Flying domestically with a foreign passport

Old Mar 15, 18, 3:30 pm
  #1  
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Post Flying domestically with a foreign passport

Hello everyone. I am an out-of-status exchange student, as my visa expired in 2013.
I want to fly from JFK (New York) to MSY (New Orleans). I’m going to use my country’s government issued valid passport to travel. What are the chances the TSA guys will give me a hard time and possibly introduce me to their ICE and DHS friends ?

Does TSA have the right to question my legal status ?
How risky it is and how likely is for me to encounter with immigration officers ?

Thanks in advance.
Whytbxfly is offline  
Old Mar 16, 18, 6:42 am
  #2  
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Please take a look at the following threads:
Traveling domestically with Mexican passport

Undocumented Persons Flying Domestically within the US

Acceptable Identification for Domestic Travel?
TWA884 is offline  
Old Mar 16, 18, 8:46 am
  #3  
 
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Originally Posted by Whytbxfly View Post
Hello everyone. I am an out-of-status exchange student, as my visa expired in 2013.
I want to fly from JFK (New York) to MSY (New Orleans). I’m going to use my country’s government issued valid passport to travel. What are the chances the TSA guys will give me a hard time and possibly introduce me to their ICE and DHS friends ?

Does TSA have the right to question my legal status ?
How risky it is and how likely is for me to encounter with immigration officers ?

Thanks in advance.

> What are the chances the TSA guys will give me a hard time and possibly introduce me to their ICE and DHS friends ?

Real World Factors

Low. TSA Document Checkers (TDCs) are directed to focus on matching the name on the boarding pass to the name on the identification document and the photo on the identification to the face of the passenger, and to review the validity of both documents.

In most mid-size and larger airports, document checkers regularly see hundreds of foreign passports each week and rarely, if ever, delve into any inquiry beyond looking at the photo and biographical data and matching it to the boarding pass.

Is there a chance that a document checker could search for visa information in the passport?

TSA Statements

Officially, TSA officers "do not check immigration status."

One immigration attorney believes that, in mid-2008, TSA instructed its TDCs to no longer review foreign passports for valid visas, because of public and passenger anger at the practice.

Prior to mid-2008, though, there are numerous reports of TDCs examining passports for visas.

The TSA website had discussion in early 2008 about examining foreign passports for visas, although it seems to be limited to the context of passports that appeared to be fraudulent:

A document checking security officer in Michigan identified two individuals with fraudulent documents. He became suspicious when the numbers on one passenger's passport looked different, and the ink rubbed off when he ran his finger over the numbers. The other passenger's visa had expired. Both passengers were interviewed by law enforcement officers, as well as officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), who confirmed that documents were fraudulent. Both passengers were arrested.
TSA's general description from 2008 of finding expired visas also strongly implies that it was done only when the passport itself raises suspicions:

... specially trained Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) ... check passengers' boarding passes and identification. Just six months into the program, security officers performing document checking duties have found thousands of suspect, illegible or expired documents, including passports, visas and drivers licenses.
Immigration Attorneys' Client Stories

Some very limited, secondhand anecdotal information from immigration attorneys indicates that TSOs are believed to do so on rare occasions -- for example, take a look at this Avvo page. (However, none of the attorneys there indicate that they have clients who have experienced this situation personally.)

Immigration attorney Michael Gurfinkel, who specializes in Filipino immigration to the US, wrote in early 2008 that a TDC examined his client's foreign passport specifically for a visa, and when the TDC did not find it, the TDC referred the passport and passenger to CBP.

Data Points from FlyerTalk and other sites

Also see these firsthand reports, mostly of experiences in 2008 or before, of TDCs allegedly reviewing visas in foreign passports:

https://dreamact.info/forum/showpost.php?p=212647&postcount=22
https://dreamact.info/forum/showpost.php?p=93658&postcount=14
https://immigrate2us.net/forum/showthread.php?24618-hawaii-honeymoon&p=307610&viewfull=1#post307610
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/13419323-post10.html
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/9605033-post9.html
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/8783858-post7.html


But then there are data points of people who never experienced problems with foreign passports in domestic flights:

https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/27085742-post70.html
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/27028508-post60.html
http://www.visajourney.com/forums/topic/346815-flying-within-the-usa-with-and-expired-visa/?do=findComment&comment=5101781

(Incidentally, here is a set of tips for foreign passport use given by one user, FWIW:
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showpost.php?p=25718708&postcount=50 )


> Does TSA have the right to question my legal status?

