Can You Fly With an Expired Driver’s License?

Phone? Check. Deodorant? Check. ID? Uh-oh.

Close-up of top of California driver's license with Real ID symbol of bear and star in upper right, in brown wallet

Yes, it’s still possibly to fly within the United States with an expired license under certain parameters.

Photo by Iv-olga/Shutterstock

When Amit Davé was returning from a white-water rafting trip in Colorado, he arrived at the airport in Denver only to realize he had left his driver’s license with the rafting company.

“The rafting company was a few hours away from the airport. Luckily, I happened to have my old, expired license. The TSA agent was gracious and told me not to panic and let me through,” said Davé, who noted that there weren’t long lines or crowds, which he thinks may have helped. “I was even able to have the white-water rafting place mail my license home to me after!”

Turns out, Davé’s agent may not have just been being extra nice. In some cases, it is acceptable to fly domestically within the United States with an expired driver’s license. Here are some tips and details about how to make the process as smooth as possible if you only have an expired license, so you’ll still be able to make your flight.

Follow TSA guidelines

According to the TSA website, you are currently allowed to fly domestically within the United States with an expired driver’s license or state-issued ID if it has been under one year since it expired.

Furthermore, a TSA spokesperson confirmed to Afar over email: “Regarding identification requirements, TSA currently accepts expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID a year after expiration. If it has been more than one year, they will need another form of acceptable ID.”

So, if it’s been less than a year since your ID expired, you are good to go, no questions asked.

Use your passport or another approved ID instead

If it’s been more than a year since your driver’s license expired, the easiest way to ensure a smooth check-in and security screening process is to bring a different form of acceptable identification. The one most people will have handy is their passport.

Other acceptable IDs according to the TSA website include a passport card; DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, Nexus, Sentri, Fast); U.S. Department of Defense ID; permanent resident card; border crossing card; a photo ID issued by a federally recognized Tribal Nation/Indian Tribe HSPD-12 PIV card; Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card; a transportation worker identification credential; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766); a U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential; and a Veteran Health Identification Card.

Note that a temporary driver’s license is not an acceptable form of ID, so if you’ve already applied for a new license but haven’t gotten it yet, you’ll need one of these other forms of ID instead of your temporary license.

Give yourself extra time

If you are using an expired driver’s license, allow yourself plenty of extra time, just in case, because you may be subject to extra security checks. A spokesperson from TSA said, “Given the summer travel season is expected to be the busiest in TSA’s history, it is important that passengers give themselves plenty of time to return rental cars, check-in with their airline, check baggage and prepare themselves for the TSA checkpoint and get to their gate. TSA recommends passengers arrive a couple of hours early, especially during early morning rush hours between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. and afternoon rush hours between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.”

What about Real ID?

While the deadline for getting a Real ID has been postponed several times over the last few years, the TSA promises it will not be extending the announced deadline of May 7, 2025. On and after that date, if you are using a driver’s license to fly domestically, it will need to be a Real ID.

“Beginning May 7, 2025, if travelers plan to use their state-issued ID or license to fly within the United States, it is important that it is Real ID compliant,” said the TSA spokesperson. Additionally, on the FAQ page for Real ID, it states, “Travelers who do not present a Real ID-compliant license or acceptable alternative beginning May 7, 2025 will not be permitted through the security checkpoint.”

The TSA spokesperson would not comment on whether the current rules about using expired IDs would change after the Real ID rules go into effect next May. They recommend checking the TSA acceptable ID page for updates.

Devorah Lev-Tov is a Brooklyn-based food and travel journalist who has been published in the New York Times, National Geographic, Vogue, Bon Appetit, and more.
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