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.

Can You Fly With a Paper ID?

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.

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.

Can You 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.

Can You Fly With an Expired License?

The TSA say that you can fly with an expired license under certain circumstances.

If the expiration date of your license has already come to pass, the Transportation Security Administration state that:

“If your driver’s license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you are unable to renew at your state driver’s license agency, you may still use it as acceptable identification at the checkpoint.

TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID a year after expiration.”

Note that it’s a good idea to obtain a Real ID driver’s license as soon as possible, which you will be able to use as your main ID card.

What Forms of Identification Are Acceptable 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)

Can You Fly With a Birth Certificate?

While a birth certificate cannot be used as your primary form of ID to fly, it can be used together with additional documentation to confirm your identity.

So, while a birth certificate will not allow you to fly, it may be useful to travel with if your ID was lost or stolen.

What Can You 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.

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.

Do Children Need ID to Fly?

As long as a child (someone who is under 18) is flying domestically within the U.S. and is accompanied by an adult who has an acceptable form of ID, kids do not need any form of ID to fly.

However, the airline you are flying with may ask you to show proof of the child’s age.

It’s therefore a good idea to travel with a copy of the child’s birth certificate or an identification card.

Robert Davis - Seasoned Flyer
Travel Management Consultant

Robert is an expert in commercial air travel with decades of experience in the travel industry, and has spent countless hours in airports and on planes for work.

Robert therefore has an unrivaled understanding of everything related to commercial air travel, and has been quoted or mentioned in major publications, such as Insider, Trip Savvy, ZDNet, and Bored Panda, showcasing his extensive knowledge and expertise in the field.