After REAL IDs were introduced, some people have been left wondering if they’ll need a passport to fly in the United States.
The good news is that driver’s licenses are still accepted IDs, they just need to be recent.
American citizens can fly throughout the United States without a passport, and this includes Washington D.C. Any international air travelers will be required to show a passport upon arriving in the United States, regardless of where they came from.
Traveling to Washington D.C.
Traveling to Washington D.C. has the same regulations as flying or traveling anywhere else in the United States.
American citizens can freely travel there by land or air, while international flyers must show passports when entering the United States.
After your international flight lands at one of the D.C. airports, you’ll be directed through customs where you’ll present your passport and go through customs screening.
This process will happen at your first entry point in the United States, so it may happen before you arrive in Washington D.C.
While in Washington D.C. you’ll need to keep your passport or some form of identification on you.
Some of the museums and tours of government buildings require visitors to go through security screenings that are very similar to the ones you experience at airports.
What do I need to fly within the US, and can I travel without a passport?
To fly in the US, you’ll need a REAL ID, a plane ticket, and submit to a security screening. REAL IDs are relatively new, brought about in 2021 to help tighten security on domestic flights.
Generally, passports, military IDs, and driver’s licenses are all acceptable forms of REAL IDs.
The implementation of the program has confused some Americans about whether they need a passport to fly domestically, as not all driver’s licenses count as REAL IDs.
To verify your driver’s license is accepted, check for a star symbol in the top, right-hand corner of the ID.
Availability for this can vary from state to state, but if you do not have the star on your license and want to fly, now is the time to upgrade your license.
The process doesn’t take much time but is required to board a domestic flight without a passport.
Plane tickets are easy to purchase but the name on your boarding passes must always match the legal name on your accepted form of identification.
Don’t use a shortened name or a nickname on your boarding passes.
Security screenings are fairly routine as long as you observe rules while in line and don’t bring any items disallowed by the TSA.
For a full list of what you can and can not bring on a plane, as well as baggage compliance regulations, you should review the TSA’s website.
If you’re an American citizen, you can travel freely on domestic flights, highways, or seaports without needing a passport to disembark.
All international citizens, regardless of origin are required to present a passport at their first port of entry in the United States.
Keep in mind that children under the age of 16 are not required to possess passports upon entering the country, but must still have some form of identification.
This can be a passport, birth certificate, or state-issued form of id. Birth certificates can be originals, photocopies, or certified copies.
How can I get my passport quickly?
How quickly you can get a passport depends on your situation and the service you purchase.
You can make an appointment for emergency service within 72 hours of your trip.
This appointment must be made for a qualifying life-or-death emergency and you must provide proof of both the emergency and travel plans. These can be issued immediately.
Appointments can be made for an urgent travel service within 14 days of your planned trip.
You must provide proof of travel and will have to pay processing fees for the expedited service. These passports are issued by the time of your trip.
If you don’t meet the qualifications for emergency or urgent services, the next best option is expedited services.
How long this takes is determined by how busy the processing centers are and how quickly the mail runs.
Generally, this process takes between five and seven weeks, and you’ll need to pay fees for the expedited processing time.
Routine passport applications can be done by mail or at an appointment center at any time. At the moment, these applications take between eight and eleven weeks to process.
If you want your passport quickly, an emergency appointment is the fastest option.
If you can’t meet the requirements for the emergency travel service or urgent travel service, you’ll need to use the expedited service to get your passport as quickly as possible.
Can a US citizen be denied entry back into the USA?
Generally, a lawful US citizen can not be denied entry back to the United States. Non-citizen visa holders may be denied entry if they refuse to answer questions by border agents.
Full citizens and residents are not immune to searches, interviews, or questioning. You may be asked to answer questions to establish your identity and legal status in the country.
You may also be asked to consent to searches of your personal baggage.
Refusing to answer questions or consent to many searches can lead to long delays when trying to enter the country or further inspection in regards to your luggage or background.
US citizens don’t need a passport to visit Washington D.C. and don’t require a passport to fly domestically.
You will need a REAL ID, which includes driver’s licenses issued since 2021. If your license doesn’t have a star on it, it’s time to update it.
Any travelers coming from outside of the US will need a passport with them when they enter the US.
At the first point of entry, whether in Washington D.C. or elsewhere, all international travelers must present a passport and submit to a customs screening.