16 June 2009 ~ 110 Comments

Airport Travel Tips for Undocumented Immigrants

Airport Travel – Dos and Don’ts

Dress nicely and smartly. Avoid any fancy metallic-embedded clothing that might set off detectors and subject you to a strip-search.

Ideally, do a web-check in 24 hours ahead of time so you don’t have to stand in line.

There are 3 checkpoints

-A TSA agent that checks your valid government-issued photo ID and flight ticket. TSA is not immigration and not supposed to look for a visa but they have time to waste sometimes. It also makes sense for this reason to fly during heavy traffic hours.

Open up your passport to the valid ID page so the agent doesn’t have to flip through the passport and see any expired visas. They usually do not check for a visa of any sort, even on foreign passports. If you have a state ID, you need not worry about this though REAL ID may now stipulate some additional documentation. DO NOT EVER answer immigration questions that may reveal your status. You have a right to a lawyer if you are detained. If you end up in trouble at any time, call 415-808-4444

(If you are flying with checked-in bagged, that would be your first checkpoint—checking in the baggage. Airlines now charge $15 for this. If you have a short itinerary, skip the checked baggage and simply get two small carry-on items on the airplane like a backpack and a laptop bag).

-The main security checkpoint where you are subjected to a metal detector search

-And finally, handing over your airline ticket to the agent.

Tips for the Main Security Checkpoint

You do not need your ID for this checkpoint but just a boarding pass.

After smiling nicely and speaking politely to the first TSA agent, prepare to take some empty tubs and take off your shoes, watch, belt, cellphone and anything else that may set off metal detectors. Laptops, electronic items such as video games and toiletry bags must be taken out of bags and screened separately in a tub. Toiletries should be in a separate clear ziplock bag with your liquids separated. Water bottles and food items from outside would probably be trashed but you can buy food at the gates (last checkpoint) to take on the plane trip.

After passing through this main security point, you are safe. You MIGHT get subject to a random search or if you somehow set off the metal detectors. Stay calm and let them do a pat-down.

It goes without saying that after passing the second checkpoint, you should gather all belongings and head to camp out in your gate area till your flight starts boarding. You also do not need your ID at this point.

On the plane

You’ll get a complimentary beverage. Snacks are $$.

Please note: Nothing in this post denotes legal advice or is offered in substitution of advice from a lawyer. Success is not guaranteed and different people have different results. 

 

  • Angela12

    Hello, I have a huge question, 
    I have a student National competition in LA, I live in NY, can i fly on the plane with my foreign unexpired passport with no visa stamped on it? would it be safe or should i just remain home? this has me worried  

    • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

      Fly away.

  • Angela12

    Hello, I have a huge question, 
    I have a student National competition in LA, I live in NY, can i fly on the plane with my foreign unexpired passport with no visa stamped on it? would it be safe or should i just remain home? this has me worried  

    • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

      Fly away.

  • Angela12

    Hello, I have a huge question, 
    I have a student National competition in LA, I live in NY, can i fly on the plane with my foreign unexpired passport with no visa stamped on it? would it be safe or should i just remain home? this has me worried  

  • Coracao

    Hi, 
    Do valid drivers license count as identification? I saw the question posted but did not see an answer sorry if it has already been answered. 

    • Cid

      Umm durh! Not trying to be rude. . But come one now is a VALID license.!Your good. Don’t worry about ANYTHING

  • Coracao

    Hi, 
    Do valid drivers license count as identification? I saw the question posted but did not see an answer sorry if it has already been answered. 

  • Cid

    So my Gf is going to the Army.
    She might end up in Hawaii.
    I know its outside of the USA physically. . But its still part of it.
    In case this does happen. . I would like to know if I would have any trouble going there and especially coming back?!

    • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

      Sorry, have no info on Hawaii.

    • Cat

      I’ve been there. It’s beautiful. People will probably think you are from there if you are brown. :)

      • dreamer305?

        do you have a foreign passport?

  • Cid

    So my Gf is going to the Army.
    She might end up in Hawaii.
    I know its outside of the USA physically. . But its still part of it.
    In case this does happen. . I would like to know if I would have any trouble going there and especially coming back?!

    • Cat

      I’ve been there. It’s beautiful. People will probably think you are from there if you are brown. :)

  • Samantha46

    Has anyone flown into or out of miami with unexpired passport and no visa?

    • dreamer305

      friend with brazilian unexpired passport and no visa (got passport at consulate) just came back from california last weekend with no problem.

      i live in miami and have traveled out and back like 5 times. they’re very nice. nothing to worry about. 

      • dreamer305

        i forgot to say that i also have a foreign passport (with expired visa) no problems..

  • Samantha46

    Has anyone flown into or out of miami with unexpired passport and no visa?

