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Can You Fly without a Passport if You Have a Green Card?

For many immigrants who come from countries that issue national identity documents, getting their residency cards from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is something they’re familiar with. Whether your green card denotes conditional or permanent residency status, this official document can serve various purposes, and this includes air travel. The San Diego immigration attorneys from KS Visa Law explain which documents you’ll need when you’re planning to fly within the U.S. as well as to and from the country.

Flying within the U.S.

There was a time when boarding a domestic flight in the U.S. didn’t require providing an identification document, but that was before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the passing of the Patriot Act, which created the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration. 

These days, a government-issued photo ID is a must when taking any flight, and you can certainly present your green card to this effect. For example, if you’re flying from Salt Lake City to Philadelphia, a green card will suffice. However, if you’re traveling outside the U.S., the green card alone won’t be sufficient. 

Flying Outside the U.S.

At a minimum, international travel of any kind requires carrying a passport. Depending on your destination, itinerary, and diplomatic relations between the nations you’re traveling to and from, you may also need a visa. 

You cannot travel outside the U.S. without a passport unless you’re being removed from the country by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. You cannot enter the U.S. with your green card alone. You need a valid passport, preferably the passport you used to get your initial entry visa.

Flying into the U.S.

There are a few exceptions to the passport travel rule when entering the U.S. Individuals who are being actively persecuted and who may have been denied passports by despotic regimes may apply for asylum using other forms of ID. Some military, diplomatic, and government personnel are allowed to travel without passports when they’re part of planned missions. 

Border cards are accepted at checkpoints along the borders with Canada and Mexico, but these documents are essentially a streamlined version of American passports. All other situations require passports. Plus, if you’re a conditional or permanent resident, you’re also expected to carry your green card at all times, particularly when traveling.

Your green card by itself won’t be sufficient for international flights. In fact, you can actually enter the U.S. with just your passport in case your green card has been lost or stolen, although it would be a good idea to start the process of getting a replacement from the American consulate office abroad before you return. It doesn’t matter if the passport you use to enter is a replacement that lacks the original visa stamp. This can be checked by Customs and Border Protection agents at the airport, seaport, or crossing point.

Using Other Forms of ID when Flying in the U.S.

Since 2018, the Real ID Act has established guidelines for the types of identification cards that can be used for domestic air travel, and they include green cards, but this doesn’t mean you’re obligated to use it. You can fly within the U.S. and its territories with a valid state driver’s license or ID card, but please note that you’re still expected to carry the green card as a condition of being a legal resident.

If you need information on immigration services in San Diego, contact KS Visa Law today. From family law immigration to naturalization, we can address your immigration-related needs. Call 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.

May 2024