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Someone I know (Finnish national) was robbed of her passport in San Diego this evening and needs to go by bus to Los Angeles tomorrow (i.e. today in Europe).

She is in WT status, and holds an original national ID card (with exactly the same info as in a passport, except the document number is different) and a laptop with a PDF copy of her passport and internet access to look up her admission record on the I-94 website.

If the Border Patrol boards the bus at the San Clemente checkpoint, how much hassle is she likely to face with the above mentioned combination of documents? Although she has reported the passport theft, she's not been able to get a written confirmation of it yet.

Logically, her ID card should establish identity+nationality, and the I-94 status, but one concern I have is the fact that her ID card has a different document number from the one tied to the I-94 (i.e. the passport)

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    I am a little lost here where does Border Patrol come in? San Diego hasn't seceded from the US as far as I know. – Karlson Oct 31 '16 at 12:37
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    @Karlson Internal checkpoints en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Crazydre Oct 31 '16 at 12:38
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    Since she's in the US and isn't required to carry a passport and has ID, she should be fine. The San Clemente checkpoint is mainly looking at vehicles, not individuals, so it would be unusual for her to be challenged (unless that bus is loaded with illegals or narcotics). – Giorgio Oct 31 '16 at 13:59
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    With a police report on the theft, a pdf of her passport, the CBP ability to verify the I-94 in the dBase and that she's headed to the LA consulate, very likely that they'd commiserate and wish her hyvästi ja onnea. – Giorgio Oct 31 '16 at 14:22
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    The San Clemente checkpoint may preferentially pull over buses because they are the cheapest way to get from San Diego to Los Angeles. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 1 '16 at 13:57
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So in the end:

The bus was stopped by the Border Patrol, maybe because it was a Mexican bus originating in Tijuana. The agents collected all non-US documents (mostly Mexican passports) and took them out for scanning.

When they got to the person in question, they were stunned at her ID; she said it was Finland's equivalent of the US passport card, that her passport book had been stolen, and that she could show them her passport copy and admission record (I-94). They said they could look up the I-94 "but needed the passport", so she simply wrote down on a piece of paper her passport number and admission number (both of which she knew by heart).

They then asked what status she was on, to which she said "VWP", and finally they suspiciously said "and...how are you going to get home like this?" whereby she said her ID was good enough for that. They then took it and the info paper with the other documents, and returned after 15-20 minutes with no further issues.

The person told me that about 5 people were thrown off the vehicle and didn't get back on.

Moral of the story: you can probably get by without an original passport, but it's not recommended to try except in situations like this

  • How is she planning to get on the plane with just her ID? She needs to get past both the airline checkin and the TSA; as your other question notes, TIMATIC says she needs a passport or emergency travel document. – phoog Nov 1 '16 at 14:54
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    You selected Canada as the destination there, not Finland. That's why that warning appears. – Michael Hampton Nov 2 '16 at 3:04
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    I know those rules fairly well. They're exactly the document rules for air travel from the US to Canada. You won't see them, and they won't apply, when traveling to any other country. It's very important when using Timatic that you put in the correct information for nationality, transit and destination, as irrelevant information may be displayed otherwise. – Michael Hampton Nov 2 '16 at 3:06
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    Right, it's the whole WHTI and US "90 day clock" thing. – Michael Hampton Nov 2 '16 at 3:21
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    @Crazydre the fact that the WHTI and the 90-day clock thing concern a similar geographic region doesn't mean that they have anything to do with one another. For one thing, the WHTI primarily concerns citizens of the US, Canada, and Bermuda, who are not eligible for the VWP and who therefore have no need to be concerned about 90-day clocks. – phoog Nov 2 '16 at 7:50

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