Okay, so you messed up and don’t have an ID but you need to catch a flight. What can you do? Well, you might be surprised to find out that you still might actually be able to board the plane even without an ID.
In this article, I will break down everything you need to know about getting through TSA without an ID. I’ll talk about both domestic and international flights and explain what the process is like for verifying your identity.
Can you get through TSA with no ID?
Yes, you can get through a TSA security checkpoint and board your plane without an ID. However, you will be subject to an identity verification process and also likely subjected to a heightened security screening. Keep reading below and I will break it all down for you.
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IDs accepted by TSA
Before jumping in to the steps of what to do when you don’t have a standard ID (e.g., a driver’s license), first you should make sure that you don’t have an alternative form of ID that is accepted by TSA. TSA accepts over a dozen different types of identification.
Below is a list of IDs accepted by TSA:
- Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
- U.S. passport
- U.S. passport card
- DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
- U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
- Permanent resident card
- Border crossing card
- State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
- Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
- HSPD-12 PIV card
- Foreign government-issued passport
- Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
- Transportation worker identification credential
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
- U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential
- Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
Make sure that your name used for your booking matches your ID since changing your name on a ticket can be a challenge.
If you’ve gone through all of those possibilities and you still do not have any qualifying form of identification then it is time to go through the identity verification process with TSA. Don’t worry — it’s usually not that bad!
TSA Identification verification process
If you have not arrived to the airport yet, do your best to arrive to the airport extra early because the verification process could take a long time.
The standard recommended time for arriving before a domestic flight is two hours so logically you would want to arrive at least two hours prior to your departure. (I would shoot for 2.5 to 3 hours prior to the flight.)
But the time required might also depend on the type of airport you are at.
If you are at a well-equipped, larger airport with lots of resources the agents there probably have more experience with this identity verification process and so the process could be much more streamlined.
That may not be the case at a much smaller, regional airport. You could imagine how long the process described below could take if you are dealing with a TSA agent who has never had to deal with the verification process before.
If you are already at the airport and just realized that you do not have your ID, hopefully you are not in a rush. If you have very limited time (30 minutes to get to boarding) there’s a chance that there will not be enough time for them to verify your identity and you may want to go ahead and just reschedule your flight if possible.
But if you do have time to spare then it could be worth it to go through the identity verification process.
Related: TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF)
Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC)
If you realize that you do not have an ID your first step is to approach a TSA agent and let them know that you do not have an ID and that you would like to go through the verification process so that you can still board your flight.
They are likely going to ask you for the following:
- A photo
- Phone number
- Social Security Number
- Date of birth
They will also request for you to supply two forms of secondary ID. The secondary form of ID can take a lot of different forms and these include:
- Library card
- Business card
- Social Security card
- Student ID
- Credit cards
- Photo of an ID
- Voter registration card
- Prescription with your name on the label
If your wallet or ID was stolen then it would be very helpful for you to have a police report to back up your claim. If you are traveling with family members who do have an ID and you have photos of you together with them that can also help bolster your case.
The more documents you can supply, the better.
In some cases, showing some of the above documents may be enough for your identity to be verified but in other cases it might not be enough.
TSA states that, “If your identity cannot be verified with the provided documentation, you may be required to go through an alternative identity verification process, which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information, and asking personal questions to help confirm your identity.”
You may also be asked to fill out a special form.
If your identity cannot be verified then a TSA agent may resort to the Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC).
In this situation, an agent on the other side of the phone will attempt to verify your identity and possibly ask you some personal questions. They will accomplish this by running your name against a database and looking for you to confirm answers to questions.
These questions could be similar to those identity verification questions that pop up when you attempt to do something like check your credit score on Credit Karma. But they also could be more random or a little bit deeper so be prepared to jog your memory as best you can.
If you are not able to answer the questions accurately or if you simply refuse to then you will not be able to proceed through the TSA security checkpoint and therefore you will not board your flight.
It’s worth pointing out that if you are traveling with an outstanding arrest warrant and you have to go through the identification verification process there is a good chance your warrant will be discovered and you could be arrested.
Get through security
After you have verified your identity, your journey is not complete. You will still need to go through the airport security checkpoint but you can expect to have to go through heightened security.
Most likely, a TSA agent will ask you to step aside while they go through the extra security steps with you. The exact process that you will have to go through will depend on the discretion of the TSA agents but some things that you can expect to encounter include:
- Invasive pat down
- Thorough search of all your belongings which means you will likely have to remove objects from your luggage
- Extra x-ray scans
The process will likely be similar to what you would experience if you were to have SSSS on your boarding pass.
I’m not sure what happens if you don’t have an ID but you have TSA Pre-Check, which normally allows you to bypass the main security line. I highly doubt that they would allow you to get in the Pre-Check line but stranger things have probably happened.
Related: TSA No Fly List Explained
Boarding the plane
Once you get through the security checkpoint, you can finally make your way to the gate for boarding. Your boarding pass should have a note that you do not have an ID on you and that should be enough to substitute for your ID to get you on a plane.
If you want to visit an airport lounge like a Centurion Lounge typically they will ask to see your identification. It’s not clear to me if airport lounges will allow you to enter without a valid ID. But you would think that if your TSA authenticated identity is good enough for boarding an airplane, it should be good enough to stroll into a lounge.
Once you arrive at the gate area, I would recommend to quickly check in with an agent at the gate and let them know that you have a boarding pass with no ID but that you have been verified by TSA.
That should help prevent any confusion at the time of boarding just in case the agents are not familiar with how to deal with the process.
Don’t try anything “funny”
If you don’t have your ID with you or any other secondary forms of ID, you might be tempted to try to sneak your way through security or try some other type of “funny business.”
This is a very bad idea because in addition to a potential criminal violation, you could also get hit with a civil fine from TSA.
So even if you are under stress trying to figure things out, don’t make any false statements or do anything that could be construed as you trying to circumvent security.
The situation is much different for international flights. You must have a passport to leave the country in almost every circumstance. Therefore, if you do not have a passport then you will almost certainly be grounded.
If you are currently abroad and you do not have a passport you should contact the local embassy or consulate and they will be able to help you based on your needs.
In some cases, they can issue you a limited-validity passport that allows you to gain entry back into the US but does not come with full travel privileges to visit other countries. If you don’t have an ID and there is an urgent emergency you should be able to get your request expedited.
TSA ID FAQs
Unfortunately, most airlines will not refund your ticket if you simply lost your ID. You may be able to negotiate with them so that you can board a later flight.
TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion that has acceptable identification.
Acceptable forms of ID cannot be more than 12 months past the identified expiration date. (Due to the coronavirus pandemic, agents are currently being lenient.)
There are a lot of different types of documents that can qualify as a secondary form of ID and some of these include:
Social Security card
Photo of an ID
Prescription with your name on the label
Getting through TSA without an ID requires you to jump through a few extra hoops. As long as you give yourself enough time and comply with the process, you should still be able to board your plane without major issues. However, if you are departing on an international flight you likely will not be able to board your plane without a valid passport.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.