    • dreamer305

      friend with brazilian unexpired passport and no visa (got passport at consulate) just came back from california last weekend with no problem.

      i live in miami and have traveled out and back like 5 times. they’re very nice. nothing to worry about. 

      • dreamer305

        i forgot to say that i also have a foreign passport (with expired visa) no problems..

  • Samantha46

    Has anyone flown recently into or out of Miami?

    • Caro Cerrada

      i did! in august from miami international airport, its not that bad. Without knowing, I followed the indications the blogger stated above too and everything went smooth.  Now i’m actually reading them here. You shouldn’t worry.

    • Esteban Roncancio

      miami is pretty easy to fly out from. you should worry about flying INTO any airport, they don’t check again once you land. this is not legal advice. http://www.swer.org

  • Samantha46

    Has anyone flown recently into or out of Miami?

    • Caro Cerrada

      i did! in august from miami international airport, its not that bad. Without knowing, I followed the indications the blogger stated above too and everything went smooth.  Now i’m actually reading them here. You shouldn’t worry.

    • Esteban Roncancio

      miami is pretty easy to fly out from. you should worry about flying INTO any airport, they don’t check again once you land. this is not legal advice. http://www.swer.org

  • sam

    I’ve been waiting for the Venezuelan consulate to call me for about a year now to renew my passport, anyone else having the same problem? I’m dying to get it renewed so I can fly.

    • Esteban Roncancio

      i have a venezuelan friend and she told me they simply don’t give out passports.. so idk how it works..

  • sam

    I’ve been waiting for the Venezuelan consulate to call me for about a year now to renew my passport, anyone else having the same problem? I’m dying to get it renewed so I can fly.

    • Esteban Roncancio

      i have a venezuelan friend and she told me they simply don’t give out passports.. so idk how it works..

  • SDGuest

    Hello,
    i just followed you on Twitter, please follow me back so i can dm u… @AaronFenty:twitter 

  • me

    I am a freshman in high school and this summer, our school is taking a trip to Washington. I am interetsed in going. Since it is a school trip, and inside the US do we need a passport? I have a passport from the US but not a visa, and Im not old enough to have a license, but I have a school id. What do you think?Safe?

    • dakldfj

      You can fly with your student ID with no problem. Especially if you are with a bunch of other 15/16 year olds. All they ask is your birthday to verify you are under 18. (I’ve flown continental like this many times, they ahve the info on their site last time I checked)

  • Juicy Silva1

    Hey I have a question? I bought my ticket to fly to NY, on my passport it says my fullname & maiden name but my ticket only has my full and last name NO maiden name, would that matter? (my foreign passport is not expired) please let me know soon. Thanks!

    • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

      Not a problem.

      • Juicy Silva1

        Thank you so much.

  • Carl0s_7310

    Hey i wanna travel to california from texas and well… i am a college student i am registered with the Selective service and have two college ids from the one i am attending right now and a previous one i attended last year i have a debit card under my name except that it has my second last name on it? would that work as an identification?

  • Carl0s_7310

    Hey i wanna travel to california from texas and well… i am a college student i am registered with the Selective service and have two college ids from the one i am attending right now and a previous one i attended last year i have a debit card under my name except that it has my second last name on it? would that work as an identification?

  • Zoey

    My auntie told me a story that her friends friend flow to LA to NY with her passport. She got to NY and made it back to LA next thing they know She was deported back home?! Now I’m scared.

    • Esteban Roncancio

      was her passport unexpired? there’s always some risk, especially if you have a deportation order. i haven’t had any issues in my experience.

      this is not legal advice. swer.org

  • Zoey

    My auntie told me a story that her friends friend flow to LA to NY with her passport. She got to NY and made it back to LA next thing they know She was deported back home?! Now I’m scared.

    • Esteban Roncancio

      was her passport unexpired? there’s always some risk, especially if you have a deportation order. i haven’t had any issues in my experience.

      this is not legal advice. swer.org

  • marii

    have you flown out of oakland airport before, ?

    • Esteban Roncancio

      i flew out of oakland to miami in october 2010. no problems if you have a unexpired passport. just show it to them open so they don’t flip through the pages. this is not legal advice. http://www.swer.org

      • Marii

        Unexpired but no visa ok?

  • Katrina langdown

    how can i get this copy of a. forien passport checked out it is a man ive met on the internet,and he has emailed me a copy of his passport,and want to make sure he is for real

    • Katrina langown

      I have got no reply yet can anyone help me out on this  stuation

  • dakldfj

    You can fly with your student ID with no problem. Especially if you are with a bunch of other 15/16 year olds. All they ask is your birthday to verify you are under 18. (I’ve flown continental like this many times, they ahve the info on their site last time I checked)

  • Angel

    has anyone flown out of Philadelphia airport? Is it still okay to use an unexpired passport with no visa for traveling? 

