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I'm travelling on Monday to the US from the UK. I live in UK and have dual nationality. My US passport expired so I got an ESTA for my UK passport... I've just heard from an American friend that I HAVE to use my US passport, no questions. But it's expired... I'm panicking after googling and the recent changes. Anyone done this recently?

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    ESTA application asks specifically about other citizenships: did you disclose your US citizenship on your application or did you try to hide it ?
    – Hilmar
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 21:28
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    @Hilmar other contributors to this site have reported that they have received ESTA authorization after mentioning their US citizenship on the application, so it seems quite possible that Sky_traveller did as well.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 10:39
  • @phoog: understood and agreed. But your approach to managing this properly depends on whether you were truthful on the ESTA application or not.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 0:32
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    I have disclosed my us passport with expired date on my Esta. The esta has been approved with that information. So I'm hoping that gets me on the plane. @Hilmar Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 6:28
  • @Hilmar yes, a dual citizen who doesn't mention US citizenship on an ESTA application risks prosecution under 18 USC 1001, but I suspect that the probability of a prosecutor bringing such charges is effectively zero. The prosecutor is likely to conclude that prosecution is not in the public interest or that the question of materiality (a necessary element of the crime) will be difficult to prove, especially in light of the fact that the system is primarily automated and that the disclosure of US citizenship does not seem to affect the outcome of an application.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 8:25

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Basically there's a chance that the airline somehow gets wind of your US nationality and refuses boarding -- this could also result from getting a "do not board" message from US CBP when they submit your advance passenger information. But once you're on the plane, you will be fine. US immigration officers cannot refuse to admit you if you are a US citizen, and there is no penalty for violating the law that requires you to have a valid US passport to enter the US.

Several years ago there was even advice along these lines on the US government's web pages, but they have removed it. The legal situation has not changed, however. There have been proposed regulations to impose a fee for waiving the passport requirement, but such regulations have never been put in place.

You should take your expired passport with you as evidence of your US citizenship, and you can go to the US citizens' line. Please come back and post an answer to describe your experience; there is not a lot of information out there about how these things go in practice.

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    It is still the case that they are legally required to let US citizens into the US, passport or not. It sounds like they had some formal process by which expired passports would count as acceptable, which has been revoked -- this would mean that the airline might be more likely to stop you from boarding in some situations. (But not if you have a valid UK passport and they don't know you're a dual citizen, as in OP's question.) But CBP still has to let you in; they will just make your life annoying about it first. Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 20:38
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    @JackAidley that was a Covid-era provision that allowed US citizens to travel to the US with an expired passport and no other documents. That's not what I am talking about. This concerns a US citizen who can (likely) get to the border with a valid non-US passport and ESTA. In such a case, she can use any evidence of US citizenship to enter the US, whether an expired passport or a US birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad, naturalization certificate, or similar.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 22:04
  • @GlennWillen exactly. Because the state department fell behind in issuing passports, the US government established a program by which US citizens could fly to the US with their expired passports under certain circumstances, and airlines were informed that US citizens could do so and therefore could let them board.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 22:08
  • A logical thing to do would be to show the UK passport as a valid passport and the US passport as proof that the traveler is exempt from obtaining an ESTA. However, this is somewhat risky because the traveler might be denied check-in or boarding, whether properly or not.
    – Jake
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 6:26
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    One would hope that CBP would accept an expired passport as proof of citizenship. A simple scan at the the border should show that the bearer is still a citizen, though slack in renewing the passport. Unfortunately, I discovered that my state license branch would not accept an expired passport as proof of DOB when trying to get my DOB changed on my driver's license. Totally different situation, I realize, but I suppose it's possible...
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 12:05
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Update! Thanks to all for your contributions. Although I have no official answers - I presented my UK passport with the approved ESTA, (on which I did properly claim my US passport and stated the expiry date of it on the application) at all check points and no questions were asked at either departing the UK or entering the US.

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  • Please accept one of the answers, usually that is the one that helped most but accepting your own is also acceptable.
    – Willeke
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 1:10

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