I need to travel to the US ASAP, to visit for family matters. However, my US passport has expired recently, so I was planning to visit using my Swiss passport. Would this be a problem? I have always used my US passport when entering the country. It's a time problem. Will border control give me a hard time?

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    Another option, of course, is that available to all US citizens in your position: go to Bern and get an emergency passport. They claim they are "generally available within 24 hours."
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 14:34
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    @phoog This is the obvious and correct answer (you should upgrade it). All the other hacks are just going to get the OP into trouble. The only downside is probably the OP can't be bothered with the effort involved when there are some easier hacks on offer. Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 15:12
  • @OscarBravo I started posting it as an answer, but decided to switch to a comment because it doesn't actually answer the question, which is not "what are my options?" but "what will happen if I try using my Swiss passport?"
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 15:13
  • As a US citizen, it is illegal for you to enter without a US passport. As to what will happen to you? I don't know. The bigger issue is you won't be allowed to board as a valid US passport is required to enter the US. The simplest way - without any additional stress since its already a stressful situation - is to request emergency travel documents. Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 14:07

3 Answers 3


Well you cannot be refused entry to the US, but on the other hand, with the Swiss passport you need an ESTA to board the flight, which will likely be denied as you're a US citizen (but if not, you're good to go - in this case only present the Swiss passport to check-in staff, and only the expired US passport to US border control).

So my advice: apply for an ESTA first thing you do and see if it gets approved.

Another option is flying to Canada or Mexico and continuing to the US by land. For Canada, besides your Swiss passport (which requires an eTA), you can also use a US birth/citizenship/naturalization certificate (which doesn't require an eTA).

Yet another option is to get an emergency passport from the US embassy in Bern.

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    -1: This is very dodgy - the obvious answer is get an emergency passport. Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 15:14
  • -1: to apply for an ESTA you need state all your citizenships. So you either tell the truth and will be refused or you lie which is a non-trivial offense.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 17:05
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    @Hilmar "you either tell the truth and will be refused" Not necessarily - some People do get an ESTA even after declaring US citizenship
    – Crazydre
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 18:15
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    @Coke [citation needed] I would be very surprised if a US citizen can get an ESTA. If so, it's a bug in the website.
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 5:14
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    @Thomas I remember reading reports here on TS of it happening
    – Crazydre
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 14:58

I see only two realistic options to quickly get to the US without a valid US passport:

  1. Get an emergency passport in Bern for $110. This is the logical option.
  2. Fly to Canada or Mexico using your Swiss passport and then cross the US border by land. Bring all the documentation you can -- expired US passport, birth certificate, other proof of citizenship, Swiss passport, driver licence, other proof of identity. If you can prove that you are a US citizen, US authorities are legally required to let you in. But be warned that they are not required to be nice to you. It is technically illegal, but there is no penalty. So expect a lot of unfriendly questioning if you try this option.

Flying to the US without a valid US passport is generally not an option. You are very unlikely to be given a boarding pass if you don't satisfy the US entry requirements. The airline employees can be stricter than the US authorities, because the airline can be fined and is liable for the costs of returning anyone who is not admitted on arrival in the US (and you have no legal "right" to get on their plane).

To use your Swiss passport you need an ESTA. I'm not sure if you are eligible for an ESTA as a US citizen; some say it can be done. It's a risky option, but I guess you could try it. Just be absolutely sure that you don't make any false statements on the application.


Always keep your passports up-to-date for such emergencies. You never know when you are going to need to travel.

You can likely get a rushed US passport renewal, but flying on your Swiss passport and presenting your expired US passport as evidence of your US citizenship is probably the best course of action. Your airline is going to require you to have an ESTA to fly to the US, but as a US citizen, you're not entitled to get one, so be sure to show them your US passport if asked, too. The more recently the US passport has expired, the less trouble you'll have, but you are entitled to US entry - it's just going to be an issue of whether the airline believes you'll be admitted to the US or not. (They have to fly you home for free if you won't.)

  • "so be sure to show them your US passport if asked, too" Whom? Check-in staff? If OP does that they will be refused boarding. As for the CBP, they need to present nothing but the US passport
    – Crazydre
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 13:26
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    "it's just going to be an issue of whether the airline believes you'll be admitted to the US or not" Not really - knowledgable agents know you'll be admitted, but that doesn't mean the carrier was supposed to board you, and they may well be fined in spite of the passenger sailing through immigration
    – Crazydre
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 13:28
  • @Jim Mackenzie Just to clarify, how does this answer travel.stackexchange.com/questions/112978/… fit with yours for this question? The scenarios seem the same, although different reasons for wanting to enter the US on a foreign passport
    – Traveller
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 14:09
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    @Traveller the difference there is that the writer is trying to enter the US on a passport with a different name, which he hopes they will not match to his identity as known in the US. Here, I assume, that won't be possible, and I would argue that, in any event, it would illegal if the point is to deceive. Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 16:33
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    Timatic says that US passports must be valid on arrival for travel to the US. I strongly suspect this is wrong, but I don't have the evidence in front of me, and besides, it is what the airline check-in agent will go by, so this sounds like a recipe for being denied boarding. Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 4:48

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