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We've had many questions here about dual citizens who for any number of reasons, might want to apply for an ESTA. Most notably, if the other country they belong to is either hostile to the USA or to the concept of dual citizenship and they do not want to let the departing country know they are American citizens, so they leave/board the departing country using that country's passport + ESTA (which lets AFIS to know they are allowed to board the airplane), and then enter the USA on their USA passport.

However, there seems to be mixed feedback on travel.stackexchange as to whether USA citizens are actually forbidden to get an ESTA on their second passport, although many in fact have done that - while declaring dual citizenship with the USA.

I can't actually find on the CBP website where it says that USA citizens are not allowed to have an ESTA. The closest is:

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.

Source: https://help.cbp.gov/s/article/Article-1094?language=en_US

Not "required to have an ESTA" isn't the same as "you're not allowed to have an ESTA" -- and given that many people with multiple passports have gotten ESTAs despite declaring USA citizenship as well, suggests that it's permissible -- or at least inconsistently enforced in either direction.

Does someone have firmer evidence that it's actually impermissible to have an ESTA if you're a USA citizen?

p.s. Thee bit about "are required to use their US passport to travel to the US" is a little vague as well, but let's keep the questions and answers focused on whether you can apply for and have an ESTA (and not on whether you can use it).

Related:

  • A person might already have an ESTA at the time they gain US citizenship (or official recognition thereof). – Michael Hampton Jan 15 at 20:22
  • @MichaelHampton yes, but that’s not the question. :) – RoboKaren Jan 15 at 20:30
  • Why would anyone want to apply for something useless, that he can never legally use, and pay for it? This is even less than a theorethical question. Why would yoj expect there to exist any further offical instructions about doing something silly and useless? – Aganju Jan 16 at 15:27
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Looking at the applicable regulations, 8 CFR § 217.5 says that

"Each nonimmigrant alien intending to travel by air or sea to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must, within the time specified in paragraph (b) of this section, receive a travel authorization" (emphasis mine)

This specifies that non-US citizens must get an ESTA, but doesn't specify anything about US citizens. When applying for an ESTA you are required to list all other nationalities. The form will allow you to enter US citizenship as an additional citizenship.

It's hard to find information about whether people have been successful with their ESTA applications when disclosing that they are US citizens. The only way to find out may be to file an application.

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    There have been a couple of reports here, mostly in comments, I'm afraid, of US citizens being granted ESTA after disclosing their US citizenship on the application. It does seem like the kind if thing that could change without notice at any moment, however. – phoog Jan 16 at 3:37
  • I thought I saw those comments a while ago, but I couldn't find them again. Thanks for confirming that! Unfortunately, I still can't find official sources, so I stand by "you'll have to try it to find out if it works" – Gyðja Björnsdóttir Jan 16 at 13:40

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