Temporary license + expired passport = OK to fly?
November 15, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm flying next week. My only forms of photo ID are a temporary driver's license and an expired passport. Will the TSA accept these? If I have to go through additional screening, what should I expect?

I recently converted my out-of-state driver's license to a Massachusetts license. Massachusetts issues temporary paper licenses, and sends the actual card in the mail. There is a very slim chance I could get my license before my trip, but I'm not banking on it.

I asked the person who issued my temporary license about flying, and she said it would be no problem as long as it was a domestic flight - which it is. However, there's a prominent red box on my license that reads "NOT VALID FOR IDENTIFICATION," and that's got me concerned.

I had to surrender my out-of-state license, so I no longer have that.

My only other form of photo ID is a US passport that expired either one or two years ago - I don't have it on hand so I'm not sure about the date, but I think it's two years.

I've looked around on various forums and on the TSA site, and there's some conflicting information, but from what I can tell they'll let me on, with additional screening.

If I bring both forms of ID, am I likely to get through security OK, or will I be pulled aside for further screening? If it's the latter, what will this entail? How much extra time should I budget for this?

Thanks in advance, MeFites!
posted by Metroid Baby to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total)
Best answer: From what I've seen, (one of my co-workers had his pocket picked while on a business trip) you'll get some additional questioning, a thorough patdown, and your carryon bag will be hand-inspected, meaning that someone will go through your stuff. I would figure on an additional 20 minutes, although with it being the Thanksgiving travel season, I'd leave 2 hours earlier to be absolutely sure.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:27 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're rolling the dice, and it largely depends on the disposition of the TSA agent you encounter.

You should prepare a contingency plan for not being allowed to board.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:28 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I can't speak to current TSA policy but I can say that five years ago I flew with an expired drivers license. I did have to go through extra security. That meant I had to wait in an additional line and be hand searched. At LAX the line went pretty fast.
posted by rdr at 8:29 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: I once discovered at the airport that my driver's license had fallen out of my pocket during the mad rush to leave for the airport.

I was able to get through security with a prescription that happened to be in my wallet which had my name and address on it (and various other wallet detritus). There was an additional screening, but it was really just being taken aside by a TSA person and being asked some questions to back up my identity.

That said, there are some huge caveats to this story.

1. It was the holidays, and I was flying home to New York from the small southern city where I grew up and where most of my family lives. So I had a built in obvious "I've been down here visiting and my ID fell out of my pocket and I don't know what to do!" reason that was plain to any TSA agent who questioned me, and which would have totally checked out if they had called my parents, the sibling whose couch I'd just been sleeping on, etc.

2. I'm a small non-threatening white lady, and, again, small airport in a small city in the south. A place where non-threatening white people are used to getting their way.

I think this would be harder to do if you were leaving on vacation and heading through security at a huge hub airport. And practically impossible to do if you don't have a good story and a bit of privilege.
posted by Sara C. at 8:33 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A data point: I flew with a temporary paper license and an expired photo ID in January 2011 with no problems.
posted by purpleclover at 8:35 AM on November 15, 2012

FYI, I think it's possible for US citizens to get a same day rush passport renewal for an extra processing fee. My advice is to look up the details and get your photos taken today, and get the renewal tomorrow.

(I'm not a US citizen but I am envious of how Fast you can get one renewed compared to a Canadian passport).
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:35 AM on November 15, 2012

Take your expired passport, but only pull it out if they give you trouble. Keep your mouth shut and only speak when spoken to. You don't need to explain your situation unless they are asking for an explanation.

As DWRoelands points out, it probably has more to do with the TSA agent you encounter more than actual TSA policy. I recommend standing in line for the older gentleman as they seem to have the better demeanor about them and overall more understanding than the ladies and the younger TSA agents.
posted by nickerbocker at 8:37 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: You should be fine. This has happened to a couple of friends of mine, and none had ever been denied boarding. I wouldn't cut it close, timewise, but I don't think that there's any significant chance that you will be denied boarding. If you're flying domestic I'd get there two hours before flight time.
posted by mercredi at 8:43 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The US government says two-to-three weeks for expedited passport processing.
posted by cooker girl at 8:44 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: Give yourself a lot of extra time. I have seen people get pulled out line for additional screening because they didn't have adequate ID, but they made it on the plane.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:45 AM on November 15, 2012

Do you still have your old license in your possession? (Here, they cut the corner off and that plus the paper counts as your license until the new one shows up.)

