I am a dual citizen. I have both a US passport and a non-US passport. I live in the US.

My US passport is currently being processed for renewal. I am unsure whether I will receive my passport in time for a trip that I have scheduled.

Could I use my non-US passport to leave the US and return? I have never entered the US with my non-US passport.

There is no immigration leaving the US but I still need to scan my passport for ticketing. Will the airline refuse me a ticket?

I know that in this situation returning with a non-US passport can be problematic as well, but will I be able to leave at all?

Note that I am traveling to a country which neither of my passports are from.


Just a note from recent experience - you can actually get an ESTA for your non-US passport - and I checked with a US border person before doing so (I'd v stupidly left my US passport at home), when going through pre-clearance in Ottawa, Canada, in transit to Brazil - but that doesn't mean you should. I input details of all passports, incl the US one, and the system didn't stop me and nor did the US passport control. But I got taken away just before boarding the U.S.-bound flight on my way home. Had to go get an emergency passport (& the one I left behind has been cancelled) and spend an extra night to do so. Just don't try - you might make it one way but it's unlikely you'll make it both. The airlines get fined, too, so they are quite zealous!

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    Did you actually answer all questions truthfully on the ESTA? It does ask if you are a US citizen from memory. – Chris Jan 3 '17 at 2:30
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    Who took you away before boarding? Was it the airline, or did it happen as you went through US immigration preclearance? – phoog Apr 15 '18 at 17:30

Generally, airlines worry most about you holding a visa for the destination country. I have left the US many times forgetting to return my I-94, but I obviously had an entry record for that passport.

However, it is illegal for US citizens to enter or leave the US on another than a US passport. Since you are a US citizen, you can not obtain a US visa (for your foreign passport) and you are required to enter with your US passport (as clearly stated on the US embassy website): https://uk.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/u-s-passports/u-s-passport-faqs/u-s-citizenship/

If you plan to re-enter the US with a foreign passport, you might get into trouble! Of course, this is up to the immigration officer, but you will already have issues boarding your flight, as the airline will check for a valid visa/ESTA with the foreign passport you plan to return with.

As a US citizen you can not obtain a visa/ESTA for your foreign passport. During the application process you will be asked if you hold or have ever held US citizenship and will therefore be refused a visa.

You can generally acquire an emergency / temporary travel document or expedite the passport application: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/services/expedited.html

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    How do you know the OP is using a UK passport? – user102008 Aug 18 '15 at 0:06
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    Sorry, my bad - I probably confused Gayot's comment with the OP and will correct this. In the end it doesn't matter which country your second passport is from. – Chris Aug 18 '15 at 8:27
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    It does matter, because people from some countries don't need visas or ESTA to visit the US. For example, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, etc. – user102008 Aug 18 '15 at 17:39
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    @phoog I thought that's what I read on the embassy website, but after reading it again, I couldn't find any reference anymore. – Chris Oct 20 '15 at 10:51
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    @Chris I've read a lot of incorrect things on embassy websites. It is certainly true, however, that a US citizen without a passport could be denied entry if unable to convince the border guard that he or she is a US citizen. – phoog Oct 22 '15 at 19:57

I am a dual Australian American citizen living in Australia, I've gotten an ESTA for my Australian passport. It did ask about being American, I answered yes and it dutifully issued the ESTA.


There will be no problem leaving the US. The airline only wants to check your passport to see if you are have the correct documentation to get off the plane at your destination.

However, it is illegal according to US law for a US citizen to enter the US using a non-US passport. So you'll have problems coming back home unless you make arrangements to have your new passport sent to you while you are away from home.

