Can An Illegal Immigrant Travel Within The U.S.?


What Every Undocumented Immigrant Should Know Before Traveling in the U.S.

Many undocumented immigrants travel freely throughout the U.S. without encountering immigration officials.  Let’s be clear.  Undocumented immigrants can be detained at any time and for almost any reason.  The more that an undocumented immigrant is in places where there are heightened security risks, like airports, the higher risk of detention. Generally, you are unlikely to have a problem if you travel by car, bus, or train unless you visit an area near a land border.  For example, the Southern parts of California, Texas, Arizona, or in the North in places like Niagra Falls, NY near the Canadian border.  Border areas get increased scrutiny and you are more likely to encounter an immigration official.  However, if you have a valid U.S. issued identification card, like a driver’s license you are likely not to have a problem.

What do you mean with a U.S. driver’s license I am less likely to have a problem?

Let’s stay you are taking a bus from New York to New Jersey.  Immigration officials come onto the bus.  It is rare, but it happens.  They come to you and ask you for your identification.  If you provide them a foreign passport they will almost certainly inquire further.  How did you come to the U.S.?  Are you here legally? Those are just two of the obvious questions the officials will ask.  Whereas, if you show them a U.S. issued driver’s license they are less likely to ask you anything else.

What about Air Travel inside the U.S.?

can an illegal immigrant travel within the usMany of my clients have flown within the U.S. without incident.  The risk is higher.  To board an airplane, all travelers must present a government-issued ID.  A foreign passport meets that requirement.  Of course, if immigration officials review your documents you could be detained.  However, if you are in removal proceedings you can travel.  You will need to produce your (1) Notice to Appear (Form I-862) issued by the Executive Office of Immigration Review; and (2) your ID (even foreign passport).  If you are issued a Notice to Appear it means that you have already been interview by immigration officials and they have started proceedings to deport you from the U.S.  They generally have no reason to detain you, again.

What if I am stopped by an Immigration Official?

In case you are stopped by immigration officials, you are not obligated to answer their questions beyond providing your identification.  If immigration doesn’t know you are undocumented and they don’t have an order for your arrest, you will be likely released.  If you tell them you are undocumented you likely will be detained.  You have the right to remain silent.  Use it.

How can I find out if I Qualify for Legal Status?

If you are undocumented you need to be prepared for this.  It can happen at any time on any day.  You can be a passenger in a car or in your home or at work.  I have represented clients who have faced immigration officials under all three circumstances.  You must be prepared.  If you qualify for legal status, don’t wait to get started today.  One out of every three undocumented persons now qualifies for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or another immigration program.  If you don’t know if you qualify, call 888-695-6169 or click the “Do You Qualify” button on this page, and answer the questions to find out instantly.

If you don’t qualify for legal status, you need to have all your family identity documents, proof of residence in the U.S., and proof of good moral character stored in a safe place.  Ideally, your immigration attorney should have a copy and your family members know how to access it.  When you are detained, you want to make it as easy as possible for your family to help you get out. We can help you prepare.

If you have any immigration questions or concerns about traveling inside the United States or abroad, you can:

  1. Call 888-695-6169 to speak to our knowledgeable staff;
  2. Fill out the contact us form on this page;
  3. Select the live chat feature to speak to someone right away.

We help immigrants, one petition at a time.

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