Can undocumented people travel within the United States?

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Are you an undocumented immigrant wondering if you’re allowed to fly within the US? It’s a question that many in the immigrant community ask, and understandably so. With all the legal complexities and potential risks involved, it’s easy to feel uncertain and apprehensive. However, it’s important to note that with the right information and resources, it is possible to travel safely and confidently within the US as an undocumented immigrant.

Next, we will answer the following questions:

  1. Can undocumented people travel in the US?
  2. What are the risks of traveling by plane without documents?
  3. What documentation is needed for undocumented people to travel by plane?
  4. What is considered a domestic flight?
  5. What are some tips to prepare for a domestic flight?
  6. How can I find affordable flight options?

Can undocumented people travel in the US?

Yes, undocumented people can travel within the United States. No federal laws  prohibit undocumented individuals from traveling within the country, whether by car, bus, train, or airplane. However, there are risks to be aware of.

What are the risks of traveling by plane for undocumented people?

Undocumented individuals who travel by plane should know the risks involved. Immigration officials may be present at various stages of the travel process, such as during check-in, security screenings, or boarding. If immigration officials suspect an individual is undocumented, they may detain and initiate deportation proceedings. It is important to note that immigration enforcement on domestic flights is not a common occurrence, but it is still a possibility. Therefore, undocumented individuals should carefully consider their travel plans and make informed decisions to minimize risks.

What documentation is needed for undocumented people to travel by plane?

All travelers on a domestic flight must present a valid (not expired) photo ID issued by the state or federal government. In this case, undocumented people can show their foreign passport.

Typically, these are some of the forms of identification accepted by TSA:

  • State driver’s license 
  • Permanent resident card 
  • US Citizenship and Immigration Service Employment Authorization Card
  • Border-crossing cards 

It is important to note that the list of accepted forms of identification may change after May 7, 2025, when the REAL ID Act is fully implemented.

What is considered a domestic flight?

A domestic flight is a type of air travel that takes place within the borders of a single country and does not involve crossing international boundaries. In the United States, a domestic flight refers to travel within the 50 states and other US territories, such as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam. Domestic flights typically do not involve layovers or stops in other countries, and passengers are not required to go through customs or immigration. For instance, a non-stop flight from New York City to Los Angeles is considered domestic.

What are some tips to prepare for my flight?

To help you navigate this process, here are some steps recommended by Immigrants Rising, a non-profit organization that supports undocumented immigrants:

  1. Have identification ready: Make sure that when you book your flight, the name on your ticket matches the ID you will be using.
  2. Secure your devices: The government can ask you for your phone, but you do not have to provide your password. Keep your information secure; protect your devices with a number or word security password (as opposed to a pattern or a fingerprint).
  3. Develop a safety plan: If you get stopped, designate at least two people to access your important documents and contact information for your attorney/community organizations and family/friends. Share your flight info with them before traveling and discuss what to do if anything goes wrong.

For a list of affordable immigration lawyers and organizations, click here.

How can I find affordable flight options?

When you’re ready to book your flight, remember that there are several strategies you can use to find affordable options. 

  • Firstly, you must be flexible with your travel dates and destinations, as prices vary significantly based on the time of year and location. You may need to adjust your travel plans for the best deals.
  • Secondly, using flight comparison websites such as Kayak, Google Flights, or Skyscanner is a good idea. These websites allow you to compare prices from multiple airlines, to find the best deal possible.
  • Lastly, watch for airline sales and promotions, which can provide significant savings on airfare. Sign up for airline email alerts or follow them on social media to stay up-to-date on their latest deals. 

By using these tips, you can find affordable flight options that fit your budget and travel plans.

Mitzi Colin Lopez is a Digital Ads Content Creator and Experimenter at Noticias Para Inmigrantes. Her origin as a Mexican immigrant characterizes and drives her to empower the Latinx, Hispanic and immigrant communities. She is a recent graduate of West Chester University, where she obtained her bachelor’s in Political Science and Spanish. Her passions include social justice, advocacy, hiking, traveling, and weightlifting.