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Can I fly while my Green Card Application is processing?

Congratulations on submitting your I-485, Adjustment of Status application! While waiting to hear back from USCIS about the status of your green card application, let’s examine whether you can travel domestically in the United States without a valid green card, and before you obtain your driver’s license or EAD (employment authorization document, work permit, or Form I-766).

What documentation do I need to fly domestically within the U.S.?

If you do not have an unexpired green card or an unexpired EAD, you may use a border crossing card or a foreign government-issued passport to fly domestically within the U.S.

According to Transportation Security Administration (TSA), adult passengers (age 18 and over) must show at least one of the following forms of identification in order to travel by plane. While many of these forms of identification apply only to U.S. citizens, the items in bold apply to non-U.S. citizens.

  • Driver’s license or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card (green card)
  • Border crossing card (for Mexican citizens)
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • 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
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (Form I-766/EAD/work permit)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

Need to apply for a green card? – The Ultimate Guide on How to Get a Green Card.

What documentation does my child need to fly domestically within the U.S.?

According to TSA, children under age 18 do not need to provide identification when traveling with a companion domestically within the U.S.

Can I use my Form I-797 as a form of identification for air travel?

You cannot use the Form I-797 alone as your only form of identification for air travel. However, it can be used as a secondary form of identification in addition to other forms of valid identification.

The Form I-797 is not considered by the U.S. government to be a travel document. It is considered a secondary form of identification for air travel, not a primary form of identification, which means that you can only use it to supplement primary forms of identification for air travel.

Primary forms of identification for non-U.S.-citizens include green cards, EADs, border crossing cards, and foreign government-issued passports. If you have one of these documents, bring it to your airport security screening. You should also bring any other forms of secondary identification you have. Bring the original documents, as well as photocopies and pictures of the documents on your cell phone or a camera, in case TSA officers request to see the original documents.

If you do not have proper primary identification, bring at least two forms of secondary identification to your airport security screening. These documents must have any identifying information such as your name, photo, address, phone number, social security number, or date of birth. Secondary forms of identification include:

  • Temporary paper IDs
  • Expired IDs
  • Credit cards
  • Social security cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Bank statements or bills
  • Any other ID you have available

What if I arrive at the airport without valid ID, because it’s lost or left at home?

You may still be allowed to fly if you do not provide valid identification, but this may not be allowed if you intentionally choose to not provide proper identification.

  • A TSA officer will likely ask you to complete an identity verification process, during which you will provide information such as your name, current address, and other personal information.
  • If TSA can confirm your identity, you will be allowed to enter the security screening checkpoint. TSA may require you to undergo additional screening, such as a pat-down and screening of carry-on luggage.
  • TSA recommends arriving at the airport at least two hours before a domestic flight due to potential extra screening time requirements and wait times.
  • If TSA cannot confirm your identity or if you decline to undergo the identity verification process, you will not be allowed to enter the security screening checkpoint.

What do I do if TSA discriminates against me in the security screening process?

If you feel TSA security screening has discriminated against you because of your race, color, national origin, sex/gender (including gender identity, sexual orientation and parental status), religion, and age, you may do any or all of the following actions:

You may apply for for DHS Traveler Redress if you experienced one or more of the following:

  • You are unable to print a boarding pass.
  • You are denied or delayed boarding a plane.
  • You are denied or delayed entry into and exit from the U.S. at a port of entry or border checkpoint.
  • You are continuously referred for additional screening at the airport.

What types of Form I-797 could be issued to me?

Form I-797, Notice of Action: Issued when an application or a petition submitted to the USCIS has been approved.

Form I-797A, Notice of Action: Issued to an applicant as a replacement Form I-94.

  • As of January 2018, foreign visitors to the U.S. no longer need to fill out a paper version of the Form I-94, the Arrival and Departure Record, with a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer in order to enter the U.S.
  • CBP now gathers air and sea travelers’ arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records.
  • Upon arrival to the U.S., a CBP officer will stamp the travel document of each arriving non-immigrant traveler with the admission date, the class of admission, and the date that the traveler is admitted.
  • If you need the information from your Form I-94 admission record to verify immigration status or employment authorization, the record number, and/or other admission information, you can get your I-94 number here.
  • If you would like a paper Form I-94, you can request a form during the inspection process.
  • You can learn more about the I-94 updated procedure here.

Form I-797B, Notice of Action: Issued for approval of an alien worker petition.

Form I-797C, Notice of Action: Issued to communicate receipt of payments, rejection of applications, transfer of files, fingerprint biometric, interview and re-scheduled appointments, and re-open cases.

Form I-797D, Accompanies benefit cards.

Form I-797E, Notice of Action: Issued to request evidence.

I-797F, Transportation Letter: Issued overseas to allow applicants to travel.

How can I get more information about the status of my applications?

If your green card application (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) and/or Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization have been pending with USCIS for 75 or more days, you can either call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 or 800-767-1833 (TTY) to inquire about the status of your application, or check your case status online.

Updated on January 15, 2020

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