FYI, I think it's possible for US citizens to get a same day rush passport renewal for an extra processing fee. My advice is to look up the details and get your photos taken today, and get the renewal tomorrow.

As a general rule, you need to have proof of international travel plans within two weeks for a same-day passport. (The Minneapolis passport agency is an exception (there might be others) but it'll take a week without international tickets.)
posted by hoyland at 8:46 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: The TSA page on Acceptable IDs says:
We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, due to lost items or inadvertently leaving them at home. Not having an ID, does not necessarily mean a passenger won't be allowed to fly. If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone's identity, like using publicly available databases.

Passengers who are cleared through this process may be subject to additional screening. Passengers whose identity cannot be verified by TSA may not be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint or onto an airplane.
I wouldn't worry about it too much, just arrive early. Normally two hours would probably be enough but since you are flying Thanksgiving week, maye 2.5 hours if you want to be really sure. Good luck!
posted by grouse at 8:46 AM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: An expired passport in conjunction with valid paper driver's license will surely be fine. I would not worry in the slightest about this. (I know someone who recently flew with only a New York state real estate broker's ID card as ID! I would not try that, but apparently it works.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:47 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: If it is any consolation, at a job a few years back I had to stop an out-of-state examinee from entering a secure examination room because of their expired drivers license. They tried to counter this decision by saying "but I got through airport security with it! No problem!" I still couldn't let them in.

Bring everything you have, the paper and the passport. Just keep inundating them with every valid alternate you can throw at them, they will probably let you pass with only a small amount of extra pat-down/search.
posted by kuppajava at 8:48 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: First off, you do not need a photo ID to travel via air in the United States. It makes life much easier, but it's not required.

Take both forms of ID with you. Add in a credit card or something else with your name on it if you can. Combined, they'll serve you better than either will alone. You'll likely get through fine just with these. If they are not accepted, you will need to go through additional screening. Don't think "back room with rubber gloves" screening, but plan to answer additional questions and have your luggage searched by hand. The advice above to give yourself extra time is good advice.

(The above is based on eight years of travelling every week for work, and seeing numerous people face this problem.)

The US government says two-to-three weeks for expedited passport processing.

Personal experience: I rush renewed a passport and ordered a passport card via mail, and had both back in six days. Certainly not guaranteed, but I had no compelling reason to rush it that would cause them to do it faster to help me out.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:50 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I stand corrected on the passport renewal; it makes sense that the extreme rushes are only available for imminent international travel.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:04 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: When I flew in the middle of changing my name, showing a debit card with my picture on it helped. In general, I got the sense that the more forms of official-ish things with your name(s) and preferably photo you can have available, the better.

That said, I would first just produce the expired passport and paper ID. If they need more, you'll have the opportunity, and it's better not to jump the gun.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: You'll be fine, but get there early. I arrived for a flight earlier this year having forgotten my wallet, with zero forms of identification, and they let me on the plane. I couldn't believe it. They pulled me aside and called someone who apparently has access to a huge database with everywhere we have ever lived in it and details about our next of kin, and quizzed me on my personal information. Just be prepared to answer questions about that sort of thing.
posted by something something at 10:11 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: My husband and I BOTH managed to separately misplace our photo IDs right before we had to board a domestic flight in the US. It helps that we look non-threatening (not that that's right, but yeah, it helped) and we literally brought every form of evidence possible to prove we were who our tickets said we were, down to my birth certificate, a bottle of prescription pills, and a library card. We got the requisite pat down, a couple of bemused and occasionally annoyed glances, and were sent on through.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:13 AM on November 15, 2012

Best answer: Like others have said, you should be fine, but arrive early. I recently flew on my work-ID and a magazine with my address on the cover. Just bring what you have substantiating identity (e.g.: social security card, birth certificate, credit cards, non-official ID's, utility bills and other important mail addressed to you, etc.) as well as your official ID, even if expired.
posted by Nx at 12:08 PM on November 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I'm reassured: it's obviously not a great situation, but it's not the worst possible thing. I just double-checked my flight time and it's at butt-thirty in the morning, so it looks like it'll be a character-building early morning adventure for me.

It doesn't seem worth it to get an expedited passport renewal, and I'm not likely to take my social security card and birth certificate, but I'll have some backup ID just in case. Maybe a Thanksgiving miracle will happen and I'll get my new license in the mail before I leave, but like I said, not banking on it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:32 PM on November 15, 2012

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