I have a roundutrip planned from Sydney to Los Angeles. I think the easiest would be to get an ESTA on my Australian passport and just travel on that passport alone. But I'm looking to avoid this if possible as I would rather use my Canadian passport to enter the US (no fingerprint… eye scan; may get preferred line at immigration; no ESTA fee or application).

I have valid passports for both countries (identical personal information, name, dob). Australia rules suggest that I must leave/enter Sydney with my Australian passport. From reading dual citizenship posts on this website, it seems an ESTA may not be needed on for an Australian passport.

Departure flight: I can check in with the airline (Delta) in Sydney with my Canadian passport, then proceed to immigration and leave with my Australian passport. I enter the US at LAX with my Canadian passport. For the return flight: at LAX, I should check in with the airline with my Australian passport (even though I don't have an ESTA) to show I have status to return to Australia, exit at US customs on my Canadian passport (because I entered the US on that passport).

  1. Is it ok to travel without an ESTA on an AU passport even though I will need the AU passport at LAX to fly back to Australia?

  2. Will the new smart gates used at airport security/immigration allow passage if the airline ticket and country of passport do not match (ie in Sydney having checked in with the airline with my Canadian passport but use the Australian passport at smart gates or vice versa at LAX)?

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    There is no exit passport control in the US. Furthermore, whether you have ESTA or not is of no consequence when you leave the US. If you don't have ESTA, you will need to show your Canadian passport when you enter the US and when you check in for your flight to the US, which is probably how you should do it. When you check in for your flight to Australia, show both passports and explain that you entered the US with the Canadian one. – phoog Feb 13 '18 at 1:07

What you propose is pretty much exactly what you need to do.

  • Feel free to show the airline both passports if there are any questions. No problem at all doing that, they see dual citizens all the time. They will ask to see your AU passport on your return trip to Sydney (if they don't already have that info in your record).

  • There is no US customs exit, so you won't need your Canadian passport to exit the US.

  • An ESTA applies to a person, not to a passport. You do not need an ESTA because you are a Canadian citizen.

  • The smart gates might get confused.

Last time I did a trip similar to yours (I'm dual NZ/Canadian), I had difficulty with the smart gate leaving NZ, no problem had to go visit an officer in the non-smartgate queue. I was admonished for entering the US in the wrong queue, so as a Canadian citizen you should go for the US Citizen/Permanent Resident queue even though the sign doesn't say Canadians (the signage was incorrect in SFO, LAX might be properly signed). You can use the electronic passport reader for entering the US.

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    "An ESTA applies to a person, not to a passport": not at all. ESTA authorization is bound to a specific passport. That's why you need a new ESTA when you get a new passport. – phoog Feb 13 '18 at 4:03
  • Okay, sure. It's bound to a specific passport, but it applies to a person. From ESTA Help and FAQ: "One person with two different ESTA authorizations creates confusion that will only delay your travel." As a Canadian citizen with a valid Canadian passport, there's really no point in applying for ESTA because you (as a person) don't need it. – Greg Hewgill Feb 13 '18 at 4:05
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    Where does two authorizations come into it? A dual citizen of Canada and Australia can't have more than one, because it is not possible to apply for ESTA with a Canadian passport. Anyway that FAQ was obviously written by someone who has little or no experience with multiple nationalities. – phoog Feb 13 '18 at 4:19
  • I'm Canadian (exclusively). Unless we have NEXUS or Global Entry (US trusted traveler program membership), we use the foreign citizens lane. The only exceptions are if there are signs to the contrary (I've not seen this flying in non-precleared to ORD or DEN), or if instructed to go to the US lane by US border personnel (which is occasionally done if the foreign citizens line is very backed up, since Canadian citizens don't need fingerprinting, visas, etc. in most cases). – Jim MacKenzie Feb 13 '18 at 4:26
  • @JimMacKenzie the US citizens' line is equipped to process anyone, since US citizens may be traveling with people who need fingerprinting, have visas, etc. – phoog Feb 13 '18 at 5:12

I wish that there was somewhere to get the correct information all in one place. I have dual citizenship with Canada and Australia. I found out with plenty of time before I travel back to Canada that under new Canadian regulations I require a valid Canadian passport to enter Canada and cannot use my Australian passport to enter as of Oct 2016. As we are routing through the USA even though I have a Canadian passport as I am arriving via air I DO require an ESTA. If I were traveling via land between Canada and the USA I would not. My partner (Australian) requires an ESTA as well as the eTA Canadian equivalent to travel through both the USA and Canada. To leave Australia and re-enter Australia I must use my Australian passport. To enter Canada and leave Canada I must use my Canadian passport. Make sure you have both and they are not due to expire under 6 months just to be safe. The USA may want to see both.

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    No, you do not require ESTA unless you use your Australian passport. If you use your Canadian passport, you can't even get ESTA. For a flight from Canada to Australia through the US you can check in with both passports, show the Canadian passport in the US, and show the Australian passport in Australia. – phoog May 16 '18 at 12:48
  • According to ESTA US Govt Website if your are coming into the USA via Air or Sea you DO need a Visa to enter. Its only if traveling by LAND you don't – Diane May 16 '18 at 22:22
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    Diane, it is impossible to get ESTA with a Canadian passport because Canadians do not use the Visa Waiver Program. The visa exemption for Canadians is due to a different law. See for example these FAQs which include "Q: Do I need to apply for ESTA if I am a citizen of Canada? A: No, citizens of Canada who are traveling with a Canadian passport do not need an ESTA." Also notice how you cannot choose Canada as your country of citizenship in the ESTA application form. – phoog May 16 '18 at 22:31
  • No Canadian's do not need an ESTA however as a person who holds duel citizenship you will need to get one if you are traveling from another country other than Canada or the USA. For example if you hold citizenship in Australia as well as Canada and your coming from Australia through the USA before going to Canada you will need an ESTA this is as per the USA ESTA website – Diane May 17 '18 at 1:13
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    No, that isn't how it works. If you show your Canadian passport, you don't need ESTA, period. There is nothing preventing you from showing your Canadian passport when you arrive in the US from Australia. – phoog May 17 '18 at 2:09

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