I have a 20-year-old daughter, born in the US to military British parents. She has dual nationality / both birth certificates.

Her US passport is expired and Social Security number misplaced. She needs to travel to the USA as soon as possible.

Can she travel on her British passport with an ESTA? She can't wait for 8 weeks to get new Social Security number, and then three more weeks for a new US passport.

Will she be okay with her British passport with an ESTA?

  • "Authorization via ESTA does not determine whether a traveler is admissible to the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers determine admissibility upon travelers’ arrival." from cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/esta so I suggest you discuss your situation with US consulate or embassy. Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 13:31
  • Provided she us a US Citizen, she cannot be denied entry to the US. Technically, if she somehow reached immigration or a land border, she will be allowed the enter the country but of course after a 'friendly' immigration Q&A + lecture + advice etc.
    – Newton
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 13:52
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    She can't get a new social security number. She can only get a new card with the same number on it. As far as I remember, she doesn't need the card for the application, so if she has a record of the number somewhere, she doesn't need to wait for a new card.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 14:39
  • Related: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/104712/… Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 14:55
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    I have to mention that your daughter is legally obliged to file a tax return for the US, and to pay US takes, for which she would have to supply her SSN. Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 17:18

3 Answers 3


US law says that a US citizen must use a US passport to enter the US. However US law also says that a US citizen cannot be denied entry to the US.

If she makes it to the US border, the most likely scenario is that if they discover that your daughter is a US citizen, she will be given a short lecture from the immigration officer about how she is supposed to have a US passport, before they admit her anyway. That's annoying but nothing more.

Some excellent answers to this question indicate that obtaining an ESTA (which you would need to fly to the US using a VWP country passport) is perfectly possible, even declaring your American citizenship. As an alternative, if you can fly in to Canada or Mexico you could then cross the US border without needing an ESTA.

  • 2
    I never needed my SSN to renew my passport overseas and It usually arrived a week to two after application
    – Newton
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 13:53
  • The DS-82 (passport renewal) and DS-11 (first-time passport) forms do state that "Section 6039E of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 6039E) and 22 U.S.C 2714a(f) require you to provide your Social Security number (SSN), if you have one, when you apply for or renew a U.S. passport." Don't know about enforcement, but it is stated.
    – Hunter
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 13:57
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    @Hunter you just have to write the social security number in the application. You don't necessarily need to show the card.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 14:37
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    as @phoog mentioned + you don't even have to attach a copy etc of it.
    – Newton
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 15:34
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    @phoog I know that. The OP did say "number" was misplaced and not "card" was misplaced, so I was going on face value of the original post.
    – Hunter
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 18:39

She could fly to Canada and enter the US by land. To enter Canada, she can use her US birth certificate, meaning she won't even need to pay for an eTA (if she doesn't have the birth certificate on her, of course she can use her British passport with an eTA too)

The alternative would be applying for an ESTA on her British passport, however she should deny holding dual nationality, or the ESTA may be refused. I also can't guarantee that the system won't find out about her US citizenship.

  • 1
    She can also fly through Mexico.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 15:39
  • "she'd have to deny holding dual nationality, or the ESTA will be refused": apparently that is incorrect; see travel.stackexchange.com/a/74943/19400: "I've gotten an ESTA for my Australian passport. It did ask about being American, I answered yes and it dutifully issued the ESTA."
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 17:06
  • @phoog Changed the wording - I know cases of ESTAs being refused to dual citizens
    – Crazydre
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 17:10
  • Are you really suggesting lying on an ESTA application? That seems like a really bad idea to me.
    – JBentley
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 22:00
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    @Coke Read the answer I linked to (and the question). This is a legal issue, not a border control issue. Also, consider that it can have ramifications for future ESTAs and visas. Yes, it's easy to discount that since she's a US citizen but what if she later revokes for tax or other reasons, or ends up in this same situation again and wanting to use an ESTA? I personally would be wary of advising someone to break the law and create potential future consequences, even if they don't seem to apply right now.
    – JBentley
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 22:03

The US government used to have a page that read, in part:

If you have a true emergency, and are unable to obtain a U.S. Passport before your travels, and only have a VWP-eligible passport, then you will have to apply through ESTA using that passport to travel to the U.S. When arriving at the U.S. airport using the foreign passport, you will have to use the non-resident queue.

However, that page is no longer available. The proper course of action for your situation is probably to apply for an emergency passport.

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