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Is it possible for a parent to take an American minor out of the country, if the child has dual citizenship to the destination country, but without a US passport?

Example: Mom has US and Italian citizenships and passports. The child was born in the USA with standard birth certificates. The child does NOT have an American passport. Mom has filed for the child to have dual Italian citizenship, without the father's knowledge.

Can the mom potentially travel with the child to Italy without the USA passport and without the father's knowledge? Are there any safeguards to prevent this?

I've searched somewhat carefully for this particular scenario and I'm not seeing anything specific to prevent this from happening. Basically, it seems like a vulnerability a parent could use to transport their child out of the USA and avoid detection from the other parent. A USA passport for a minor requires both parents' approval, whereas a foreign dual citizenship can be much more single parent-oriented.

Thank you!

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    You don't "use citizenship" to travel internationally. You need a passport. "Citizenship" by itself won't get you anywhere without a passport (with some exceptions like traveling by land to Canada or Mexico). The child has both US and Italian citizenship; there is no dispute about that. But to actually travel internationally, the child needs a passport, either a US or Italian or some other passport. From what I can find, an Italian passport application for minors also needs both parents to sign the form. (And hopefully any other decent country has the same requirement.) – user102008 Mar 24 '18 at 18:28
  • Thank you @user102008. I think if I try to reword, the nature of the posts changes. I voted up your comment as it's an important component. – Phil_Driscle Mar 24 '18 at 19:46
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    @user102008: Please post answers in the aptly-named answer section so that they may undergo all the proper peer review procedures that are central to Stack Exchange (in this case, upvotes and possible acceptance!) – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 25 '18 at 16:01
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If the child has a foreign passport, there's not much chance that anyone would stop the child from traveling overseas without a US passport. The US government does not enforce the law requiring US citizens to bear a valid US passport when leaving the country.

However, many countries have measures in place to prevent international child abduction, and they will not allow a child to enter with just one parent unless the parent has proof of sole custody or a notarized letter of permission from the other parent. Airlines know about these rules and enforce them. These rules often operate independent of the child's nationality. Even those that do take nationality into account, for example Italy's, may also protect the rights of the foreign (i.e., US) parent. See for example Lufthansa's page on the topic:

Unaccompanied minors and children under 14 years of age with Italian citizenship, who are travelling alone or with someone other than a parent or legal guardian, must carry the following completed declaration form: ‘Dichiarazione di affido’ (Law no. 1185/67). The form can be obtained from the local police station (‘questura’), but not from the airport police. The form must be fully completed and must be carried together with the child’s passport. If the documentation is incomplete, the child may be refused boarding.

You can find further information on the website of the Polizia di Stato.

There's no mention of the parents' nationality. More applicable to the case mentioned here:

Unaccompanied children and teenagers under the age of 18 travelling to/from an airport in the USA, and unaccompanied children and teenagers under the age of 19 travelling to/from an airport in Canada, require a notarized consent letter from their parents or legal guardians. If a child or teenager is travelling with only one parent or guardian, the notarized consent letter from the parent/guardian who is not travelling with them is required. If a parent/legal guardian has sole custody, then proof of sole custody must be presented. Many countries demand a consent letter from the parents or legal guardians. Children and teenagers without notarized consent letters may be refused boarding.

Please contact the nearest consulate of the country to which you are travelling for information regarding additional documents that may be required. Further information is also available at:

• For the USA www.travel.state.gov
• For Canada www.travel.gc.ca

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    I'm not sure whether this answer covers the conditions of the question. The Italian portion is for children departing from Italy, and the US one only appears to cover children travelling on US passports and not those travelling on other citizenships. – Berwyn Mar 24 '18 at 19:02
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    @Berwyn keep reading: "If a child or teenager is travelling with only one parent or guardian, the notarized consent letter from the parent/guardian who is not travelling with them is required. If a parent/legal guardian has sole custody, then proof of sole custody must be presented." What sort of official statement would you like? This is an airline's statement of its own policy; I'm not sure how much more official it can get. – phoog Mar 24 '18 at 21:36
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    I did read that. I just wondered why you quoted the bit about unaccompanied children... help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/3643/~/… "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) strongly recommends". There is no requirement – Berwyn Mar 24 '18 at 21:39
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    That might be what lufthansa say, but if they enforce it, then simply travelling on another airline would solve that problem – Berwyn Mar 24 '18 at 21:47
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    "Airlines know about these rules and enforce them." Weird, I never had any trouble traveling to/from the US with only one parent (nothing needed from the other parent). In fact I had no idea it could even possibly be problematic until I just read this. Are you sure about where/when/how these rules are enforced? – Mehrdad Mar 25 '18 at 10:24
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Yes, if your spouse succeeds in acquiring a non-US passport for your child, it is very unlikely they will be prevented from exiting the US without approval from the other parent.

