Bit of a random question, but does it matter what form of ID you show to TSA when flying internationally? For example, could you show any of the acceptable forms of ID listed on the TSA website? Or do you have to show a passport when departing on an international flight?

This page from TSA seems to say that you can use any REAL ID for an international flight instead of a passport, but it's a bit vaguely worded.

I know that I could just use a passport at TSA (since I obviously need to have one for an international flight anyway), but I'm specifically wondering if you have to show TSA a passport?

Could I just show them a driver's license instead if that's the ID that's most readily available? Heck, I have a Global Entry card, a Merchant Mariner Credential, and a TWIC card, all of which are qualifying IDs according to TSA... can I just show one of them instead of my passport before an international departure?

In the past, I would think the answer is a simple yes, since TSA was mainly just scanning your boarding pass to see if it was valid, checking to make sure you have a legitimate form of ID, and verifying that your name on the boarding pass matches the name on your ID.

But now TSA is rolling out more comprehensive biometric ID checking system (here's the press release on how this works at BWI) that not only verifies your ID, but also automatically shows the TSA agent what flight you're on without the need to show your boarding pass.

So I'm wondering if, with this new system, you have to show the passport you checked into your flight with in order for the verification to work on TSA's end. My first thought is no, since domestic travelers don't show any form of ID to the airline during check in, so this technology must not rely on that information anyway. But maybe someone has first hand experience with this and could share?

As an aside, does it matter what ID you show TSA if you're a dual citizen (US + another country) flying on an international departure?

I imagine you'd just want to show your US passport (or other form of US-issued ID) since that's the most straightforward, but what if you checked into your flight with your other passport because that's what you want to use on arrival at your destination's border control? Can you still show TSA your US passport anyway? They're obviously not immigration control and don't care about that stuff, but not sure if showing different IDs at check-in and TSA would wreak havoc in their systems and delay you while they sort it out.

  • If you had to show a passport to go through security for a departing international flight, that would be easy to defeat: you can have an itinerary where the first leg is domestic, and the first and second legs are at the same airline or in parts of the terminal in the transiting airport that are connected post-security. You would only go through security at the first airport, which sees a departing domestic flight. You would not go through security at the second airport where you depart on the international flight, since you arrive post-security from the first flight.
    – user102008
    May 3, 2023 at 14:53
  • @user102008 Fair enough... seems like people are only occasionally running into situations where TSA requests to see a passport for an international departure (primarily when departing from an international-only terminal). But, as you say, if you have a domestic connection before your international departure, TSA might not even know that... or perhaps they will once they roll out these new biometric security screening devices at all airports since these devices tell the TSA officer what flights you're on? May 3, 2023 at 18:41
  • As an anecdote about BWI, I flew out of there a couple weeks ago (TSA Precheck, at D/E checkpoint), and I was asked to show my boarding pass which surprised me, as I haven't had to do that for a while now at my home airport), so the BWI biometric check wasn't setup there yet.
    – Milwrdfan
    May 3, 2023 at 21:49
  • How much spare time do you have on this journey ? :-) May 4, 2023 at 9:23

4 Answers 4


TSA is for stopping guns and bombs, and has no role in immigration. Any passport will suffice, or any other ID on their approved list.

For instance if you are a dual citizen bearing dual passports, you can use your foreign passport at TSA, even though you are supposed to exit the US on your US passport (a bit silly since the US doesn't have exit immigration, nominally).

  • Fair enough. Seems simplest to remember to always show the US passport to US authorities (even though we don't have standard exit immigration checks), just so you don't get all confused in the off chance there is a spot immigration check at your gate. But immigration isn't TSA's job anyway, so theoretically any approved ID should do the trick (though we now have at least one data point on this thread suggesting that this isn't the case for international flights and only a passport will do). May 3, 2023 at 13:04
  • @geekypenguin27 I show my foreign passport to TSA all the time. It's never been a problem.
    – phoog
    May 3, 2023 at 16:49

I have shown a driver's license to TSA for an international flight and been told that it is not acceptable and that they need to see a passport. (JFK terminal 1, March 2023.) Procedures may vary at different airports and terminals.

  • 1
    Oh, very interesting. That seems to go against the info that TSA has online, but as you say, this may vary between airports, terminals, and even TSA officers. May 3, 2023 at 13:02
  • 2
    I flew from JFK numerous times on international flights and never once showed the TSA anything other than my drivers license. Last such flight was 2 weeks ago.
    – JonathanReez
    May 3, 2023 at 16:04
  • 4
    @user4556274 Real ID isn't being enforced yet. When I tried showing a US driver's license at the TSA checkpoint a few years ago, also at JFK, they said "I know you have a passport because you're flying internationally." Obviously they wouldn't be able to do that at a terminal with both domestic and international flights.
    – phoog
    May 3, 2023 at 16:51
  • 9
    @phoog agreed, it just goes to show how rules and procedures are often inconsistent and inconsistently followed... not just by TSA.
    – TypeIA
    May 3, 2023 at 16:59
  • 2
    This is an example of inconsistent application of procedure by a TSA agent. It shouldn't matter theoretically, but if an agent does not follow exact protocol and requests it, then in practice it does matter
    – DFeng
    May 4, 2023 at 4:46

A standard ID (e.g driver's license) different from a passport is sufficient. The TSA's responsibilities are different than that of customs (which in the case of the United States, outbound customs do not exist as screening and potential interception planning is done electronically upon airfare purchase). The TSA only cares that you are the person getting on the flight from the perspective of airport security.

The airline and the destination country's "homeland security" will care about the flight. Verifying your passport will have been done by the airline at checkin. In fact, unlike domestic flights where you can proceed directly to security, international flights often force you to check in the airline prior to receiving tickets so that the airline representative can check your passport.

  • 1
    That's what I figured. In my mind, TSA doesn't really worry about if an airline lets someone board a flight or not, so they don't really care if an international passenger has a passport. They only care that the person (1) has a valid boarding pass, (2), is who they say they are, (3) isn't on any no-fly list, and (4) isn't carrying dangerous things before they enter the airport secure area. So I imagine you can get by with any of the acceptable forms of ID that matches the name on your boarding pass, even for an international flight. May 3, 2023 at 2:53
  • @geekypenguin27 TSA doesn't check no fly lists; the airline does, and if the passenger is on one, the airline does not issue the boarding pass.
    – phoog
    May 3, 2023 at 16:54
  • @phoog, I thought that originally, too, but the info I've been reading on this new biometric security screening process from TSA seems to imply that the agency is doing yet another run-through of no-fly lists when they verify your ID at the security check line. Specifically this article (tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/…) that alludes to the Secure Flight pre-screening process taking place at airport security check points. May 3, 2023 at 18:38
  • @geekypenguin27 that may be. I've never encountered this new system.
    – phoog
    May 4, 2023 at 7:35

I agree with the other answers, but here's a potential caveat for TSA PreCheck:

I flew through AUS a few days ago. My original flight was canceled, so I went through the TSA PreCheck line twice. The first time I was asked only for my ID, which I gave my state ID, they scanned and let through (they didn't check my boarding pass). The 2nd time, my boarding pass had PreCheck, but I couldn't pull it up on my phone while in line. I panicked a bit and decided to just try to show my state ID, again, which is all they asked for and scanned, but I had no supporting evidence that I had TSA PreCheck now. The TSA agent asked what flight # I was on, which I was able to quickly tell him and was on my way.

Had I only been able to show my US passport, I would have likely been let through too. Had I tried to use a foreign passport and had no other form of ID, I think I would have been linked to my Global Entry and I would have been moved to the normal TSA line and missed my flight, as I was cutting it too close.

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