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I understand dual US citizens are required to enter and exit with a valid US passport, or rather 'bear' a valid US passport as the actual wording goes. However, official government websites also use the more general wording 'must enter/exit with a valid US passport' rather than simply 'bear a valid US passport on entering/exiting'. What I'm confused about is 'checking-in' to a flight leaving the US using your foreign passport, because your US passport is about to expire and the airline won't let you check-in with it, considered 'leaving' the US on a foreign passport even if you are carrying a valid US passport with you and show it to everyone who asks for it, airline, TSA? Since there is no exit immigration there is no one to show your US passport to other than the airline and TSA.

So, can you check-in to a flight to the US with your US passport, go through immigration with your US passport, and then upon leaving the US, check-in with your foreign passport (because your US passport is about to expire and the airline will not let you check-in with the about to expire US passport) but of course show your US passport to the airline as well as to any security, TSA, you encounter? Is 'checking-in' to a flight with a foreign passport leaving the US even though you are also 'bearing' a valid US passport still considered illegal? Is there anyway the airline can add your US passport information to your check-in information along with your foreign passport to clarify this with border control? I know there is no penalty but still don't see why this has to be illegal if you actually bear a valid US passport as you leave and can of course show both passports to the airline, TSA, etc. Your foreign passport would be valid for much longer for travel to Europe, your US passport just valid to leave the US.

Thanks for your help.

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  • After checking in with my foreign passport, will it cause me trouble if I show my American passport or both to TSA? Also how do you know who is TSA and CBP? Does it make your life more complicated or less complicated if you just show everyone both passports? Obviously always the US one to CBP.
    – Traveller
    May 31 at 16:47
  • Please edit your orignal question with any additional information you have rather than posting it as an answer.
    – jcaron
    May 31 at 16:50
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    – choster
    May 31 at 17:03
  • You seem to have created two accounts, travel.stackexchange.com/users/118156/traveller and travel.stackexchange.com/users/118233/traveller. You can merge them, whereafter you will be able to edit your question. I've edited my answer to address these additional questions.
    – phoog
    May 31 at 17:52
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Yes, you can most definitely do that (have done that too many times to count). The information you provide to the airline is mostly for the destination country, not the one you are leaving, and since the US do not do any exit checks, there's no-one else to show your US passport.

At some point in time check-in personnel would ask questions when you left the US with a non-US passport after having entered with a US passport (mostly back in the days of paper I-94 forms, when they failed to find the form in your passport), but indeed showing your US passport (or even just stating you had one, I don't remember) closed the issue.

It makes it a bit more fun for CBP/DHS to match your records, but that's their problem.

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  1. You always check in with the passport that you will use to enter the destination country
  2. Always enter and leave a country with the same passport
  3. If you switch passports during travel, let the airline know, especially if the country has exit controls. Example "I'm leaving Germany on passport A and will enter Korea on passport B". The US doesn't have exit controls, so that doesn't apply to you.
  4. Security and TSA only require a valid photo ID. They don't care which one, even your driver's license will be fine.

In your case, you will have no problems leaving, but you may have problems coming back. You do need a valid US passport to return to the United States and you will have trouble trying to board a US bound flight with an expired passport. There currently is a potential Covid exemption at the moment but this may go away anytime without advance notice and it's not clear that all airlines apply it.

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  • "Always enter and leave a country with the same passport": this rule is not so important if you're a citizen of that country. If you enter one country of citizenship with your foreign passport, it will usually be simpler to leave with the same-country passport, especially if you've been there for a long time.
    – phoog
    May 27 at 22:37
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I almost always check in for flights leaving the US with my non-US passport. I show that passport to everyone, including the TSA (who are only identifying you, not investigating your immigration status). It's never been a problem. I have the sense that some US airlines may pay attention to the immigration status of departing foreigners, but I usually use European airlines to leave the US, and, so far, they haven't cared. If anyone ever did, I would show my US passport.

The only person I would expect to require that I show a US passport would be a CBP officer doing departure spot checks. These do happen, but I've never seen them.

US government sites, as you note, typically misrepresent the statutory requirement. That's not your problem, though. There is no requirement for you to check in with your US passport when you leave.

(This loose interpretation of the law might be a problem if there were a penalty or some other effort to enforce it, but since there is not, you can just ignore it: there's no chance whatsoever that you would have to go to court to defend your interpretation.)

Is 'checking-in' to a flight with a foreign passport leaving the US even though you are also 'bearing' a valid US passport still considered illegal?

Why would it be? As you note, you are "bearing" a US passport. That the administrative systems make it difficult for you to provide evidence of that fact through your passenger record also shouldn't be your problem.

I do not know whether there is any way for the airline to list multiple passports on your passenger records. They potentially have to send passport data to two governments, so they may be able to put different passports in each message. This may become more of an issue after ETIAS goes live; the UK has also announced a similar system. Today, a dual US/EU citizen can check in for a flight to the Schengen area with the US passport and then show the EU passport on arrival. With ETIAS, it would be necessary to pay for the electronic travel authorization before doing that, which shouldn't be necessary.

In a comment, you ask

After checking in with my foreign passport, will it cause me trouble if I show my American passport or both to TSA?

TSA doesn't really care what kind of ID you show, though I was once told I could not show my driver's license because I was flying internationally. I showed my foreign passport. In any event, TSA does not check that you're using the same document that is recorded in your passenger record.

Also how do you know who is TSA and CBP?

They have uniforms with badges and patches that identify them. But there's no reason to avoid showing your foreign passport to anyone. If that person turns out to be a CBP officer, he or she will probably ask about your immigration status, at which point you can show your US passport.

Does it make your life more complicated or less complicated if you just show everyone both passports?

I haven't tried this, but it's probably more complicated to show two passports when there's no need to. It shouldn't be very much more complicated, though, so why don't you try it and come back and post an answer to describe your experience?

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