When can you Legally Travel without a Passport and leave the US?

by | Dec 16, 2020 | Anonymous Living, Anonymous Travel, live anonymously, New Identity, passport, schengen area, SCHENGEN AREA

Is it Legal to Travel Without a Passport?

Despite not having a valid passport, Edward Snowden attempted to travel to Ecuador. This raises the question: is it legal to travel without a visa?

The Case of Edward Snowden

The US State Department revoked Edward Snowden’s US passport, and other nations petitioned to bar him from travelling. Snowden, who is wanted on espionage charges, allegedly used his US passport to travel from Hong Kong to Moscow on June 23. He then sought asylum in Ecuador. A flight to Cuba was booked in his name, but he was not seen on board.

Travel Documents and Refugees

Julian Assange claimed Snowden had a “special refugee travel document” from Ecuador, which Quito denied issuing. Millions of refugees cross borders without documents, often using other forms of identification. The United Nations said more than seven million people became refugees in 2012.

Identification for Refugees

Larry Yungk, a UNHCR resettlement officer, noted that refugees without passports might use other identification forms, such as an I-94. Lavinia Limon, president of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, stated that the US accepts about 60,000 refugees annually, most without passports. These individuals are interviewed by Department of Homeland Security officials and issued an I-94 instead of a passport. Countries like the UK and Canada and international organizations like the International Red Cross provide similar travel documents.

Exceptions and Special Circumstances

Lost or Stolen Passports

If a passport is stolen or lost abroad, you can travel without it. Simon Calder, travel editor for the Independent, mentions that consulates can issue letters allowing travel. However, these situations are rare and usually treated as emergencies. Such letters are essentially a temporary measure to return to your home country.

Special Agreements Between Countries

Some regions have special agreements allowing travel without a passport. For example:

  • US Territories: US citizens can travel to territories like Puerto Rico and Guam with a photo ID.
  • US-Canada Travel: The US and Canada allow travel with Nexus cards.
  • Common Travel Area: The UK and Ireland’s Common Travel Area permits travel with a photo ID.
  • Schengen Area: The Schengen area in Europe allows free movement without border checks, although airlines may still require a passport. This includes 26 European countries that have abolished passports and other types of border control at their mutual borders.

Regional Travel Documents

For members of several regional alliances, national identity cards are acceptable in place of passports:

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

  • ECOWAS Passport: This is a standardized passport issued to citizens of member states, allowing visa-free travel within the ECOWAS region. It facilitates movement across 15 West African countries, enhancing regional integration and cooperation.

European Union (EU)

  • National Identity Cards: Citizens of EU member states can travel freely within the EU and Schengen Area using their national identity cards. This system supports the principle of free movement, making it easier for residents to travel, work, and live in any EU country.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

  • GCC National Identity Cards: Citizens of GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) can travel between member states using their national identity cards. This initiative promotes closer economic and social ties among the Gulf countries.

Mercosur in South America

  • Mercosur Travel Documents: Citizens of Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and associate members) can travel within the region using national identity cards. This agreement facilitates regional mobility and strengthens economic integration.

Case Study: ECOWAS Travel

In 2019, Amadou, a business professional from Senegal, needed to travel to Nigeria for a conference. Using his ECOWAS passport, he travelled without a visa, crossing multiple borders seamlessly. This case highlights the convenience and efficiency of regional travel documents within West Africa.

Case Study: EU Free Movement

In 2018, Anna, a German student, decided to spend a semester in Italy. She travelled using her national identity card, benefiting from the EU’s free movement policy. This facilitated her journey and integration into the new country, demonstrating the practicality of regional travel agreements within the EU.

Case Study: GCC Identity Cards

In 2020, Ahmed, a UAE resident, travelled to Saudi Arabia for a family visit. He used his GCC national identity card, bypassing the need for a passport and visa. This case showcases the ease of travel within the Gulf region, thanks to the GCC’s identity card policy.

Case Study: Mercosur Integration

Maria, a Brazilian entrepreneur, expanded her business to Argentina in 2021. She travelled frequently between the two countries using her national identity card, leveraging the Mercosur agreement. This enhanced her business operations and illustrated the benefits of regional travel documents in South America.

Legal Loopholes and Alternatives

Queen Elizabeth II is exempt from passport requirements since she issues them. However, travelling without a passport is generally challenging. If the IRS freezes your passport due to unpaid taxes, you can’t travel internationally until the debt is resolved.

Obtaining a Second Passport

A second passport is an option for some:

  • Investment: For example, investing in Panama’s forestry initiative grants residency and, after five years, citizenship.
    • Example: You and your family can gain residency by investing $95,000 in Panama’s forestry initiative. After five years of continuous residence, you can apply for citizenship and a passport. This allows for long-term planning and provides a pathway to a second passport without immediate significant expenditure.
  • Purchase: In countries like Mexico, you can acquire a passport by investment. This process is quicker and allows travel to various countries without a visa.
    • Example: For around $185,000, you can secure a second passport from Mexico. This passport enables visa-free travel to 164 countries, offering significant travel flexibility for those who can afford the investment.

Other Alternatives for US Citizens

  • Travelling to US Territories: US citizens do not need a passport to travel to places like Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. These territories allow travel with government-issued photo IDs, providing an alternative for those without a passport.
    • Example: US citizens can visit Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands using a valid driver’s license or state-issued ID. This is a straightforward alternative for domestic travel without a passport.
  • Re-entry to the US via Land Borders: US citizens can re-enter the country from Mexico or Canada with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID. While this is less convenient than having a passport, it is a viable option in certain circumstances.
    • Example: You can drive into Mexico without a passport and return to the US by providing a certified birth certificate and a driver’s license at the border. This method requires additional steps but is legally permissible.

Loopholes and Grey Areas

  • Travel Letters from Consulates: In emergencies, consulates can issue travel letters allowing you to board flights and return to your home country. While not a common practice, this loophole is available in urgent cases.
    • Example: If your passport is lost or stolen abroad, your consulate can provide a letter authorizing your return to the US. This letter is a temporary travel document enabling you to board flights home.
  • Travel with Expired Passports: Some countries allow entry with expired passports under specific conditions. This is rare and usually applies to citizens returning to their home country.
    • Example: Certain European countries permit entry with expired passports if the traveller is a citizen returning home. This is a limited and situational loophole, not applicable for general travel.

US Territories and Land Borders

Travelling to US territories like the US Virgin Islands doesn’t require a passport. While entering foreign countries by air or sea requires a passport, land border travel to Mexico does not. You can re-enter the US with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID.

Traveling Within Mexico

Once in Mexico, you can travel domestically with a valid ID, such as a US driver’s license. There are no immigration checkpoints for domestic flights within Mexico. Authorities may request your passport, but typically only to verify your identity, not to confirm its validity.


Travelling without a passport is complex and filled with legal challenges. While some exceptions and alternatives exist, they are often specific and require careful planning. For those looking to explore options, consulting experts like Amicus International Consulting can ensure safe and legal travel solutions.

If you would like to work with a professional team that can help make your transition to a life of freedom, contact Amicus Int. for New Identity services today.