If the child has a non-US passport, including an Italian one, there is nothing to prevent the child exiting the US and flying to Italy, either directly or via another country. Italy imposes restrictions on children with an Italian passport travelling without a parent, e.g. on Alitalia's site:

Minor accompanied by parent/legal guardian - the name of the parent or legal guardian traveling with the minor must be on the travel document and a birth certificate or certificate of family status must also be carried so that the authorities can ascertain the identity of the child's parents

This will not be of any help if the child is travelling with a parent.

This US government site gives advice regarding the question:

Your child, although they were born in the United States or abroad to a U.S. citizen parent, might also be a citizen of another country. A child may acquire another nationality without the consent of the U.S. citizen parent.

A child may acquire citizenship by the child's birth abroad, by a parent born outside the United States, or a parent who acquired a second nationality by naturalization.

Enrolling in the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program does not stop a dual national child from getting (or traveling) on a foreign passport. If your child has, or might have, another nationality, contact the country's embassy or consulate directly to ask about denial of that country's passport.

Following a comment from @user102008, it's not legal to apply for an Italian passport for a child without the consent of both parents (absent special circumstances):

a passport application using the downloadable form below signed by: a) both parents, or b) by one of the parents with the signed consent of the other parent and a photocopy of the latter’s identification document;

My child has travelled to and from the US with only one parent and has entered the US on a US passport and exited the US on a non-US passport and has not required any documentation from the non-travelling parent.

  • Strange.The mother of my child needs often my authorisation for travelling to several countries even though my daughter has ID papers for two nationalities. – Rui F Ribeiro Mar 24 '18 at 21:59
  • @RuiFRibeiro The surname on my wife's passport is different to that of me and my son and she has travelled internationally many times with my son without me. I've never written this letter. Also done the same without my wife. Occasionally had the odd question to check that we are the parents, but nothing more than that – Berwyn Mar 24 '18 at 22:03
  • My fault. The point is that you are registered as married, I think. – Rui F Ribeiro Mar 24 '18 at 22:10
  • @RuiFRibeiro If they know that, which I doubt somewhat, that doesn't really change anything about being able to travel without consent of the other parent – Berwyn Mar 24 '18 at 22:15
  • +1 It might also be a good idea to include some of the information from the link that you commented on the other answer. This part seems particularly relevant, "While CBP may not ask to see this documentation, if we do ask, and you do not have it, you may be detained until the circumstances of the child traveling without both parents can be fully assessed." – reirab Mar 25 '18 at 2:37
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The US State Department recommends informing the embassy of the other country (in this case Italy) about the situation. Your best bet, I would think, would be to make sure a note is in the airlines’ database for the Italian passport, with the hope that they would not allow her to board with it.

  • How would that note appear in the airlines database? The consulate won't inform every single airline in the US about his daughter. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Mar 26 '18 at 5:07
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    Good question. How do airlines know if a passport they are given at check-in is, for example, revoked? (Example: Edward Snowden seemed pretty sure he'd be denied boarding.) If you can note a passport as revoked, there must be some way to mark it restricted. – Andrew Lazarus Mar 26 '18 at 5:30
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I'm sure there are all sorts of rules about children crossing borders that don't apply to adults, but in practice, most countries, the U.S. included, aren't very picky about the documentation of adults LEAVING unless they are on the lookout for a fugitive. And the U.S. does NOT require anyone, regardless of age, to have a passport in order to leave. They might stop the kid, but the passport wouldn't have anything to do with it. Needing permission to ENTER could reasonably be considered one of the defining characteristics of a what is called a country, but needing permission to LEAVE is clearly characteristic of a police state.

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    The US is rather unusual in not checking the documents of departing travelers. Most countries do. – phoog Mar 25 '18 at 4:23
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    The USA does keep track of who is leaving by the passport details they give to the airlines. (Showing that it is more a police state than most countries where they openly check you, and stamp your passport if needed, but do not keep track.) – Willeke Mar 25 '18 at 14:27
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    Passports are typically checked at the boarding gate of flights departing from the U.S. Granted, this is a very informal check conducted by the gate agents, not actual CBP personnel. However, the airline does give CBP the passport information of all passengers departing the U.S., so, if someone were leaving illegally, CBP (or law enforcement) could show up and stop them from boarding. – reirab Mar 25 '18 at 17:38

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