It’s common for people to only have a paper ID, such as a temporary driver’s license, as their main form of identification when their real ID has been lost or stolen.

According to the TSA, you cannot fly with a paper ID, as it is not considered a form of proper identification.

Domestic Flights

Even if you’re only flying domestically, a paper ID is not an acceptable form of identification to fly with.

We list acceptable forms of identification for domestic travel within the USA below.

Note that from May 7, 2025, you must have a REAL ID to be able to fly domestically due to the Real ID Act that is coming into effect whereby all passengers require a Real ID-compliant ID to fly.

International Flights

If you’re flying internationally, then a paper ID definitely won’t cut it, even if you can prove your identification in other ways.

When flying internationally, an ID card or even Real ID-compliant ID also won’t cut it, as a valid passport is always required.

US passport resting on a global map

Depending on the country you are traveling to, a visa may also be required.

Airline Polices

Airlines follow TSA regulations.

So regardless if you’re flying with Delta, Southwest, Spirit, United, American Airlines, or any other regional or major air carrier, a paper ID will not be allowed as your main form of identification to fly with.

As mentioned, from May 7, 2025, airlines will make sure that you have a REAL ID if you want to be able to fly domestically.

A woman's driver's license with Real ID

Acceptable Forms of Identification to Fly With

The TSA website states that the following forms of ID are acceptable to fly with:

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • Foreign government-issued valid passport
  • Permanent card of residency
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
  • Military ID – e.g. U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Border crossing card
  • An acceptable photo ID issued by a federally recognized, Tribal Nation/Indian Tribe
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • United States Merchant Mariner Credential
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

What to Do If You Only Have a Paper ID

If you only have a paper ID, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to fly, even though the TSA state it isn’t an acceptable form of ID.

If you have other documents that can help prove your identity, you may in fact still be able to fly.

If you only have a paper ID, you can use the following to help prove your identity:

  • A credit card
  • A business card with your photo on it
  • An identification card of some form
  • Mail or prescription medication with your name and residential address on the label
  • Utility bills showing your name and current address
  • A library card
  • Work security badges
  • Voter registration
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage license
  • Expired forms of other ID (if applicable)
  • Photos of your ID

It can also be a good idea to fill a police report if your ID has been stolen, as you can bring the police report to the airport to help your case.

The TSA has other ways of confirming your identity by checking in existing databases from federal facilities, but you will definitely want another form of ID or other acceptable documents that can help prove your identity.

a TSA agent confirming a passenger's identity

According to the TSA:

“A TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process which includes collecting information such as your name, current residential address, and other personal information to confirm your identity.”

In such cases, you will be subject to additional screening, to include a patdown and screening of carry-on property.

You should also arrive at least two hours before your flight due to the time the process will take.

You Can’t Fly With a Picture of Your ID

You cannot fly with a picture of your ID alone.

A photocopy or a digital scan of your ID card can be useful to help prove your identity, though.

See Also: Your Must-Have Travel Documents Checklist

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).