That is complex question.

United States Code, title 49, section 44901 provides the TSA with the power broadly to conduct "screening" of passengers:

The [head of the TSA] shall provide for the screening of all passengers and property, including United States mail, cargo, carry-on and checked baggage, and other articles, that will be carried aboard a passenger aircraft operated by an air carrier or foreign air carrier in air transportation or intrastate air transportation.
Code of Federal Regulations, title 49, section 1540.107(c) specifically authorizes the TSA to request and review identity documents presented by the passenger:

An individual may not enter a sterile area or board an aircraft if the individual does not present a verifying identity document as defined in § 1560.3 of this chapter, when requested for purposes of watch list matching under § 1560.105(c), unless otherwise authorized by TSA on a case-by-case basis.
As of 2008, the TSA's standard operating procedure manual instructed TSA document checkers only to do one set of activities: verify the validity and non-tampered status of the identification and the validity of the boarding pass, and to match the photo on the ID to the passenger and the name on the ID to the boarding pass. (PDF pp. 82-83)

If the ID appeared to be fraudulent or tampered with, the TDC was directed to notify a supervisor, who would then notify law enforcement.

However, if the boarding pass and ID appeared to be valid, legitimate, for the passenger, and for the correct flight, the TDC was instructed to "allow the individual to enter the screening checkpoint queue."

But compare that to an FT user who claimed to be a TSO, and who said in early 2008 that he was told that a passenger presenting an expired visa was "supposed to" be referred to secondary screening:
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/9274114-post8.html

(Keep in mind that TSOs were also told that they "may apply discretion to initiate additional screening measures beyond those called for in the SOPs" (PDF p. 16))

Obviously, newer manuals for TSOs may contain changed guidance.

Overall, an inspection of the immigration marks in a foreign passport appears to go beyond the mandate given to TDCs.

However, if a TDC were to choose to closely inspect a particular passport handed to him, notice an expired visa, and call in a CBP officer, there might not be much recourse available.

The lack of data points post-2008 about TDCs reviewing foreign passports for visas seems to indicate that they are no longer regularly doing so, unless triggered by some other reason (for example, a passport that appears to be altered). This seems especially true given how many more people now have easy social media access to spread information about these types of encounters, and the media interest in this type of story.

> How risky it is and how likely is for me to encounter with immigration officers ?

Real World Data Points

Unlikely.

However, it's not entirely unheard of for CBP officers to either ask about citizenship or request to see identification in the jetway of departing or arriving domestic flights.

For some anecdotal examples of this:

https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/27947550-post5.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...nted-immigrant
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/10248513-post12.html
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/26792020-post4.html


While these appear to be occur very rarely, they still do apparently occur.

(Also, at certain limited airports in the US, CBP officers work alongside TDCs and TDCs apparently hand most, or all, foreign passports to CBP officers for examination, but JFK and MSY generally should not be among them.)

"Reasonable Suspicion"

As to how "risky" it is if you encounter a CBP officer -- that may depend on where you encounter him: at a referral by the TDC or independently in the jetway as he checks everyone's passport.

Federal law provides certain DHS employees (like CBP officers) the power to "to interrogate any alien or person believed to be an alien as to his right to be or to remain in the United States" -- although, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, only with "reasonable suspicion that they may be aliens" (sometimes described in terms of, for example, "unusual behavior, defensive body language, thick accents, and clothing style" or "nervousness and and an attempt to flee", or of course, a foreign passport, etc. etc.)

So if the CBP officer is called over by the TDC and shown the foreign passport, then it would seem likely to lead to questioning. But if the CBP officer is randomly stationed at the jetway asking for passports without a tip from the TSO, then it seems like it may be possible to avoid reasonable suspicion.

Of course, this is generalized background information, and for any actions you wish to take, you may wish to consult with an attorney experienced in immigration, transportation, air travel, and CBP issues, who could offer specific advice for your specific situation.

Enjoy New Orleans and your trip.

Last edited by Newbie2FT; Mar 17, 18 at 11:32 am Reason: additional info, URL
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Old Mar 16, 18, 9:17 am
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Originally Posted by Whytbxfly View Post
Hello everyone. I am an out-of-status exchange student, as my visa expired in 2013.
I want to fly from JFK (New York) to MSY (New Orleans). I’m going to use my country’s government issued valid passport to travel. What are the chances the TSA guys will give me a hard time and possibly introduce me to their ICE and DHS friends ?

