How to get back to the USA
March 12, 2009 3:49 AM   Subscribe

My Irish friend's wife is a US citizen but has not yet obtained an American passport. She does have her citizenship papers. They will be traveling to Ireland (she has an Irish passport) and back to the US in April. Will she need a Visa or an American passport to return to the US?
posted by elle.jeezy to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total)
she wll need a us passport to return
posted by zia at 4:02 AM on March 12, 2009

Couldn't she just return to the US on the Irish passport? Ireland is one of those countries that doesn't require its citizens to get a visa before travelling.
posted by hannahlambda at 4:12 AM on March 12, 2009

The issue is that when you are dual national, there are certain actions you can take which the US govt interprets as an act of relinquishing citizenship. These are:
- fighting in another country's military and,
- using a non-us passport to enter the us

Therefore, she needs to NOT use her Irish passport to enter the Us as the state department / homeland security might view it as an act of relinquishment.

I would call the state department and ask what to do. Get their instructions in writing and follow it to the letter. Or, just get and use a US passport.
posted by zia at 4:18 AM on March 12, 2009

The US' view on dual citizenship is a bit fuzzy, but if you are a United States national, you are required to use a US passport to enter and exit the Unites States.

I know people who have used their other passports, but it is illegal and not recommended.

(on preview: using a foreign passport is never mentioned anywhere I've looked, and I have looked, in reference to giving up citizenship. Apparently it's really difficult to accomplish that.)
posted by mhz at 4:22 AM on March 12, 2009

Just in response to mhz:

When I called the state department to ask about pitfalls of being a dual national, they explicitly warned me about being sure to ALWAYS use a US passport to enter and exit the Unites States. They informed me that not to do so was one way to lose my citizenship.

Again: I would call the state department - do not take advice from folks on the internet as a mistake could be costly.
posted by zia at 4:27 AM on March 12, 2009

oops, nevermind what I said then... =/

Couldn't she just return to the US on the Irish passport?
posted by hannahlambda at 4:38 AM on March 12, 2009

Confirm with the State Department but she'll need to get her American passport in order to return. Not doing so may screw up her status and result in lots of paperwork and dealing with large government bureaucracies.

She should be able to bring her travel paperwork along to the passport office and get an expedited passport.

(Not a lawyer, not legal advice, yadda yadda yadda)
posted by beowulf573 at 4:55 AM on March 12, 2009

Getting a US passport by April is not impossible. It is usually a slow process but there are ways to speed it up. I have also heard that contacting your Senator is a good way to get the process moving quickly.
posted by muddgirl at 5:50 AM on March 12, 2009

Incidentally, I recently got a passport for my daughter with no expedited service in less than two weeks from dropping the application in the mail to the mailman delivering the passport to our doorstep. Getting one by April would be no problem, particularly if you pay for the expedited service or went to a passport office.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:23 AM on March 12, 2009

Definitely get a US passport. I had the same experience - needing to travel internationally right after getting my naturalized citizen certificate. The advice I got from the State Department was the same as what zia said - always use your US passport to exit and enter the US, or you might be considered to have relinquished your citizenship.

I had only a week to do it, and was able to pay extra to have my passport expedited to two days. That was at the D.C. passport office, so I was lucky to get it that fast, but even sending it to her local passport office for expedited service shouldn't be a problem if she only needs to travel in April. Don't mess around with this stuff - tell her to just go ahead and get the US passport paperwork going right now.
posted by gemmy at 6:28 AM on March 12, 2009

Just wait till the departure is closer and make an appointment at the passport office (you usually can do do it somewhere around the 2 week mark). You'll get it that day and pay the same expedite fee you'd pay if you took it to the post office, only this way you don't have sit around freaking out.
posted by dame at 6:52 AM on March 12, 2009

There are agencies that will handle all the passport expedition work for you (down to 24 hrs if the stars are aligned just right; but 48-96 is fairly easy) but be prepared to pay for the convenience. They can also do a week or so for less, which maybe safer than the USPS route. I've used Visa Lady with no complaints...
posted by costas at 7:10 AM on March 12, 2009

U.S. citizens need a passport to re-enter the U.S. A passport is the proof of citizenship.

Go to and find out what the State Department has to say about passports. They issue the pasports, so why pay attention to someone else?

Nothing wrong with calling them, but in my experience the wait can be long.

Definitely go for expedited processing since the travel is so soon. If you are in or near a city wih a passport office -- see for a list -- call and make an appointment. Be sure to ask what kind of paperwork you need to bring in, and plan to spend the day there.

FYI: I got my passport about 18 months ago in the midst of the great processing backlog. I applied at a local post office, paid for expedited processing, and received my passport in 4 days. Paperwork and the passport are both sent by overnight mail, whatever USPS calls that these days.

I've heard stories about people waiting until the last minute and using that as leverage to get a passport very quickly. I've also heard stories about people waiting until the last minute and not getting a passport, losing the trip and a lot of money. Why gamble that some guy in the Passport Office is going to take pity on you and go out of the way just because you waited until a day or two before your flight?
posted by justcorbly at 7:51 AM on March 12, 2009

No experience with dual nationality, but I recently renewed a US passport using the expedited mail service and got my new passport in under a week. I was pleasantly surprised.
posted by dyobmit at 7:52 AM on March 12, 2009

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES enter the U.S. if you are a dual national without a U.S. passport. Here's why: if you are not a native-born U.S. citizen, the acquisition or reversion to foreign nationality will be viewed as an act of expatriation. In a practical sense, it is possible that a court will ultimately uphold find that you did not intend to renounce your U.S. citizenship by entering the U.S. on another passport. In the meantime, you're in the secondary examination line, maybe you're held in immigration custody, maybe you get a bond, maybe you don't. If you enter with just a birth certificate or an old expired passport, that is considered prima facie proof of nationality, but not proof. These documents are looked at as lesser proofs. Voter registration cards are no longer viewed as proof.

In sum, do yourself a favor. Do not leave the United States until you have a U.S. passport. If it's a true emergency, such as a funeral, you can go to the passport office and get a turnaround in 24 hours.
posted by tesseract420 at 9:12 AM on March 12, 2009

If you are a non-U.S. citizen, it is illegal to enter the U.S. on your other passport(s), but it is by no means an act of expatriation unless you intend it to be. If you don't intend to give up your citizenship, you do not put your citizenship at risk by using the wrong passport.

In other words, get your passport now (and pay extra for expedited service), because it will be a major (albeit not catastrophic) hassle if you don't.
posted by oaf at 10:08 AM on March 12, 2009

if you are a non-U.S. citizen
posted by oaf at 10:11 AM on March 12, 2009

zia, I think my use of the words 'required' and 'illegal' in reference to using the US passport would qualify as advice to follow the law, not break it.

That said, the pages I found do not agree with the person you spoke with at the State Dept. the key is intent.

About passport turnaround times, between friends and family, I know about ten people who received passports in the past 6 months. Between the lot there were replacements for stolen passports, renewals and first applications. Nobody involved paid for expediting (they were all done at local Post Offices) and the turnaround time ranged from 1-3.5 weeks. They were taking 6-8 a couple of years ago.
posted by mhz at 4:55 PM on March 12, 2009

My friend was advised by the State Dept. employee to get a US passport and travel on that. They opted not to travel for other reasons.
posted by elle.jeezy at 7:49 PM on April 16, 2009

« Older South africa travel advice needed.   |   managing my expectations with no shows Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.