    Prerna, Good luck on your future hearings.  Thank you for being one of the many voices for undocumented people.

    • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

      Should be fine

  • Angel

    has anyone flown out of Philadelphia airport? Is it still okay to use an unexpired passport with no visa for traveling? 

    Prerna, Good luck on your future hearings.  Thank you for being one of the many voices for undocumented people.

    • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

      Should be fine

  • George

    Thank you for the post is very informative. I’m sure it was a pain to answer the same question over an over again in the comments because people don’t take the time to read previous comments.  I’m wondering if anybody has had any issue recently?

  • George

    Thank you for the post is very informative. I’m sure it was a pain to answer the same question over an over again in the comments because people don’t take the time to read previous comments.  I’m wondering if anybody has had any issue recently?

  • Josuegonzalez27

    Hey how did that work out because I need to do something similar!! So please reply!

    • Maximo500

      hey josue, how did it go with you? It seems like people just want help but they don’t check the website again to talk about their experience

  • Josuegonzalez27

    Hey how did that work out because I need to do something similar!! So please reply!

    • Maximo500

      hey josue, how did it go with you? It seems like people just want help but they don’t check the website again to talk about their experience

  • Mia 8686

    You all should go to this link This article is actually from there and you can read about a lot of other peoples experiences.  

  • Mia 8686

    You all should go to this link This article is actually from there and you can read about a lot of other peoples experiences.  

  • Lisa350

    Hi
    Any good or bad news riding the plane from Los Angeles airport to Seattle Tacoma airport? I’m planning next month me and my fiancé and we are both overstayed but we have a unexpired passport to present to the TSA. Do you think everything will be fine? Thank you I need any comments please…

    • Prislizzy

      I live in Seattle and HAVE NEVER heard of anyone getting checked. I am undocumented and travel all the time to LAX in Cali and back to Seattle with no problem!!

  • Lisa350

    Hi
    Any good or bad news riding the plane from Los Angeles airport to Seattle Tacoma airport? I’m planning next month me and my fiancé and we are both overstayed but we have a unexpired passport to present to the TSA. Do you think everything will be fine? Thank you I need any comments please…

  • Lisa350

    Hi
    Any good or bad news riding the plane from Los Angeles airport to Seattle Tacoma airport? I’m planning next month me and my fiancé and we are both overstayed but we have a unexpired passport to present to the TSA. Do you think everything will be fine? Thank you I need any comments please…

    • Prislizzy

      I live in Seattle and HAVE NEVER heard of anyone getting checked. I am undocumented and travel all the time to LAX in Cali and back to Seattle with no problem!!

  • Fredystrickland

    Sometimes TSA have random I.D. Checks once after you pass thru TSA Check point right before you board the aircraft.  its random but Ive seen it happened before at the BOISE IDAHO airport. 

    • Lisa350

      Thanks for the info. It’s help…

  • Lisa350

    Thanks for the info. It’s help…

  • Bebe_luvs_15

    Me and my boyfriend want to travel to Miami we are in Phoenix Az is there a problem with any of the 2 airports.. He only has is a valid Mexican passport??

  • Bebe_luvs_15

    Me and my boyfriend want to travel to Miami we are in Phoenix Az is there a problem with any of the 2 airports.. He only has is a valid Mexican passport??

  • nyc

    hey. im thinking of traveling to orlando from nyc. i have recently renewed my passport so the agent should be able to tell if im overstayed just by flipping thru my passport. but im still scared because i heard they scan your passport. is this true?

    • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

      No they do not scan your passport.

      • nyc

        so my friend is thinking of driving there. is there a possibility that we will get stopped and get checked by any immigration advocates?

  • nyc

    hey. im thinking of traveling to orlando from nyc. i have recently renewed my passport so the agent should be able to tell if im overstayed just by flipping thru my passport. but im still scared because i heard they scan your passport. is this true?

    • nyc

      so my friend is thinking of driving there. is there a possibility that we will get stopped and get checked by any immigration advocates?

  • Dreamcollege

    If I use my Washington ID to fly from my home state which is not Washington state, will it be a redflag? Since Washington does not require a legal status to get an ID. Thanks in advance.

    • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

      No.

  • Dreamcollege

    If I use my Washington ID to fly from my home state which is not Washington state, will it be a redflag? Since Washington does not require a legal status to get an ID. Thanks in advance.

    • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

      No.

  • Saspurs831

    Hey Prerna, first of all thanks for all your knowledge on this topic. Question i read almost all the comments and was just wondering do you think airports near the border for example San Diego are a little more strict on they whole checking the visa section. I know you said that they are not supposed to on all the other comments however most of them where more inland airports and since San Diego is a little closer i was just wondering if they where a little diffrent thanks again.

