I am a Sri Lankan citizen in the United States on a student visa, living in Boston. I am traveling to China and will need to drop off my passport at the Chinese consulate in New York. The group I am working with has booked me a flight for this Wednesday. While I will be able to show my passport on the flight down, I will need to leave it temporarily at the Chinese embassy while my visa is processed. Is there any way that I could be able to board a plane back to Boston without my passport? I have Sri Lankan national ID and a copy of my passport.

Is this feasible, or should I book a train ticket?

  • do you have a US drivers license? – Aganju Feb 12 '18 at 11:48

According to the list of valid IDs accepted by TSA, the government agency that handles airport security in the U.S., the only form of ID accepted for foreign nationals not holding one of many U.S., Canadian, or Native American ID cards is a foreign passport. Neither of the two forms of ID you listed in your question are in the list.

However, if you scroll to the bottom of that page, you'll see that there is a procedure for people who don't have valid ID on them. It's a fairly arduous process, involving collecting and verifying your personal information (which they will likely have due to your U.S. immigration process), and possibly some additional screening; you may not be allowed to fly if they aren't able to confirm your information. If you wish to fly, do arrive at the airport far in advance of your flight so you have time to complete this process.

There is (probably, I haven't checked) no ID check on Amtrak trains, so I recommend booking a train ticket. Besides, the train will probably take less time than having to arrive at the airport very early and going through all of that extra screening, with the chance of being denied access.

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    The train also drops you off in the heart of NYC, unlike the plane. I lived in Boston for some years and any time I had to go to NYC I'd take the train. – MadHatter Feb 12 '18 at 7:13
  • While you don’t need your passport to board a train, you are required by law to carry an “alien registration document,” which means a printout of your I-94 (from the CBP website). – Guan Yang Feb 12 '18 at 12:32
  • @GuanYang the requirement to carry an alien registration document is only triggered when a "certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card" is "issued" to someone. There's no requirement to visit the DHS website to print the I-94 receipt. – phoog Feb 12 '18 at 15:46
  • @phoog The regulation implies DHS considers the electronic I-94 “issued”, eg “Travelers to whom an electronic Form I-94 has been issued.” An admission stamp is also evidence of registration, 8 CFR 264.1(b), but not available if the passport is not with you. NAFSA has a nice summary. – Guan Yang Feb 12 '18 at 17:04
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    @GuanYang it seems rather alarmist to me. Nonimmigrants are not routinely penalized for failing to carry their documents. I have not been able to locate a single prosecution under INA 264(e) (8 USC 1304(e)) aside from a few in which the accused was also being prosecuted for several more severe crimes. See also, for example, Immigration Law and the Myth of Comprehensive Registration. – phoog Feb 12 '18 at 17:35

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