Picture yourself preparing to coast through TSA to catch your flight only to realize your identification is missing in action. Travel woes are bound to happen but the instant anxiety that comes with losing your ID or passport can leave even seasoned travelers worried about how to proceed next.

Not to worry too much though. While the alternative is an inconvenient process, chances are you can still fly even if your government-issued photo ID is lost or stolen.

If you know before arriving at the airport that you’re without identification, plan to get there as early as possible. Passengers traveling without a form of identification will have to go through interviews with TSA officers to establish their identity. TSA recommends getting to the airport at least two hours in advance of your flight time.

Worth noting – most airlines do not refund tickets for travelers who missed their flights due to a lost ID.

man holding passport id with leather luggage on the floor
Photo Credit: Nappy

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What To Do If You Have No ID

You’ll first want to explain your situation to an airline representative at the counter, Travel + Leisure reports. This process will also require you to present additional forms of identification. Items such as a credit card, photo business card, student ID, or even mail or prescription medication with your name and address should work. If the airline representative is satisfied that you are who you say you are, they will issue a boarding pass with a note that you don’t have an ID.

Once you get to security, you should explain the situation to the TSA agents. An agent will likely take you to a second room for additional security screening.

“The TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information to confirm your identity,” according to the TSA website.

If the agent can confirm your identity, you will be allowed to pass through security after additional screening.

International Travel: Lost Or Stolen Passport

The process for international destinations is a bit trickier, as individual countries decide whether travelers can enter without identification. In many cases, foreign countries aren’t as lenient about traveling without identification as you would experience when flying domestically. That said, it’s important to do your best to recover or replace your passport if you have time to do so.

If you discover your dilemma prior to traveling, you may be eligible to apply at a regional passport agency. While this option isn’t convenient depending on your proximity to the nearest office, it’s a game-changer for those who are. Appointments for those who have not submitted an application are available for travelers who can show proof of travel within 14 calendar days. If you have applied but are unsure if you’ll receive your passport in time, you can make an appointment within 5 days of your international travel.

Travelers who lose their IDs abroad should immediately contact the nearest U.S. embassy for assistance in replacing their passports. If you are traveling within a day or two, the embassy will make every attempt to issue an emergency passport. The temporary document is typically only valid for a specific time and you’ll have to get a new passport upon returning to the States.

While it may be too late in certain cases, the best defense is always preparation. Obtaining a police report is important if your ID is missing as a result of theft. A police report details when and where your identification went missing, for proof if needed, while also confirming your identity.

Will TSA Accept Expired IDs?

If your driver’s license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you’re unable to renew it, you may still use it as acceptable identification at the checkpoint. According to the TSA website, agents will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued identification a year after expiration.

Travel Tips For Traveling Without Your ID

Travelers should always keep a photocopy or digital image of their identification easily accessible. Make sure to keep your digital copies in a secure location. Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) before leaving for a trip. STEP is a free service that makes it easier to get help from the embassy while abroad.

And most importantly: Remain calm and courteous. Airline, security, and immigration employees are more likely to help get you where you need to go if you’re gracious in your interactions.

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