I live in San Diego and I will be traveling to New Jersey next week. I'm not a U.S. Citizen or legal resident. I came here with a tourist visa 3 years ago and haven't gone back to Mexico. I've heard that to travel inside the U.S. you only need a photo ID, but I'm still worried they won't let me board my plane if they see my tourist visa . I don't know if immigration is involved in this process or is it just the people from the airline? Also, in case you only need a photo ID, what other IDs can I show them instead of my passport/visa? I have a college student ID, and a Mexican drivers license.

  • Nobody will check your visa page. They are only checking to make sure that your name is the same as the name on the ticket. May 10, 2015 at 15:31
  • 1
    I'd suggest that it's a 'dice roll'. TSA are the 600 pound gorilla and if they decide to do anything that you are legally entitled to expect or some things you are legally entitled to not expect you have no come back. It may work with no problems but it may not. This is how it should be :-). | If you really care then bus is less liable to have very bad outcomes and Train sounds quite reasonable (but takes about 60 hours). May 11, 2015 at 0:07
  • @RussellMcMahon a bus trip from San Diego to New Jersey seems almost certain to pass through at least one internal Border Patrol checkpoint.
    – phoog
    Dec 28, 2015 at 21:41
  • 1
    @phoog As your (non TSA cerftified) profile page indicates that you reside in NYNY you may be correct, but if so, I was not aware that the comrades now checked the comrades' identity documents when travelling within the land of the brave and the home of the free. If that is in fact the case, and, again, I do not know if things have moved so far along the path but, if so, then I am appalled, aghast, saddened, and not at all surprised that it has (already) come to that. I was last there in long ago 2003 and did encounter an agricultural inspection stop and a trouble free ... Dec 28, 2015 at 22:09
  • 1
    @AndrewLazarus Reading the links turned up via @ Phoog's suggestion stirred part buried memories and provided much more material. The US operates a "100 miles from the border" zone where they can carry out constitutionally questionable (but possibly sensible enough) activities related to immigration - illegal aliens (all sun systems), "weapons of mass effect" (not the mass type used in future based video games that a search turns up) and other. 'Other' seems to grow. Check point locations (permanent &^ most of the transient ones) are given in my above link. ... Dec 29, 2015 at 1:24

3 Answers 3


I am a dual citizen of the US and another country. I have been using my other passport to identify myself to the TSA for the last few months (2 flights so far). The passport contains no visa, of course, nor entry stamp. They've never shown any indication of being interested in my immigration status. I hand it to them open to the picture/data page, and they never look at any other page.

I must add that I have never encountered the US Border Patrol at a TSA security check, but they do screen domestic passengers in some airports, including McAllen, TX. For example, see http://www.mercurynews.com/immigration/ci_26165754/what-does-border-patrol-do-at-airports-other.

Since the San Diego airport is less than 100 miles from the Mexican border, the Border Patrol is also able to screen domestic passengers there. A passenger flying in a domestic flight from San Diego ought to look into whether they actually do so.


According to some recent articles on domestic flight identification, it seems that the move is toward TSA-approved identification: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/acceptable-ids

"Foreign government-issued passport" is one of them; like Michael stated, they likely won't check your visa page. However, it looks like a college ID won't be valid for the TSA -- maybe as supportive documentation, but not the main ID to use.

Here's a related question: Can I fly domestically in the US using my university ID?

Hope that helps.


It is true that the TSA does not deal with immigration, though it's possible that you will run into some hotshot officer will take it upon himself to give people a hard time about expired visas. Technically, a U.S. visa is only for entry to the U.S.; it has nothing to do with stay in the U.S., so an expired visa or lack of visa does not mean you're illegal, but most people don't know that.

University ID is not an acceptable ID for TSA. Foreign passport is the only acceptable ID you can use. You live in California, so you can get those AB60 driver's licenses that don't require legal presence documents, but I believe that they are not valid for federal identification purposes.

However, CBP can set up checkpoints in areas less than 100 miles from the border, and they do sometimes do checks in airports and on buses and trains, in addition to having checkpoints on highways. San Diego is less than 100 miles from the Mexican border, so it's possible that CBP could catch you there.

  • 1
    While an expired visa doesn't necessarily mean that you're not in legal status, that doesn't mean all US visas allow indefinite stay. A tourist visa normally has six months maximum duration of stay; if you have an entrance stamp from three years ago and nothing to show you left at some point, there's likely to be a problem if someone checks.
    – cpast
    May 13, 2015 at 17:28
  • 3
    @cpast: I didn't say anything about indefinite stay. I said the visa validity has nothing to do with stay. Even if it is as you say, he could have done or is in the process of doing an Extension of Status, Change of Status, Adjustment of Status, or Asylum application, in which case he could still be legal but it would not show anything on his passport. My point is, you can't tell from looking at a passport, especially by someone not well versed in immigration law.
    – user102008
    May 13, 2015 at 18:00
  • @user102008 the stamp in the passport, however, will indicate the allowed length of stay, so it's not true that "you can't tell from looking at the passport."
    – phoog
    Jul 7, 2015 at 21:01
  • 1
    @phoog: You are talking about a date stamped below the entry stamp that they sometimes put. 1) They don't always put it (and pretty much never did until I-94s became electronic). 2) People (though not the OP) who enter on F or J status get admitted for "D/S", with no specific date. 3) You could have lost your passport, and have a new passport, so there isn't even an entry stamp. 4) The person could still be in the process of or have gotten an Extension of Status, Change of Status, or Adjustment of Status, etc. which does not show up on the passport.
    – user102008
    Jul 7, 2015 at 22:18
  • @user102008 sure, the passport is not the sole source of evidence about when someone is in the US legally, but for non-immigrants it is the first place to look. An officer concerned with someone's immigration status would do so, and, if it was not apparent from the stamp in the passport, investigate further.
    – phoog
    Jul 7, 2015 at 22:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .