Updated on 20.06.2024

Entering the USA with dual citizenship

When entering the USA, people with dual citizenship are faced with the question of which of their two passports should be used to enter the USA. We clarify!

Topics on this page:
Jump to topic

Share article:

Bild von der Einreise an einem US-Flughafen mit doppelter Staatsangehörigkeit

(Re)entering and leaving the country of the second passport and the United States is a complex matter for dual nationals. Not only the regulations of the USA, but also the entry and exit regulations of the respective other country, e.g. Germany, must be observed.

Time and again, people who have US citizenship - and possibly another nationality - ask us about the particularities of entering the United States. Dual nationals in particular are often unclear as to which passport the entry should take place and whether a US visa or ESTA must be applied for.

Which documents must be carried? Which passport is used to book the flight? What special requirements apply when leaving the USA and re-entering your home country? How does the border crossing work and what specific aspects need to be considered for people with dual nationality? The entry requirements and special features for people with dual nationality and US citizenship are explained below.

The following two cases can be distinguished for persons with dual citizenship who wish to enter the United States:

  1. Citizenship other than USA + one other nationality
    e.g. German and Polish citizenship
  2. US citizenship + one other nationality
    e.g. US and German citizenship

Citizenship other than USA + one other nationality

Individuals with two citizenships, neither of which is US, can theoretically choose which of their two passports they want to use to apply for ESTA or US visas and enter the United States.

However, both nationalities must be stated on the ESTA application or the DS-160 visa application form and when entering the United States.

According to the Visa Information Service of the US diplomatic missions in Germany, it is irrelevant with which passport persons with dual citizenship enter the United States. They are only required to declare both citizenships when applying for a visa or upon request when entering the United States.

In our experience, it can make a difference which passport the traveler enters the USA with. For example, only citizens of certain countries can participate in the Visa Waiver Program and enter the United States with an ESTA travel authorization. This means that a passport from a VWP country must be used to take advantage of this program.

Furthermore, depending on the country or nationality and visa category, there may be differences in the issuing of the US visa, e.g. with regard to the period of validity. For example, B visas for German nationals are generally issued for 10 years, whereas applicants with an Iranian passport are only issued a B visa for 3 months for a single entry.

US citizenship + one other nationality

General information

When traveling between, for example, Europe or Germany and the United States, persons who have US citizenship as well as another nationality should ideally take both passports with them.

As a rule, entry must be made with the respective home passport, i.e. for entry into the USA you use your US passport, for entry into Germany, for example, you use your German passport.

The subject of flight bookings does indeed lead to confusion time and again, because the situation is somewhat different when booking flights: Towards the USA, you absolutely have to use US passports and therefore this passport is also automatically deposited with the airline for the return flight, e.g. to Germany. Currently, travelers with a US passport can fly to Germany without a visa.

Using Germany as an example, the procedure for a trip to the USA can be roughly outlined as follows:

Flight from Germany to USA

  1. Flight booking
  2. Check-in (online or at your home airport)
  3. Baggage check-in and presentation of the (mobile) boarding pass and passport
  4. Security check (checking passengers and hand luggage)
  5. Boarding the aircraft
  6. Entry control on arrival in the USA
  7. Luggage storage
  8. Customs

Flight from USA to Germany

  1. Check-in (online or at the US airport)
  2. Baggage check-in and presentation of the (mobile) boarding pass and passport
  3. Security check (checking passengers and hand luggage)
  4. Boarding the aircraft
  5. Entry control on arrival in Germany
  6. Luggage storage
  7. Customs

Entering the USA

Persons who also have US citizenship in addition to another nationality must always enter the USA with an American passport and in this case of course do not require a visa or ESTA authorization for the USA. Only foreign nationals require a valid US visa or an ESTA authorization for entry and stay in the United States.

Nevertheless, Americans with dual citizenship should inform themselves about the current entry regulations and the conditions for a problem-free re-entry into the United States before crossing the Atlantic.
Behind the privilege of being able to travel without ESTA or a US visa stand details that should be considered when traveling outside the United States.

Departing and re-entering the USA

US citizens may not travel outside the United States without a valid US passport as a US travel document. While dual nationals could theoretically travel abroad from the United States with their other foreign passport, e.g. German passport, all US citizens are required to present a valid US passportto (re-)enter the United States. This applies to all dual nationals with US citizenship, including babies and children.

Attempting to return to the United States without presenting a US passport and / or a recently issued US Certificate of Naturalization as a dual citizen may result in denial of US entry, significant travel delays, and unexpected costs until an emergency passport can be issued.

Therefore, make sure your US passport is valid and always carry it with you when traveling to the United States or returning to the United States from abroad.

Departing and re-entering Germany / the EU

Departure from Germany and subsequent re-entry into Germany is a complex matter for dual nationals. Not only the regulations of the USA, but also the German exit regulations must be observed.

The following should be noted for persons who have German citizenship in addition to US citizenship: According to the Federal Foreign Office, you can only leave Germany and re-enter Germany with a German passport. This applies to both adults and children. Dual nationals must therefore carry their German passport in addition to their US passport in order to be able to present it when leaving and re-entering Germany.

Generally, this also applies to persons with US citizenship who are also citizens of another member state of the European Union. They must enter the European Union with their EU passport.

By the way: The U.S. Department of State recommends that all travelers renew their passports before they expire, as they are required to remain valid for six months after their planned departure from the United States. Nationals of certain countries are exempt from this passport requirement under the Six Month Club.

Entry for persons born in the USA without a US passport

People who were born in the USA or with a US parent but who grew up in another country and therefore may not (or no longer) have a US passport face particular challenges when entering the United States. US law clearly stipulates that a child born in the USA and a child with at least one US parent automatically acquires US citizenship.

However, people with US citizenship who grew up abroad and no longer have any connection to the USA are also required by law to enter the country with a US passport. It is therefore advisable to obtain all documents in good time before traveling in order to avoid problems when entering the country.

1. Contact the US authorities

Before traveling to the United Staes, it is recommended that you contact the US embassy or the US consulate to clarify any questions and receive assistance with entry. The US authorities can provide information on which additional documents are required and which entry requirements apply for the USA.

2. US birth certificate

The first step for people without a US passport who are entitled to US citizenship by birth or descent is to obtain a US birth certificate. This document confirms birth in the USA or relationship to a person with US citizenship and is essential for proof of US citizenship. The US embassy or the US consulate in the country of residence can help with questions about obtaining a US birth certificate.

3. Applying for a US passport

After receiving the US birth certificate, it is recommended that you immediately apply for a US passport. The local US embassy or US consulate can usually help with this process.

As applying for a US passport can take some time, early planning is essential. Contacting the US authorities well in advance and obtaining the necessary documents in good time is the key to avoiding delays and inconvenience when entering the USA.

Possible renunciation of US citizenship

You are not required to become a US citizen. If you decide against applying for a US passport and would like to actively cut your ties with the USA, you can submit a formal renunciation of US citizenship. There is an expatriation fee and, in addition to various documents, you must also provide proof that you have no tax arrears in the USA. We recommend that you seek legal advice here.

Please bear in mind that the decision to renounce your US citizenship cannot be reversed and has consequences, e.g. for future entries into the United States. From now on, you must travel with an ESTA authorization or US visa and be prepared for possible questioning by US Customs and Border Protection.

Sie haben nicht alle nötigen Cookies akzeptiert um diese Funktion zu verwenden. Sie können Ihre Einstellungen hier ändern.


Updated on 20.06.2024