An answer to a related question mentions that it's possible for dual US citizens to acquire an ESTA without lying, however it's likely that the authorization would be revoked shortly before their flight.

This begs the question of what is the maximum penalty for a US citizen who lies on the ESTA form (by omitting the fact that they are dual US citizens) and then proceeds to enter the country under VWP using their second passport? Obviously they cannot be deported or banned from future visits, but what about monetary/criminal penalties?

A related question shows that no real penalty exists for entering/leaving the USA with a foreign passport, so perhaps it's also legal to misrepresent yourself on the ESTA form.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jan 17, 2017 at 12:00
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    Why is this getting close votes as opinion based? I don't see a single word in the question that smells like it is asking for opinions. Jan 21, 2017 at 8:38
  • What I don't understand is why a US citizen wouldn't want to use US passport to enter the USA (other than to hide from something else illegal, maybe?)
    – Aleks G
    Feb 1, 2017 at 22:24
  • @AleksG plenty of dual citizens out there who neglect to hold a valid passport.
    – JonathanReez
    Feb 1, 2017 at 22:27
  • @JonathanReez hm.. ok, maybe... I am a dual citizen myself (US and UK) living in the UK, but I do make sure to renew my US passport as appropriate
    – Aleks G
    Feb 1, 2017 at 22:35

1 Answer 1


Your answer lies right here. A fine, without a defined maximum. Now of course if the perpetrator went on to commit an act of terrorism, then the imprisonment would come into play.


(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

  • shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.
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    It seems that the perpetrator can be imprisoned for up to 5 years even in the absence of terrorism. It's also hard to imagine anyone being prosecuted or convicted under this statute for following US government advice such as "If you have a true emergency, and are unable to obtain a U.S. Passport before your travels, and only have a VWP-eligible passport, then you will have to apply through ESTA using that passport to travel to the U.S. When arriving at the U.S. airport using the foreign passport, you will have to use the non-resident queue."
    – phoog
    Feb 1, 2017 at 17:51
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    @phoog, Agreed however this gentleman's scenario is different. There is no emergency, and he's only looking to visit friends. Looks like there is a clear intent to commit fraud here. Feb 1, 2017 at 19:59
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    There is a defined maximum fine; it is defined at 18 USC 3751(b). Since the crime specified in 18 USC 1001 is a felony under 18 USC 3559(a), the maximum fine is $250,000 unless the "alternative fine based on gain or loss" comes into play.
    – phoog
    Nov 5, 2017 at 16:19

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