I am a US/German dual citizen and my passport is stuck with the Department of state in renewal. Even expediting it doesn't get my passport here on time for traveling on December 19th. Has anyone tried to come back with a German passport to the US even though you are a US citizen? I know the National Passport Agency representative said to me I need to have a US passport to come back. Should I chance to come back on a German passport with an ESTA Visa? I would greatly appreciate to hear from folks who have done this.

@jcaron, thank you for the link. I am applying as we speak for the ESTA. The site is asking for the German passport information and where it was issued. My German Passport was issued by the German Consulate in San Franciso, but the web page doesn't let me pick US..only Germany...what now?

  • The ESTA process will ask you for other citizenships. I presume that you plan to tell the truth on that question, which should lead to the ESTA being denied.
    – o.m.
    Dec 7, 2020 at 15:59
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    There are anecdotal reports of US citizens being granted ESTAs and others being denied one. From the very few data points it seems it goes towards the former, but that's really an impression. Also with the current COVID-related ban for most non-US citizens coming from the Schengen Area (presuming that's where you are), this is possibly going to make things difficult: the airline will consider you aren't a US citizen, and will require proof that you qualify for one of the exemptions, which may or may not be an issue for you, depending on your circumstances.
    – jcaron
    Dec 7, 2020 at 16:26
  • Thank you for the answers that's helpful. I was thinking that I will apply for the ESTA and hope I will get one. Is there "one" particular place to apply for it or are there different agencies who process those? Of course I would love to know the one who has granted the ESTA for an US citizen.
    – Dunja
    Dec 7, 2020 at 17:05
  • @o.m. it will only be denied if the approval logic has been changed. Formerly, the state department even acknowledged in its web pages the possibility of a US dual citizen applying for ESTA and traveling with a foreign passport in case of emergency.
    – phoog
    Dec 7, 2020 at 17:14
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    Dunja: have you looked into getting an emergency passport?
    – phoog
    Dec 7, 2020 at 17:16

1 Answer 1


The US has two conflicting rules

  1. A US citizen must use their US to enter the country
  2. A US citizen cannot be denied entry into the US (passport or not).

In practice #2 trumps #1, so if you manage to get to the border and can prove that you are a US citizen, you will be admitted. They may hassle your for a while, but they will let you in.

The tricky part however is to get on a US bound plane. No airline will let you board unless you have the immigration credentials that the US CBP would like to see. CBP uses the airlines as "enforcer" for rule #1, since they can't enforce it themselves.

You could try an ESTA but chances are it will be denied since you are a US citizen and the ESTA application specifically asks about multiple citizenships. You could lie, but lying to immigration officials in generally a bad idea.

Another option would be to try to get to a land or sea border.

  • I did apply for the ESTA and provided all the information truthfully, 2 citizenships and US address etc and the ESTA was approved. So I should be able to get out of the US to Mexico with the ESTA and then back on the plane back to the US with the ESTA and then at Immigration show my Global Entry card, drivers license and Naturalization certificate and Social Security card and be let it...I did call border control and they confirmed what you are said about A US citizen can not be denied entry. So the big "if" is if the airline lets me on the plane.
    – Dunja
    Dec 7, 2020 at 21:09
  • @Dunja nobody needs ESTA to leave the US, only to enter it.
    – phoog
    Dec 8, 2020 at 17:57

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