I am a college student living in Belgium coming to visit my parents in the US and I am an American citizen.

Will I need an ESTA?

  • 18
    If you are a US citizen, you obviously do not need an ESTA, but you will need to prove that you are indeed a citizen. Do you have a US passport? Jul 2, 2018 at 17:46
  • 7
    In principle US citizens are not even supposed to be able to get an ESTA, although there doesn't seem to be any concerted effort to prevent it.
    – phoog
    Jul 2, 2018 at 18:39
  • 5
    No, you need a US passport. Jul 2, 2018 at 20:14
  • 4
    Is there any country in the world where citizens of that country need anything apart from proving their identity/citizenship?
    – Damon
    Jul 3, 2018 at 8:09
  • @Damon: This would make a good question of its own; I wonder if something countries in which you need an exit visa would not require that you present the exit visa when going back in. Jul 3, 2018 at 13:29

3 Answers 3



However, you will need to travel to the US using your US passport.

From the Official ESTA Application website:

Do I need to apply for an ESTA if...?
I am a U.S. Citizen with dual citizenship in a VWP country?

U.S. Citizens are not required to have an ESTA and are required to use their U.S. passport to travel to the U.S.


As a U.S. citizen, you have to travel using your U.S. passport. That does not mean that you should not be taking your Belgian passport as well since otherwise you might get in trouble for the return flight since the airline is not going to like the prospect of letting you into Belgium without any document showing that you are permitted to enter.


If you are a US citizen then no, you will not need an ESTA. US citizens can enter the country without impediment.

You will have to provide evidence of your citizenship. Do you have dual nationality? Or some way to prove you are a US citizen?

If not, you will appear to be Belgian... And will need an ESTA.

  • 2
    This is against the law (US and international). You are supposed to enter and leave a country you are a citizen of with the documents of this country. This is rarely enforced in Europe but I saw twice it happening (with a US/French citizen ending France with her US passport and a similar one with French/German in Germany)
    – WoJ
    Jul 2, 2018 at 20:09
  • 20
    @WoJ that's a huge overstatement. First there is no international law preventing a dual citizen from entering one country of citizenship with a passport from the other. It is entirely up to each country to legislate on this, and the UK for example explicitly disclaims such a requirement for its citizens. Second, while it is against US law for a US citizen to enter the US without a valid US passport, there is no penalty for violating the law. If a US citizen appears without proper documents, the officer waives the documentary requirement and admits the person.
    – phoog
    Jul 2, 2018 at 21:25
  • 1
    '..The officer waives...' - if he can make a convincing case that he is a US citizen. Anyone could say so, you need to have something more convincing. But yes, no passport is needed, it just might take a while longer without a passport.
    – Aganju
    Jul 3, 2018 at 2:08
  • 2
    That said, I am a little surprised at the downvotes - I think everything I wrote is correct here...
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 3, 2018 at 7:31
  • 2
    @DavidRicherby The official ESTA help page (under "My Country of Issue is not in the ESTA drop down menu, other passport eligibility issues.") contemplates a US citizen entering as a foreigner under the VWP with an ESTA in "a true emergency." We have some anecdotal experience that you can do this and then be denied at US preclearence in Canada though, so it's not really something I'd recommend other than a "anything is better than nothing" situation. Jul 4, 2018 at 7:00

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