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I'm staying in Seattle on a J-1 visa for 3 months, and I need to apply for a long-term French visa for another trip immediately following my internship here. The French consulate in San Francisco kindly agreed to make an exception and take my application, which is great. (Applying by mail is not allowed for long-term visas apparently.)

I can go and apply, but do I need to stay in San Francisco until my passport is returned to me? Or can I return to Seattle without my passport, and ask them to mail it? How does one go about flying with no passport?

I'm an Argentine citizen with both a valid B-1/B-2 and J-1 visa. I've entered the US many times without any issue.

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    If you're flying, do you have another form of accepted ID such as a driver's license? – Giorgio Jun 13 '18 at 16:55
  • How long will the process take? Have you askeD? – Azor Ahai Jun 13 '18 at 17:17
  • There are some other questions on here about passing TSA screening without an ID from the list. In general, it's possible to fly without ID, but I don't know how likely you are, as a short-term visitor, to be able to avail yourself of this option. They are understandably vague about the criteria for using it. My wife did it once, but she lives in the US. The safest thing to do would be to get a Washington ID card, but you may not qualify as a "resident" for that purpose, or you may be unable to produce an acceptable document to prove it. – phoog Jun 13 '18 at 17:49
  • @Giorgio the chance that Guido has any of those documents, as an exchange visitor present for only three months, is virtually nil except in the unlikely case that he lives in Canada. The only one he's eligible for is a state ID, and he may not even be eligible for that. – phoog Jun 13 '18 at 19:02
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    It’s going to take a while, but there are other options to get from SF to Seattle (and back): train, bus, driving... – jcaron Jun 14 '18 at 0:25
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You can (legally) fly without ID:

https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification

However, as other people have said in the comments, I'm not sure how easy this is for people who have no other 'ties' to the USA. Generally speaking, in my experience, it's been similar to the kinds of questions that would be asked to verify your credit report - a list of cars you've owned, addresses you've lived at, or bank accounts that you've had. You might not have a large enough file for this process to work for you.

I'd ask if the Argentine consulate has some kind of identity document that they can make for you.

Alternatively, as an Argentine citizen, you are eligible for a US Global Entry card:

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/international-arrangements/argentina

This may be going the long way around to fix your problem, but it's a definite possibility.

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    It's a great idea, but given how long it takes to get Global Entry, it's probably not practical in this situation. Worth considering in other circumstances though for sure. – Zach Lipton Jun 13 '18 at 22:27
  • Thank you, this helps a lot. I think I could make a good case to the TSA officer, and provide photocopies of everything, but I asked the Argentine consulate anyway. I suppose I could give the TSA a call, but I don't suppose they are particularly receptive :). – Guido Jun 14 '18 at 22:44
  • On the phone, the TSA confirmed that I can fly given I show enough proof about my identity. Bank statements, utility bills, national IDs, photocopies of passports/visas all help. I guess I'll let you know how it goes next week ;) – Guido Jun 15 '18 at 16:43
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    If you are going to talk about Global Entry, it is worthwhile mentioning that as a J1 visa holder, you could also apply for a Washington state photo ID which would allow you to travel on domestic flights. – Jacob Horbulyk Jun 16 '18 at 21:56
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    Reporting back: I successfully flew ORD-SEA without a passport! The process was super easy to be honest. I presented my national ID, a US debit card, and my US SSN card as proofs. I had way more things, but they weren't needed. I was taken for "additional screening", which means I got a very very thorough patdown and they manually searched my carry-on bag. The TSA officer was very professional during the whole thing. I recommend getting a state ID if time allows, but this is a definite possibility too. – Guido Jul 28 '18 at 18:40
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Reporting back: I successfully flew ORD-SEA without a passport! The process was super easy to be honest. I presented my Argentinian national ID, a US debit card, and my US SSN card as proofs. I had many more things, but they weren't needed. I suppose this may be a bit harder without any formal ties to the US, but should still be doable. As I understand it, they just check your identity to see that you actually have a flight that day and are not on a no-fly list. But you do need to absolutely prove your identity to the TSA officer.

When you fly without ID you do need to go through "additional screening", which means you get a very very thorough patdown and they manually search your bags. The TSA officer was very professional during the whole thing, asked if I had any medical conditions or preferred a private screening too. Also, I got to skip the line at security, and I think I actually saved time! :)

I recommend getting a state ID if time allows (I think I will anyway now), but this is a definite possibility too.

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