What will Happen if I get to The Airport with No Identification Card?

Featured image courtesy of Jason Lander



It is your biggest fear, you get to the TSA checkpoint desk and your driver’s license is nowhere to be found. You’re probably wondering, will they allow you through or send you packing?

The good news is that, at least in the United States, you can still get through security even if you don’t have a photo ID.

Uh Oh

Alyssa and I were on our way to Yellowstone a few months ago when the unthinkable happened. The problem was that her ticket was printed with her maiden name. That is not good because your ticket MUST match your driver’s license. We did not catch it because we use digital boarding passes and pull them up on our phones at the last-minute. (lesson learned)

As we made our way down the empty TSA Precheck line, we both thought to ourselves how fast security was going to be. We were mistaken. Alyssa had both ID’s on her, one with her married name and one with her maiden name. Being that she had a “matching” ID we thought we’d be in the clear even though her maiden name was on her ticket. After a few seconds, the TSA agent informed us that her maiden name ID was expired.

We responded with, “thanks for letting us know it’s expired.” The agent said, “no, I can’t let you through because your ID is expired.” What???

This is where it got fun. TSA had to run a full background check (to confirm identity) on Alyssa in their “secret” back office. They let her know that having an expired ID is the same as having no ID at all. Also, having a valid ID with a different last name would not allow you to-pass-go.

Keep on waiting

According to Alyssa, the background check took a FULL 30 minutes. Keep this in mind if you know ahead of time that you don’t have your ID. If you misplace your ID and don’t realize until you get to security, hopefully you have 30 minutes to spare.

The background check consists of a phone call to a TSA/FBI call center. The TSA agent also asks where you are flying, when you are returning etc. If you are not a fan of being scrutinized, don’t try to board a plane with out a valid ID.

Check your sock drawer

Here are the ID’s that WILL be accepted if you lose your driver’s license (or you can go through the lengthy secondary screening if you don’t have one of these):

  • Other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • Immigration and Naturalization Service Employment Authorization Card (I-766)



The TSA recommends you arrive two hours before your flight should you not have a valid ID card on you. Rest assured, if you lose your ID, you will still be able to fly. Just set aside an extra 30 minutes before your flight.


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