7

My husband and two daughters, ages two and six, are all dual American/Canadian citizens. We are traveling to England in less than two weeks.

I am kicking myself because I realized today that my six-year-old’s US passport just expired, and I don’t think it will be possible for me to renew it before we travel on August 18th. However, her Canadian passport is still valid. Will this be a problem when it comes time to return to the US from England after our 10 day trip?

My husband and two-year-old daughter will each carry both of their passports, and I will only carry my American one since that is all I have. We can also bring my six-year-old’s birth certificate if that will help.

We have never traveled outside of the US and Canada as a family together, so this is new to me. Part of me feels like how could they possibly give us trouble or not let us back into the US when we all have valid passports, one of them will just happen to be Canadian, but Canadians are allowed into America, especially when they are six years old and both of their parents are American!

However, I don’t want to assume anything, but since our situation is somewhat unique, I don’t really know who to ask for help. Does anybody foresee a problem with this? I can also bring her expired US passport just to further document the situation. I am so angry at myself for letting her US passport expire, and not even thinking about it until right before our trip! I’m really hoping that I’m worried over nothing, since a Canadian passport is a legitimate travel document, but I just don’t want any trouble at customs or immigration.

TLDR: Can a 6 year old duel American/Canadian citizen travel out of and back to the US on their Canadian passport if their US passport has expired?

marked as duplicate by Traveller, RedBaron, Mark Mayo Aug 7 at 21:04

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Welcome to travel.stackexchange! – ajd Aug 7 at 2:44
  • 5
    Whilst I agree that getting an expedited passport is the best course of action, see also possible duplicate What is the penalty for US citizens entering/leaving the US on a foreign passport? – Traveller Aug 7 at 5:40
  • To close voters: this is not a duplicate; it is asking about what is possible rather than about the penalty for failing to have a valid passport. – phoog Aug 7 at 16:28
  • Anecdotally, I had a very similar situation once, but on a land crossing between Canada and the U.S. Getting into Canada was no problem. Crossing back into the U.S. however involved a lovely several hour wait in detention until CBP got around to verifying that he was indeed a U.S. citizen entitled to enter. I would get the expedited passport. – Xander Aug 7 at 19:50
17

US law requires US citizens to use a US passport to enter or leave the United States. There is no penalty on the books for breaking this law, so if you show up in the US without a US passport for your daughter, probably the worst that will happen is you'll get yelled at and told to get her a passport. Usually the harder thing is convincing the airline to let you board your flight back to the US, but since she has a Canadian passport that may not be a problem either. So to my knowledge, you could probably do what you propose.

HOWEVER, it's quite possible to get a new passport within your timeframe if you're willing to pay a $60 expediting fee and are able to get to a passport agency before you leave -- see the US Department of State's webpage on the subject for details. That is the route I would suggest -- then you are guaranteed not to have any issues with this.

  • 5
    @Ozzy: Canadians do not require ESTA (and cannot get one). – Greg Hewgill Aug 7 at 3:08
  • 1
    Learn something new everyday haha. Thanks – Ozzy Aug 7 at 3:12
  • Thanks for the edit @GregHewgill, didn't read carefully! – ajd Aug 7 at 3:18
  • 2
    I agree that the OP is likely to be able to do this as long as they're not flying through Ireland or Canada (or, less likely, through any other preclearance airport). A dual US/VWP citizen once posted here that she was able to get ESTA authorization and a boarding pass, but was not allowed to board her flight in Canada. It seems that she was prevented from doing that by CBP. Even if Margaret Ivy is not traveling through a preclearance airport, however, an expedited application would certainly eliminate any worry. – phoog Aug 7 at 8:13
  • I've also heard of cases where the airline staff will ask someone checking in to the US with a Canadian passport and no green card how long they intended to stay in the US, which could be a problem if the OP's children live in the US. – user102008 Aug 7 at 19:30
9

I agree that seeking an expedited passport renewal right now is the best course of action.

There is a significant possibility here that your daughter will be denied boarding the flight back to the US. Here's why: if an airline flies a passenger from one country to another, and the destination country refuses to admit that person, the airline is required to fly that passenger back to the departure airport at the airline's expense. Airlines want to minimize the chances that they'll have to do that, so they check passenger's travel documents carefully.

Airlines see what documents are required by entering passenger data into Timatic, an online reference. Here's a link to access Timatic. Canadians can enter the US without a visa. When checking in with the airline for your flight back to the US, you may be able to present your daughter as a Canadian citizen and have the airline allow her to board.

However, when offered a US Citizen traveling to the US, Timatic returns this text:

Passport required. - Passports and other documents accepted for entry issued to nationals of USA must be valid on arrival

Your daughter's expired US Passport is not "valid on arrival." Thus, if the airline thinks your daughter is a US citizen, or thinks she is also a US citizen, they may well refuse boarding. The airline might well think this, as she was born in the US and is accompanied by her whole family who're US citizens. There is a real possibility here that the airline will refuse to board her.

If she is allowed boarding, upon arrival in the US she will be screened by CBP to see if she is, in fact, a US citizen. Having an expired US passport will help at this stage, as will having a copy of her birth certificate. But it's still going to be stressful and time-consuming. Adults in this situation are frequently held for hours before being allowed to proceed. Even if you're successful and CBP believes she's a citizen, you'll be the recipients of the inevitable mean-eye lecture about carrying a valid passport and using it for entry and exit from the US.

All in all, start compiling the paperwork now and make an appointment at one of the passport centers as mentioned by ajd in the previous answer. You may be able to make an appointment over the net, and not even have to wait until tomorrow to call on the phone to make it.

  • 1
    Certainly in the New York office, appointments can be made online, perhaps only that way. I did so a couple of weeks ago. I would like to point out that the chance of an airline denying boarding to someone with a valid Canadian passport is vanishingly small, but the peace of mind brought by a US passport probably justifies the modest additional cost of an expedited US passport application. If flying through Ireland, however, I would not be surprised if the preclearance officers refused to process the passenger; there's a post here somewhere suggesting that this happened to someone in Canada. – phoog Aug 7 at 8:08
  • 3
    But if she has the right to enter with no visa on her Canadian passport, why wouldn't that be sufficient? The airline cannot presume anything about the child's nationality. For all they know, the parents haven't gotten round to getting the second nationality yet. As long as the child has a valid travel document which allows entry to the destination country, why would there be any kind of issue? She can just enter the US on her Canadian passport, can't she? – terdon Aug 7 at 10:34
  • 2
    @terdon a dual US/Canadian citizen does not actually have a right to enter the US at all "on her Canadian passport" because US law requires US citizens generally to have a valid US passport when leaving or entering the US (and the exceptions available do not apply here). If a US citizen gets to the border without a US passport, CBP waives the requirement on behalf of the Secretary of State, but it seems that they do not recognize a duty to do that in preclearance locations. Additionally, airlines' policies are unclear and we can't be certain that the airline would let her board. – phoog Aug 7 at 16:03
  • 4
    @terdon: Also, there's no such thing as "the parents haven't gotten round to getting the second nationality yet" - Either the child is a citizen from birth, or they aren't and have to go through the entire naturalization process. The US has no notion of "I'm entitled to citizenship but I haven't filled out the paperwork yet." – Kevin Aug 7 at 17:31
  • 1
    @terdon actually, under US law, most children born abroad of US citizens are themselves US citizens automatically. Paperwork is necessary to get documents proving the US citizenship, but as a matter of law the child is a US citizen from birth, even if the US is not aware of the child's citizenship. – phoog Aug 8 at 10:04

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.