Does TSA have the right to question my legal status ?
How risky it is and how likely is for me to encounter with immigration officers ?

Thanks in advance.
CBP isn’t frequently doing such checks at JFK or MSY for domestic flights. For airports closer to the Canadian or Mexican land borders, the chances of such CBP checks are higher but still far from commonly experienced. If this were for a domestic trip originating out of say BUF, then the chances are far higher than for a domestic trip out of JFK.

TSA doesn’t commonly make an issue of foreign passports’ US entry stamps (if any); and absent a need to present other ID/identification (beside the passport) to the TSA, and absent some prejudicial reasoning for CBP to be called by TSA, I wouldn’t expect a problem for such circumstances unless encountering some DHS-CBP and/or airline trial, technology-assisted or otherwise, being run at the time of the trip.

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Old May 7, 19, 11:36 pm
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Could you fly without any problems?

Originally Posted by Whytbxfly View Post
Hello everyone. I am an out-of-status exchange student, as my visa expired in 2013.
I want to fly from JFK (New York) to MSY (New Orleans). I’m going to use my country’s government issued valid passport to travel. What are the chances the TSA guys will give me a hard time and possibly introduce me to their ICE and DHS friends ?

Does TSA have the right to question my legal status ?
How risky it is and how likely is for me to encounter with immigration officers ?



I also wonder if it's possible to fly from Houston Hobby airport to San Francisco? With a foreign passport and overstay visa

Last edited by TWA884; May 8, 19 at 7:39 am Reason: Fix BB code
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Old May 8, 19, 1:23 am
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Originally Posted by alexxn View Post
Originally Posted by Whytbxfly View Post
Hello everyone. I am an out-of-status exchange student, as my visa expired in 2013.
I want to fly from JFK (New York) to MSY (New Orleans). I’m going to use my country’s government issued valid passport to travel. What are the chances the TSA guys will give me a hard time and possibly introduce me to their ICE and DHS friends ?

Does TSA have the right to question my legal status ?
How risky it is and how likely is for me to encounter with immigration officers ?



I also wonder if it's possible to fly from Houston Hobby airport to San Francisco? With a foreign passport and overstay visa
This is still how it is:

“CBP isn’t frequently doing such checks at JFK or MSY for domestic flights. For airports closer to the Canadian or Mexican land borders, the chances of such CBP checks are higher but still far from commonly experienced. If this were for a domestic trip originating out of say BUF, then the chances are far higher than for a domestic trip out of JFK.

“TSA doesn’t commonly make an issue of foreign passports’ US entry stamps (if any); and absent a need to present other ID/identification (beside the passport) to the TSA, and absent some prejudicial reasoning for CBP to be called by TSA, I wouldn’t expect a problem for such circumstances unless encountering some DHS-CBP and/or airline trial, technology-assisted or otherwise, being run at the time of the trip.”

Same goes for at least IAH and SFO IME.

An apparently overstayed US visa in a person’s passport doesn’t necessarily mean the person is legally prohibited from remaining in the US. Just something to know in case some airline or TSA employee were try to bring up a perceived overstay issue. But for domestic US flights on ticketed itineraries that only have domestic US flights, the airline and TSA travel document checker rarely go beyond looking for passport photo (to match against face of passenger), passport expiration date and names (to match against names on boarding pass). But to minimize chance of confusion, hand over your passport with the passport’s own biodata page open already so that the airline and TSA don’t try to do a document or name check against a US visa.

My travel party members within the US often include people using foreign passports and the TSA has yet to give any of them grief over expired US visas or some US entry stamps which may give the appearance of “overstaying”.

The odds of having a problem when flying HOU/IAH to SFO are very low. Could there be a problem? I am reminded of the line “Never say never.”.
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Old May 8, 19, 3:31 am
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Because I got married almost 3 years ago with a permanent resident

My husband and I are still waiting on one of the immigrations forms to proceedto fill out our form for my green card. But we do want to travel to California. I thought of maybe flying somewhere not closer to the border.
We have Venezuelan passports.
if i travel maybe by August for about 5 days but my passport expires in October, will that also cause me some trouble??
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Old May 8, 19, 6:08 am
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Originally Posted by alexxn View Post
We have Venezuelan passports.
My wife and stepdaughter have non-US passports (latin american as well), and I have never seen TSA do anything but look at the photo page and review the boarding pass. Absolutely no visa scrutiny whatsoever. This includes at least 20 trips, including several at IAH.
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