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My daughter has US citizenship as well as citizenship with an EU country. We live in the EU. She's under 16. When her passport expires in a couple of years in February, she'll still be under 16 until November that year.

The rules for renewal-by-mail of a U.S. passport require that the passport holder have been 16 when the expired/expiring passport was issued.

So I'm inclined to wait to renew until she turns 16. I know we won't be able to renew this time by mail anyway, but if we renew before expiration, we also won't be able to renew by mail next time, whereas if we wait till after her birthday, then next time she can renew by mail.

Obviously if the passport is expired, she won't be able to travel to the US. Her residency in Europe is based on her EU citizenship, so that won't be affected.

Other than not travelling to the US, are there any other consequences we should be concerned about if we let her passport expire and only renew it later months later when she's 16?

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  • The general consensus on this board is that a US citizen can enter the US without a passport if they present themselves at a port of entry. The law says that one must enter on a US passport, but there is no penalty for failing to do so, so the issue is effectively moot. And, of course, one must be able to prove one's citizenship via other means (including a prolonged secondary inspection.) The real sticking point is that the airlines won't let you board a plane to the US if they don't think you'll be admitted. Dec 17 '20 at 14:02
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    All of the above is to say that it may not be impossible for your daughter to enter the US if she doesn't have a valid passport — but it will still be quite difficult. Dec 17 '20 at 14:03
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    Soooooooooo... "Other than not travelling to the US, are there any other consequences we should be concerned about"?
    – Kyralessa
    Dec 17 '20 at 14:38
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    @pboss3010 I'm sorry, I should have mentioned that in the question. I've added it: We live in the EU. However, even here one can renew by mail, under certain conditions, e.g. having received the previous passport when 16 or older.
    – Kyralessa
    Dec 17 '20 at 19:05
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    I've had my US passport expire before renewal twice. Obviously, I couldn't travel but I wasn't intending to anyway. It caused no problems at all when I got my next passport. Dec 18 '20 at 1:55
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By the time the passport expires your daughter will be thinking about universities, perhaps in the US. She may want to take the SAT. The SAT has identification requirements, and the ID must be unexpired.

Her identification, such as a passport, issued by the EU country where she lives may be sufficient. However, if she writes her name differently when using the English language, versus the way she writes her name in the EU country, she may wish to use a US passport so that the name on the SAT test results agrees with her other English-language affairs. Many US data processing systems are incapable of handling diacritical marks.

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  • An interesting point I hadn't thought of. As it happens, the country her passport comes from uses the Roman alphabet, so that passport would be OK for identification (and it includes English-language translations of its fields), but thank you for pointing this out.
    – Kyralessa
    Dec 21 '20 at 7:58
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+50

Obviously if the passport is expired, she won't be able to travel to the US. Her residency in Europe is based on her EU citizenship, so that won't be affected.

That's not true. She could try to apply for ESTA on her EU passport and some dual citizens report they were able to get one. After that she is free to fly directly to the US. Alternatively, she could fly to Mexico and Canada and then cross into the US overland - showing her expired US passport at the border. CBP agents might grumble about the expired passport but they have no choice but to let your daughter in, as US citizens may not be refused entry.

Other than not travelling to the US, are there any other consequences we should be concerned about if we let her passport expire and only renew it later months later when she's 16?

No, there are no consequences whatsoever. Tons of dual citizen expats let one of their passport expire and then renew it at a later date.

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    Since US law says that a US citizen must enter or leave on a US passport, it seems that you're advocating breaking the law.
    – Kyralessa
    Dec 20 '20 at 19:47
  • @Kyralessa yes I am, but only because this law has no penalty prescribed. It's more of an advisory to ensure that fewer US citizens are stuck abroad.
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 20 '20 at 19:50

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