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I am an American citizen, living in Australia, with my wife (Australian citizen) and baby girl (born here in Australia).

We are travelling to America in a few weeks. We have obtained an Australian passport for my baby girl, hoping to use it for her when entering the US.

However, my understanding is that

  1. Any child born with an American parent is automatically an American citizen and
  2. America requires you to use your American passport to enter the country, if you are an American citizen.

Does this combination mean that I am required to register my daughter with the American consulate here in Australia, and obtain an American passport for her, before I am able to travel to America with her?

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    The rules are a lot more complicated than that, and there's not enough information in your post to determine if your daughter has US citizenship or not. – Michael Hampton May 25 at 2:06
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    Technically they do require US citizens to use a US passport, but if you never registered her birth with the consulate, they don't really have any way of knowing. You probably won't have a problem in that case, but I certainly can't guarantee it. – Michael Hampton May 25 at 2:45
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    Post an answer when you get to the arrivals hall? – Michael Hampton May 25 at 3:48
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    The US requires its citizens to use US passports, whether they are dual citizens or not. But the enforcement is mostly effected by the airlines. US border officers have to respect a US citizen's right to enter the US, but airlines can require passengers to have the correct authorizations based on their passports. If your daughter can get ESTA authorization, she'll be able to fly to the US. – phoog May 25 at 8:54
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    I've read of cases where people who were U.S. citizens but had none of the usual documents to prove it applied for a passport with the documents they had and the passport was issued. You might be able to apply for the passport while still waiting for the Consular Report of Birth Abroad, submitting the child's Australian birth certificate and documents about you. – Gerard Ashton May 25 at 11:26
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First of all, not any child born abroad to a US citizen parent is a US citizen. Only children whose parents meet the conditions to transmit US citizenship to children born abroad are automatically US citizens at birth.

From what you've described in comments, you met the conditions to transmit US citizenship to your daughter at the time of her birth, and therefore she is already a US citizen. However, adjudicating her citizenship requires a time-consuming examination of the evidence of your periods of physical presence in the US, and immigration officers at a port of entry are not in a position to adjudicate that. And from their perspective, either she is a US citizen or she is not; if she is not a US citizen, she can enter on her foreign passport; if she is a US citizen, she has an absolute right to enter the US and cannot be denied entry; so in either case, they would let her in.

There was a similar question here about someone who born abroad who believed he had US citizenship at birth, who had already applied for a US passport but it has not been approved, who asked if he can still travel to the US on his British passport in the meantime. (In your case, you have not yet applied for a US passport for your daughter, but otherwise the issues are similar.) 7 FAM 085(b) seems to say that someone who is unable to unwilling to prove their US citizenship status can be considered an alien for the purposes of issuing a nonimmigrant visa, and that a nonimmigrant visa can be issued to someone prior to a final determination of the person's US citizenship.

(In your case, your daughter would probably visit the US on the Visa Waiver Program on her Australian passport, for which she would get an ESTA, not a visa, but the passage probably applies to VWP visitors too.)

Regarding the US law that requires US citizens to enter and exit the US bearing a US passport, there is currently no penalty for violating this law.

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