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If my IFR rating is not current, does this mean I can't fly by IFR, or does it just mean that I can't fly in IMC?

It seems that if it's just the latter, then it would make sense to fly IFR if the weather is still VMC. It would allow me to stay current on procedures while waiting for the opportunity to get my rating current.

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No, you cannot. 14 CFR 61.57 (c):

(c) Instrument experience. Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, a person may act as pilot in command under IFR or weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR only if: [instrument currency requirements]

To accept an IFR clearance as PIC, even in VMC, you must be instrument current.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just to throw a wrench in, when I was in training, before I had my instrument rating, the military would have us take IFR clearances, under some weird agreement that we were to remain clear of clouds (ie, the pilot would deviate if necessary), while we transited to and from the MOA and home field. It wasn't VFR flight following, we had strict altitudes, heading assignments and even departure procedures we had to follow, but we weren't totally IFR either. We operated in some sort of weird nebulous, FAR's be damned. $\endgroup$ – Rhino Driver Mar 21 '15 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @SHAF, same experience in the first jet I flew. Having prior flight time, it took awhile to wrap my nugget around it. Glad it wasn't just the AF. $\endgroup$ – user3309 Mar 21 '15 at 22:06

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