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    Can you add how they know and/or how this is enforced? Did anybody ever get caught? – Gayot Fow Jul 30 '15 at 2:03
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    @GayotFow When you return on a foreign passport, you obviously require a VISA. As a US citizen, you can not apply for a VISA (on a foreign passport). During VISA application they will simply ask if you are / have been a US citizen at any point and if you say yes, you can not get the VISA. If you on the other hand make false statements and they find out (and they likely would), you might get into big trouble during immigration. – Chris Aug 17 '15 at 8:00
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    "However, it is illegal according to US law for a US citizen to enter the US using a non-US passport." It is also illegal according to US law for a US citizen to leave the US without bearing a US passport. – user102008 Aug 18 '15 at 0:01
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    @GregHewgill USCBP cannot possibly have the name and birth date of all US citizens. – phoog Oct 20 '15 at 6:56
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    @phoog Why not? – Nate Eldredge Apr 5 '16 at 14:36

To the original question I will add that I have travelled between Canada and the USA with my second-last expired US passport, while the last one was with the State Department or in the mail for renewal. No problem, not even secondary inspection.

I have never entered the US with my non-US passport, as I knew it was not allowed. I don't remember about leaving the US. (I don't think the US checks that anyway, some countries do, but not the US). Note: it is not the same thing leaving the US as entering the destination or transit country.


Since this came up it might be worth noting that the actual administrative law being violated is 22 CFR 53.1, and 22 CFR 53.2 has the exceptions which can be trolled for loopholes.

It appears to me that one might be able to legally get away without a valid US passport by flying via Canada with a valid NEXUS card (though I'm not positive; "NEXUS Air kiosks" are an anachronism and, anyway, if they don't like what you are doing they can invalidate the NEXUS card on a whim). Crossing the land border with a WHTI document and flying from and to Canada might be a bit more secure. Having a non-US passport is of no help to an American at all, however.

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    "Having a non-US passport is of no help to an American at all, however." Nonsense. There are plenty of countries where Americans require visas but (obviously) nationals of that country do not. Being a national of country X gives you the automatic right to live and work there; being American does not give you the right to live and work in country X. There are plenty of places in the world where identifying yourself as an American is not, shall we say, the best way to make yourself popular. – David Richerby Apr 13 '16 at 15:11
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    A US citizen can fly out of the US using a non-US passport. This violates the law, but there is no enforcement of the law, and there is no penalty for violating the law. The law formerly provided for a penalty, but the penalty was repealed in the 1970s (1978, if I recall correctly). I've flown from the US using a non-US passport on multiple occasions without anyone raising an eyebrow or saying anything. (I was not breaking the law on those occasions, because I also had my US passport with me, but nobody had any way of knowing that.) – phoog Apr 13 '16 at 15:47
  • I would like to clarify my previous comment. The first clause of the second sentence is incorrect because the law requires the US citizen to "bear" the passport. So as long as the citizen has the US passport, the citizen is complying with the law, even if he or she checked in with a foreign passport; this explains the last (parenthetical) sentence. – phoog Sep 14 '17 at 19:35
  • With all the people here who said it's illegal for a US citizen to enter or leave the US on a non-US passport, thank you for being the only person who actually cited the relevant law. – Kyralessa Oct 7 '19 at 8:58
  • @Kyralessa these are relevant regulatory sections ("administrative law"). The statute is 8 USC 1185(b). – phoog Jun 12 at 22:07

Could I use my non-US passport to leave the US and return? I have never entered the US with my non-US passport.

You could definitely leave the US without any issues whatsoever, as there's no immigration controls at American airports. Likewise there's no penalty for violating the law which forbids leaving the US without a valid US passport.

Coming back would be a bit more tricky, as US citizens are generally not supposed to be issues ESTAs or visas. And without an ESTA or visa you wouldn't be allowed on the plane back home. However you can escape that issue by flying to Canada or Mexico first and then entering the US overland. US border guards won't be able to deny you entry as long as you convince them you're a US citizen, so at worst you would have to spend a bit more time while they verify your identity. Another option is to receive an emergency US passport at a consulate abroad.

Overall the easiest solution is to simply wait for your passport to arrive and then proceed with your travels.

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