A member of my family (who is a French citizen) is currently applying for the Visa Waiver Program of the USA. The member was born in a city in former French Algeria (before independence).

In the field "Country of Birth", should he therefore select "France" (as the city was located in the former French Algeria) or "Algeria" (the country where the city is now)?

  • 10
    Does the French passport show place of birth? If so, what does it say?
    – phoog
    Feb 12, 2017 at 20:37
  • 8
    @phoog. It shows the city of birth but does not specify the country.
    – A. Camus
    Feb 12, 2017 at 20:42
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Feb 15, 2017 at 8:18

3 Answers 3


It's worth pointing out the guidelines the USA itself applies to U.S. passport holders:

(My emphasis)


(CT:CON-254;   04-29-2008)

a. It is the Department of State policy that place of birth in a U.S. passport should reflect the current sovereignty as determined by the Office of the Geographer (INR/GGI) and the regional geographic bureau.

b. As a general rule, the country that currently has sovereignty over the actual place of birth is listed as the place of birth, regardless of when the birth occurred.  Passport authorizing officers must use the country of birth as it is now known for a place of birth listing, unless otherwise specified in this appendix.

c.  For a location whose sovereignty is in dispute, is not yet resolved, or is not recognized by the United States, this appendix provides specific guidance.

Source: 7 FAM 1300 APPENDIX D

I'm not sure whether France has a similar guideline, but if they don't, going with the above (meaning: Algeria, not France) may be your safest bet. This would also be in line with Spehro's answer.

  • I agree - I've always used Croatia as my country of birth (even though Croatia was part of Yugoslavia back when I was born, and only later gained independence). Feb 13, 2017 at 11:57
  • 2
    @MatijaNalis It is nothing obvious about this regulation. Other countries, e.g. Germany where place of birth is an import attribute for identification purposes, use the name at time of birth, optionally with an addition 'now: new-name'. Feb 13, 2017 at 13:37
  • 5
    As far as I can tell the German law differs from this. My mother was born in what is today Poland, but was back then (1944) part of Germany. Her passport uses the German (and not the Polish) name of the town and she is considered "born in Germany" - as opposed to "born in the German Empire", which would have been correct at the time. So I would "Germany, Federal Republic of" take to be the current name, not "Poland, Republic of". Feb 13, 2017 at 22:25
  • 2
    @Marianne013 but according to the rules above, applying for US VISA you should pick 'Poland'. It doesn't matter what is logical or what makes sense when it comes to particular legal regulations ...
    – user45851
    Feb 14, 2017 at 7:44
  • 1
    The FAM link is now broken. 7 FAM 1300 was removed in mid July. I haven't found where it was moved to, if anywhere.
    – phoog
    Nov 27, 2018 at 4:54

Algeria. A look at the (electronic) form DS-160 tells you this:

enter image description here

  • 26
    Isn't that for places that change their name, rather than regions that belong to a completely different country now? Feb 12, 2017 at 20:34
  • 11
    I think it is ambiguous, depending on how you interpret "place". Is "place" the city? Then the city has changed countries since the OP's relative's birth, and the country it currently belongs to should be chosen. Or is "place" the country? In that case, the OP's relative was born in France, and the same name is still in use for that country. Feb 12, 2017 at 23:57
  • 9
    Note that I'm not claiming either France or Algeria is correct. I'm just saying that to me, the description of the "Country/Region" field seems absolutely ambiguous, and either choice would fit equally well, depending on how you interpret that ambiguous description. Feb 13, 2017 at 0:20
  • 8
    @O.R.Mapper: "Place" as in, the exact point (latitude and longitude) on the Earth's surface. Your city might get divided between 2 countries. But the exact point location is still currently in one country or another.
    – user102008
    Feb 13, 2017 at 3:41
  • 6
    "Place" usually refers to a physical location. The name of that location can change, but the location itself doesn't change, hence @user102008 reference to latitude & longitude. See also, MH's answer
    – FreeMan
    Feb 13, 2017 at 22:00

It is pretty obvious that the point of the question is to locate the place of birth on a current map. Therefore, you put the current name of the country, which is Algeria.

The standard advice with visa applications is to be as honest and straightforward as possible. Any attempt to game the system is bound to end badly.

To forestall the pedants, place clearly refers to city/town/village - not country or they wouldn't also ask for country. If you were free to interpret place as freely as some of the comments above suggest, you could put Planet Earth. Good luck with that at Immigration Control.

  • 29
    "It is pretty obvious that the point of the question is to locate the place of birth on a current map." - actually, it is not at all obvious whether a border protection agency is more interested in the geographical location or the political affiliation of a given place. Feb 14, 2017 at 11:50
  • 3
    @O.R.Mapper Just provide them with the location and let them worry about the politics; that's their job. Feb 14, 2017 at 12:05
  • 11
    @OscarBravo If I've learned anything from all the questions and stories about intentional travel I've read on this site, it's that, "Let them worry about the details," is a horrible idea if successfully getting entry is important to you.
    – jpmc26
    Feb 14, 2017 at 21:22
  • @jpmc26 You're absolutely right... In the alternative universe where I said what you quoted. Feb 16, 2017 at 7:54
  • @OscarBravo That isn't intended as a direct quote. And if you can't see the parallel between, "let them worry about the politics," and, "Let them worry about the details," then you've missed the point.
    – jpmc26
    Feb 16, 2017 at 15:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .