Today marks the tenth time I have used my United States Passport Card as identification while flying a domestic flight rather than my drivers’ license since I received it this past February. Today also marks the fourth time a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transportation Security Officer (TSO) checking identification and board documents has looked up at me and told me they needed a valid form of government issued identification, such as a drivers license or … wait for it … a passport.
The U.S. Passport Card, like a conventional passport, is issued by the United States Department of State for international travel, although it has limitations. The U.S. Passport card is “Valid only for international land and sea travel between United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda,” however it is a valid U.S. government issued piece of identification for all domestic purposes … after all it proves my identity and citizenship as a United States Passport.
The TSA TSO who first refused my U.S. Passport Card was at Los Angeles International Airport, who told me he could not accept it, as U.S. Passport Cards are valid for land and sea travel only. That said, I was traveling from Los Angeles to New York, a domestic flight where a passport is not required and proof of citizenship isn’t required. After a brief back and forth the TSO asked his supervisor to look at the Passport Card and it was accepted as valid identification.
The second time my passport card was refused was at Honolulu International Airport, and I’d almost give the TSO a pass on this. The TSO told me she had never seen one before, which is understandable due to Hawaii’s geographic location. The statistical number of Passport Card issued in Hawaii is probably lower than anywhere else in the United States.
The third issue with a TSO no initially accepting my U.S. Passport Card was at New York’s JFK Airport Terminal 3, where I have used it more than anywhere else. The TSO informed me that the identification looked fake. He’d never heard of a Passport Card or seen one. This TSO summoned over his supervisor because he wanted to have the police get involved over the use of a fake Federally issued identification. Obviously that never happened, the Supervisor informed him that U.S. Passport Cards were valid and a legitimate form of identification.
This leads to this morning at Providence’s T.F. Green Airport. I handed the TSA TSO my U.S. Passport Card and was told, “We can only accept a drivers license, passport, military ID for identification.” I informed the TSO he was looking at my U.S. State Department issued Passport Card and the reply I received was “What I meant is we can only accept a valid Passport Book for identification.” As there was no line at all, I asked him to check their sheet, which not only lists acceptable identification, but also displays an image of each valid form of identification. After a moment of looking, at an angle I could not see the sheet, I was informed “I will accept this ID today, but in general we will not accept it in the future.”
The reason I began using my U.S. Passport Card at TSA checkpoints was not to see if it would be accepted. It just happens that where I keep it in my wallet is easier quickly pull it out than my driver’s license. After the second time I used it resulted it in begin rebuffed by a TSA TSO I decided to keep track for a little while and see if it was a common occurrence to have a Passport Card refused.
I had heard from a few people that had problems using a U.S. Passport Card flying out of Philadelphia International Airport, but now having experienced having my U.S. Passport Card refused in four out of ten uses for identification with the Transportation Security Administration I have to wonder this … why are federal security employees working under the banner of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) so quick to refuse a piece of valid federally issued identification when it only takes a moment to verify that it is completely valid for domestic air travel?
If you’re unfamiliar with the U.S. Passport Card, a photo of mine is below (with portions of the identification numbers removed or blurred).