My 11 month old was born in the US and therefore a US citizen. We are traveling in 2 weeks and unfortunately we only have her non-US passport and there is no way to get a US passport in time. I suspect we will be able to leave the US but have issues returning. Do you think they will let us board the plane and go into secondary screening upon arrival? I am a US citizen and my husband is a green card holder and my other child is dual citizen but has his US passport. I know they allow children of green card holders born outside the US to fly (https://jp.usembassy.gov/visas/immigrant-visas/green-card/lpr-child-abroad/) but unfortunately she was born in the US.

I can apply for the passport but it takes 4-6 weeks and I can get someone to overnight it to us if it arrives in time before our return flight, but if it doesn't arrive then are we stuck waiting for the passport before we can return? If i apply for the passport i have to send the only copy of birth certificate to them. Is it better to have the original birth certificate with us?

1 Answer 1


Your newborn is a US citizen, and 18 USC §1185 requires US citizens to bear a valid US passport for entry into (and exit from) the US. Airlines know this, and will refuse to board her onto a flight to the US unless she has a valid US passport.

That she is a dual citizen of the US and another country is irrelevant. As a US citizen, the airline will apply the US-citizen rule cited above. Thus, the answer to "may she use her non-US passport" is "No."

If the passport application requires an original birth certificate, then send the only original you have with the application; if a copy is acceptable, send the copy. In the US, one may obtain for a minimal fee, usually from the Recorder in the County where the birth occurred, a new official copy of a birth certificate, which will be considered as an "original" for all purposes.

  • The airline does not know she is a US citizen. I don't see any reasons she can't travel as a non-US-citizen child of a US permanent resident with an ESTA (when it comes to the airline). The issue is to get an ESTA. Some people say you can get an ESTA even if you are a US citizen, even if you should not. Not sure if that's actually the case.
    – jcaron
    May 27, 2021 at 17:17
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    @SMD You identify the issues correctly. If an ESTA or visa application is honestly filled-out, her US citizenship will be revealed and the application should be denied. Without an ESTA or a visa or a valid US passport, boarding will be denied. My view is expressed in the last sentence of my previous comment. May 27, 2021 at 18:27
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    @shoover that isn't possible. A US citizen cannot be barred from entering the US.
    – phoog
    May 27, 2021 at 21:14
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    @SMD how long will you be in Switzerland? You could also get the passport there if you'll be there for a while.
    – phoog
    May 27, 2021 at 21:18
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    @JakeDot Not all people born in the US are US citizens. It's quite rare they aren't, but not impossible. CBP will most probably be quite inquisitive about that, but airlines don't and shouldn't care. Their job is to make sure you meet the requirements which are given to them based on the nationality you say you have, which usually means a valid passport, a visa or an ESTA, and boarding not being refused by the US. I'm definitely not saying this is the best route, but it may be a possibility. The best route is of course to get a US passport.
    – jcaron
    May 27, 2021 at 22:04

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