipients

Although DACA recipients have some flexibility when traveling, they must stay up to date on any changes in immigration policies or regulations.

Such flexibility is because these foreigners receive work permits and a Social Security Number (SSN). 

Holders Of Temporary American Visas

Foreigners with F-1 US student visastourist visas , or the B-1 business visa will generally be able to travel within the United States. However, they must ensure to:

  • Keep all their travel documents with them.
  • Review Form I-94 , arrival/departure, and
  • Know the remaining validity period of your current visa. That is, if it will be in force throughout the trip. 

Remember that if a visa is about to expire or has already expired, it can cause complications when traveling in the US. 

Note: Some foreigners may be eligible to process an ESTA authorization to travel to the United States. Thanks to this, a visa will not be necessary. 

How To Prepare To Travel Within The United States Without Papers? 

Now that you know that an illegal immigrant can fly within the USA, it is time for you to know how to prepare for it. This will depend on how you will travel around the country:

Domestic Flight

  1. Make sure you have your identification properly prepared. When booking your flight, verify that the name on the ticket exactly matches your ID.
  2. Ensure the integrity of your electronic devices. Although government authorities may ask for your phone number, you are not required to reveal your password. 
  3. Create a security protocol. If you are detained, designate at least two individuals who have access to all your essential documents. For example, the contact of your lawyer, family, friends and others. 

Note: In the US, a domestic flight is when it is made exclusively within the country, without international stops. In other words, it is a simple flight through the American states. 

us transit visa

Foreigners intending to stopover in the US may need a US transit visa

When Traveling By Land

  1. Make sure your DACA permit or any authorization to leave the country is valid for the entire duration of your stay abroad. It is important to prevent it from expiring and always return to the US before your travel period ends.
  2. Carry USCIS documents proving your immigration status to facilitate your return.
  3. Confirm that there are no stopovers outside the US. Avoid unplanned landings that could complicate your return, such as stops due to bad weather or emergencies. This also applies when travelling by sea.

What To Keep In Mind When Traveling By Land Without Papers In The US?

If you are undocumented and planning to travel by land in the United States keep in mind the following guidelines:

For Public Buses And Trains

There have been cases where Border Patrol (USBP) agents have carried out immigration checks on buses and trains without court orders. Although the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prohibits these actions, it is always advisable to know your rights to:

  • Remain silent.
  • Refuse searches of belongings.
  • Present valid immigration documents.
  • Record videos of immigration agents.
  • Request the name and number of immigration officials.

For Other Ground Transport

Some foreigners may be eligible to drive legally and apply for a driver’s license in certain states. To do this, we advise checking with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to confirm your eligibility.

If you are stopped by police or immigration authorities while driving:

  1. Stop the vehicle, turn it off, turn on the interior light, partially open the window and place your hands on the steering wheel.
  2. Show your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance when asked by police.
  3. You may refuse to allow the search of your vehicle if requested by an immigration officer or agent. However, if the police believe there is evidence of a crime, they can proceed without your consent.
  4. Both drivers and passengers can remain silent. If you are a passenger, ask if you can leave; If so, do it quietly.

Can The Police Ask Me About My Immigration Status?

Yes, but you can remain silent, under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. It is important to note that you should not lie about your immigration status or provide false documents.

Recommendations for an illegal immigrant planning to fly Within The United States

travel without papers within the united states

Arrive Early At The Airport

When traveling to the USA, it is advisable to arrive at the airport well in advance due to possible delays with immigration. 

Arriving early helps avoid last-minute stress, ensuring a more enjoyable travel experience.

Bring The correct Documentation

When traveling by air within the United States as an immigrant, it is essential to carry all necessary documentation with you. For example, a valid passport with its respective American visa.

It is recommended to carry copies of the documents as a precaution against loss. Also, bring additional documents, such as letters of employment or sponsorship. 

Know Your Rights

In addition to the rights you have when facing immigration in the US, you will also have them at the airport. This includes your right to privacy and personal belongings.

If you think your rights have been violated, please do not hesitate to contact our firm. Our attorneys will represent you.

This publication is aimed at informing about whether an undocumented person can travel by plane within the United States. However, this information is general, so it is recommended to consult your specific scenario with our immigration lawyers.

Frequently Asked Questions On An Illegal Immigrant Options To Fly Within The US

Can you travel within the United States with an expired passport?

As a general rule, it is not possible to travel in or out of the United States with an expired passport or any other expired identification document. 

Can I Travel with a Mexican Passport in the United States?

Yes, it is possible to travel through the United States with a Mexican passport, as long as the passport has not expired. 

If I fly as an illegal immigrant through the United States, can a pilot order me to get off the plane?

Aircraft pilots have the right to refuse to fly with a passenger if they consider that passenger to be a threat to the safety of the flight. 

Can you travel within the United States without papers but with a work permit?

If you have a valid work permit, you can generally travel safely through all states in the country. However, it is important to always carry all possible identification documents with you. 

Lawyers In Los Angeles To Fix Papers In The United States

Although it is possible to even change your status from a visitor visa to a Green Card, it is a complex and stressful process. For these cases, an immigration lawyer can attend to his legal needs. 

Now that you know that you can travel within the United States without papers, you are much more informed to face this situation. 

In addition, you have the expertise of our lawyers from Lluis Law with more than 50 years of combined experience in immigration matters.


Tell Us Your Case