Domestic travel in the US with no passport

I’m staying in Seattle on a J-1 visa for 3 months, and I need to apply for a long-term French visa for another trip immediately following my internship here. The French consulate in San Francisco kindly agreed to make an exception and take my application, which is great. (Applying by mail is not allowed for long-term visas apparently.)

I can go and apply, but do I need to stay in San Francisco until my passport is returned to me? Or can I return to Seattle without my passport, and ask them to mail it? How does one go about flying with no passport?

I’m an Argentine citizen with both a valid B-1/B-2 and J-1 visa. I’ve entered the US many times without any issue.


Reporting back: I successfully flew ORD-SEA without a passport! The process was super easy to be honest. I presented my Argentinian national ID, a US debit card, and my US SSN card as proofs. I had many more things, but they weren’t needed. I suppose this may be a bit harder without any formal ties to the US, but should still be doable. As I understand it, they just check your identity to see that you actually have a flight that day and are not on a no-fly list. But you do need to absolutely prove your identity to the TSA officer.

When you fly without ID you do need to go through “additional screening”, which means you get a very very thorough patdown and they manually search your bags. The TSA officer was very professional during the whole thing, asked if I had any medical conditions or preferred a private screening too. Also, I got to skip the line at security, and I think I actually saved time! 🙂

I recommend getting a state ID if time allows (I think I will anyway now), but this is a definite possibility too.

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