My brother-in-law is a UK citizen who just passed his US citizenship interview. They scheduled his oath ceremony for late August, and he has flights to Mexico booked for late October, so he wouldn't get his US passport in time (expedited passports take 3 months currently). Any ideas for how he could keep his travel plans? He is not willing to travel to Mexico by land, which rules out getting Real ID. He is considering getting a same day passport in Chicago, but is stressed out at having to leave that for within 72 hours of the travel and not having a guarantee that it will work.

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    REAL ID has nothing to do with it (REAL ID enforcement does not begin until May 3, 2023 in any case). For the purposes of TSA security checkpoints, he can use any US state driver's license or non-driver ID (regardless of whether it's REAL ID or non-REAL-ID), or his British passport.
    – user102008
    Aug 12, 2021 at 0:44
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    In reality expedited passports are taking about 4 weeks so he should receive it. Alternatively he could do the same day passport. Finally absolute worst case scenario he can fly on his British passport while carrying his naturalization certificate. British nationals can enter the US if they have not been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China, South Africa or India within the previous 14 days. gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/usa/entry-requirements. At immigration he can ask to be admitted as a US citizen. No need to stress, at least one of these alternatives will work. Aug 12, 2021 at 3:27
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    @AugustineofHippo that looks like an answer.
    – jcaron
    Aug 12, 2021 at 6:19
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    @ginger_cat: There is a law making it "unlawful" for a US citizen to enter or exit the US without "bearing" a US passport, but there are no consequences for violating that law. A US citizen who manages to make it to a US port of entry, and can satisfactorily prove their US citizenship (with a US certificate of naturalization plus photo ID can), cannot be denied entry no matter what (though they can detain the person while verifying it). So there should be no problem entering by land from Mexico, or by air if you can get the airline to board you, and an ESTA should satisfy the airline.
    – user102008
    Aug 12, 2021 at 16:23
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    Of course, you could also apply for a US passport in Mexico if there is enough time during your trip to do so.
    – user102008
    Aug 12, 2021 at 16:24

2 Answers 2


The most surefire approach is as follows:

  1. Wait until its 2 weeks before your trip, making sure you already have your citizenship document at hand by then
  2. Call the Department of State at 8:00am ET on the dot (important - you want to be one of the first callers that day) and make an appointment for an emergency passport. You can only do this 2 weeks before your travel date, otherwise they won't give you a slot.
  3. Show up for the appointment, hand them your documents and you'll have a passport in your hands within 24 hours

My US citizen friend did this last week and it was very easy to get an appointment at the Seattle passport agency. But do note that this will require you to travel in person to one of the passport agencies which could mean taking an extra round-trip flight depending on where you live.

Other options include:

  1. Fly to Mexico with your UK passport and try to fly back on an ESTA obtained on your British passport, along with your naturalization certificate. As long as your ESTA is issued, you're good to go. You'll be scolded by the CBP agent upon arrival for doing this but legally speaking there's nothing they can do to you once you're arrived to a point of entry.
  2. Fly to Mexico, then cross overland to go back home. Same deal as with option #1 - the CBP agent might be annoyed you don't have your US passport but they don't really have a choice other than to let you in. Carry your UK passport and your naturalization certificate.
  3. File an expedited passport application and pray for the best. There are some reports of the State Department issuing passports faster these days so there's a good chance you'll get it by your flight in the end of October.

There seems to be conflicting information between the CBP and usa.gov, the latter suggesting that US citizens entering from the western hemisphere (Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean) can use an enhanced driver's license (Real ID), while the CBP states that only for land or sea travel, but not for air travel.
In any case, as in the comments above, a US citizen entering the us with foreign passport and presenting his naturalization certificate cannot be denied entry.

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    An enhanced driver's license is certainly not the same thing as Real ID. EDLs have machine readable characters on the back (not a barcode) like at the bottom of a passport ID page, and they have an RFID chip. Only five states issue them. In any event, the rules allowing entry with an enhanced driver's license do not apply to air travel. The information on usa.gov is incorrect.
    – phoog
    Aug 13, 2021 at 0:37
  • I submitted feedback to the usa.gov site to tell them that they should correct the page. We'll see how long it takes.
    – phoog
    Aug 13, 2021 at 16:06

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