  • Saspurs831

    Hey Prerna, first of all thanks for all your knowledge on this topic. Question i read almost all the comments and was just wondering do you think airports near the border for example San Diego are a little more strict on they whole checking the visa section. I know you said that they are not supposed to on all the other comments however most of them where more inland airports and since San Diego is a little closer i was just wondering if they where a little diffrent thanks again.

  • Marisela Nunez91

    I’m still nervous for my husband, we are flyin from San Diego to Oakland and he only has Mexican passport and Mexican ID. Some people tell me it’s ok some don’t! I’m very confused. Please help.

    • Maximo500

      hey, did you fly yet ? how did it go ? 

  • Maximo500

    Hello, Can anyone help me please? I would like to travel from Atlanta to Boston and From Atlanta to New Orleans. I have a foreign passport and my J1 visa expired one year ago. I would like to know if somebody knows about the TSA in Atlanta. Has anybody else traveled from there on the same situation ? Thank you for your answers. Please somebody who really knows about it 

  • Maximo500

    Hello, Can anyone help me please? I would like to travel from Atlanta to Boston and From Atlanta to New Orleans. I have a foreign passport and my J1 visa expired one year ago. I would like to know if somebody knows about the TSA in Atlanta. Has anybody else traveled from there on the same situation ? Thank you for your answers. Please somebody who really knows about it 

  • lala

    what about boats? for instance, to go to Catalina…? Thanks!

  • lala

    what about boats? for instance, to go to Catalina…? Thanks!

  • Maximo500

    hey, did you fly yet ? how did it go ? 

  • Wendymaci

    How is traveling from Phoenix, AZ to Austin, Texas?

  • Wendymaci

    How is traveling from Phoenix, AZ to Austin, Texas?

  • Maria

    I have my Mexican passport and recently got my state ID will I be in any risk? I’m a dreamer.

    • Rossie

      I work for TSA and we only check a passport to see if its expired. We don’t accept foreign IDs just foreign unexpired passports. You should have no problem if you have a valid boarding pass and unexpired passport. The only immigration you would encounter is when you land on an international flight. The people entering the country are the only ones who need to be screened by immigration.

      • bella

        Hi I was just wondering if it would be safe to travel from Washington to Tucson AZ with just my Washington drivers license I also have the work permit that allows me to work here legally. Or you I need my passport?? Also would I have any trouble im just scared to do it but I want to go visit some family.

        • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

          A valid driver’s license is really all you need to travel. I travel on a state-issued ID. It has to be unexpired though.

          • bella

            Even if i am a migrant college student ???

          • prernalal

            Even if you are an alien from outer space

          • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

            Even if you are an alien from outerspace :)

    • Rossie

      Sorry I forgot to tell you that your state ID (I’m guessing from the US) will be just perfect no need to show your passport.

  • Maria

    I have my Mexican passport and recently got my state ID will I be in any risk? I’m a dreamer.

    • Rossie

      I work for TSA and we only check a passport to see if its expired. We don’t accept foreign IDs just foreign unexpired passports. You should have no problem if you have a valid boarding pass and unexpired passport. The only immigration you would encounter is when you land on an international flight. The people entering the country are the only ones who need to be screened by immigration.

    • Rossie

      Sorry I forgot to tell you that your state ID (I’m guessing from the US) will be just perfect no need to show your passport.

  • Rossie

    I work for TSA and we only check a passport to see if its expired. We don’t accept foreign IDs just foreign unexpired passports. You should have no problem if you have a valid boarding pass and unexpired passport. The only immigration you would encounter is when you land on an international flight.

    • Vanessa

      may you please email me at Vanessa.hoptowitsosa@aol.com……..i have questions about that concerning my husband….he has a passport but has expired…were wanting to travel to providence from dallas wanting to know if he’d be able to….thank you

      • http://prernalal.com/ Prerna Lal

        Hope he was able to obtain a new passport from the embassy

    • vi

      Even if I travel to hawaii

    • vi

      Even if I travel to hawaii

    • kenny

      Rossie
      My wife is illegal me and my son are citizens we are in cali and have to go to new york cause of my work im afraid that if we go on plane my wife will go through some troubles were going to the mexican consulate and getting a pasport tomorrow will that be ok ??? Please anyone help

  • Daniel

    Is it true that regional airports are safer? Once you get through TSA, will they still ask you to show your passport after landing?

    I’m flying from Oakland to Chicago, but can also fly from a regional airport if its safer!

    • prernalal

      None of this is true

  • SDGuest

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    i just followed you on Twitter, please follow me back so i can dm u… @AaronFenty:twitter