There is still lots of confusion surrounding what you need to fly, especially with the introduction of the REAL ID Act.
Only a third of Americans possess a valid US passport, but are they the only ones who are allowed to fly, or are there other forms of ID that the TSA accept to fly?
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Do You Need a Passport to Fly in the US?
If you want to fly domestically in the US, you do not need a passport to fly, though a passport can be used as your form of ID.
So you can fly to all 50 U.S. states and territories, including Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico without a passport.
Acceptable ID to Fly Domestically in the US
The TSA state that the following forms of ID are acceptable to fly with if you are flying domestically:
- 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 passport
- Permanent resident card
- DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
- State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
- 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
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
- U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential
- Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
When You Need a Passport to Fly
You only need a passport to fly if you are flying internationally outside the U.S.
You may also need a visa depending on the country you are flying to.
What is a Passport Card?
A passport card is different to a standard passport, as it can only be used for domestic travel, though can also be used when entering the United States at land-border crossings and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
A passport card costs $30 if you already possess a passport book (standard passport), and $65 if you are a first-time applicant.
Minors Don’t Need ID to Fly
If flying with an adult with an acceptable ID, minors do not need any form of ID to fly.
When flying internationally, minors need a passport to fly regardless of their age, as well as documentation necessary for travel depending on if the child is flying alone or with a single parent.
How to Get a Passport
Applying for and getting a passport is a straightforward process.
- If you have never had a passport before, you have to apply in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility.
- You will need to fill out some forms, show proof of ID, provide two valid photos, and pay fees.
- You will get your passport in 6-8 weeks.
- If you are renewing your passport, you can renew by mail, in-person, and online.
REAL ID and When You Need It
The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress to establish “minimum security standards for license issuance and production” to help prevent fraudulent identification.
As it stands, you do not need a REAL ID to fly domestically within the U.S.
But starting from May 2023, a REAL ID will be necessary to fly if you plan to use your state-issued ID or license to fly within the U.S.
Note that you can still use several acceptable forms of ID to fly, as listed above.
Remember that only a passport is a valid form of ID for international travel.
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).