Can I go to the US without my US passport? Or...
August 15, 2011 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Emergency! I'm a Dual UK/USA citizen with valid USA and UK passports. My flight leaves London (where I am now) tomorrow at 2 p.m. I have my UK passport on me, in London, but my USA passport is currently in Manchester. It's 9:44 p.m. in London. This page says it's against federal law for a US citizen (even a dual citizen) to enter the USA on anything other than a USA passport. So, what are my options? I've JUST applied for an ESTA visa, it's supposed to be instant...
posted by omnigut to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you drive to Manchester to get your passport? You can easily get back to London in time to get some sleep tonight and make your flight tomorrow. Rent a car if you have to.
posted by atrazine at 2:01 PM on August 15, 2011

Its inconvenient and expensive but you could get to Manchester and back easily before your flight.
posted by missmagenta at 2:02 PM on August 15, 2011

Considering I don't know how to drive, what about a courier?
posted by omnigut at 2:08 PM on August 15, 2011

I'm a US-Canadian dual. I entered the US with my Canadian passport for at least two years after my US passport expired. My Canadian passport lists "Hammond, USA" as my birthplace and I was only once asked, specifically, why I was not using my US passport, to which I replied that it had expired and I hadn't got around to renewing it. I was never once held up or denied entry.

YMMV obviously but I don't think this is that huge of an issue. If you're naturalized US then there is no hint on your UK passport that you're a US citizen and no reason for anybody to suspect anything. If you're born in the US and it says as such on your UK passport, maybe just tell them what I told them and hope for the best. The worst thing that can happen is that you'll be denied entry- it's not like they're going to arrest you.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:09 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're too late for the last train; there's a Megabus leaving at 11pm (takes 4hrs) or a National Express overnight coach service (6hrs) at 11.30pm, and the first trains leave Manchester for London (2hrs 10m) at about 6am.
posted by holgate at 2:09 PM on August 15, 2011

FedEx next flight courier may get it to you on time; potentially at considerable expense, but if someone can get it to a FedEx office that's still open, they might be able to get it to you early in the morning.
posted by Dasein at 2:10 PM on August 15, 2011

Try calling the emergency contact at the US Consulate in London. They will be able to give you the best advice.
posted by juniperesque at 2:11 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay, I'm calling the consulate...
posted by omnigut at 2:14 PM on August 15, 2011

Er, looks like FedEx doesn't do domestic services in the UK.
posted by Dasein at 2:14 PM on August 15, 2011

I have dual citizenship too, and they wouldn't let me intothe US without my US passport or a return flight back to the UK. I forget why I had my UK passport instead, but I had to dig through my bag for my US one to be let through.
posted by katypickle at 2:18 PM on August 15, 2011

Do you have a flight back out of the US? If you don't your airline will not let you board in London without a visa or greencard. ESTA is not a visa.

If you do, and are flying back out of the US within 90 days then, assuming you have your ESTA approval by now, enter on your UK passport under the Visa Waiver Program.
posted by IanMorr at 2:20 PM on August 15, 2011

Check with DHL (contact info here), they appear to have next-flight courier service available in the UK.
posted by photo guy at 2:21 PM on August 15, 2011

@photo guy Thanks for the link. £400 via DHL

@IanMorr, We're taking the train to Canada. By that point I'll have my USA passport with me. So you think that Virgin will stop me boarding the flight at Heathrow?

The lady on the emergency number, the duty officer, said that she thought they'd let me into the country, but they'd hassle me a lot.
posted by omnigut at 2:44 PM on August 15, 2011

I have lost my passport twice when traveling abroad. Both times I got back into the states with minimal problems. They told me to fill out a lost passport form later on and send it in.

I hope your experience is as easy.
posted by bswinburn at 2:49 PM on August 15, 2011

So you think that Virgin will stop me boarding the flight at Heathrow?

I think the airline will want your paperwork to be in order to enter the US as a UK citizen, so the ESTA paper (which IanMorr is right, isn't a visa, but you do need it) and then you fill in the Visa Waiver Program form (I think it's the I-94, presumably you've seen them come round with this on previous flights to the US). Airlines tend to be oblivious to dual citizenship concerns, so at the airport they'll assume you're a UK citizen. (Usually, when airlines get baffled by a dual citizen, you pull out the other passport and everything's magically okay.)

One potential problem I can see is that the US demands citizenship information in advance (why you give your passport number when you book), so you'll be in the computer as a US citizen, but have turned up with a British passport. I'm not sure if this is ever checked at the airline level, or even at the US border (that the people on the plane turned up with the passports they used to book), but that's where I see things potentially going wrong.
posted by hoyland at 3:07 PM on August 15, 2011

Can someone fax you a copy of the main page of your US passport before your flight? That way the immigration officials can easily look you up, verify that it is valid, etc..
posted by mauvest at 3:15 PM on August 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

omnigut writes "Thanks for the link. £400 via DHL"

I'd check with a livery service to see what they'd charge for a round trip. Might be significantly less and because it is door-to-door(-to-door) service you could get them to drop you off at the airport.
posted by Mitheral at 4:05 PM on August 15, 2011

I'm a USA/CAN dual passport holder, and have entered the US about a dozen times via car, and plane on my Canadian passport. Never even been asked about dual citizenship. They scan my Canadian passport every time at these checks, and never ask about my US citizenship.

Most of my family is US/CAN dual passport holders, and your link is the first I've ever heard about this.

I can understand your stress, but in this case, I'm not sure I'd worry about it.
posted by thenormshow at 5:02 PM on August 15, 2011

Call airline, explain situation, ask to reschedule your travel for tomorrow or the day after. Then get your passport from Manchester.
posted by zippy at 5:04 PM on August 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Those of you saying you had no problems with CAN/US dual citizenship - I don't think that's relevant. Keep in mind we (Canadians) can enter the US with just our passports, but any other country's citizens need at least the basic tourist visa. I've crossed several times from Vancouver to Seattle with two British friends of mine, and it's always more hassle for them.
posted by mannequito at 5:22 PM on August 15, 2011

but any other country's citizens need at least the basic tourist visa

I don't have any answers for the OP, but this isn't true. Visa Waiver Program.
posted by Jimbob at 6:52 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Google couriers: this is the first result - significantly less than 400 pounds.
posted by bendy at 8:30 PM on August 15, 2011

Keep in mind we (Canadians) can enter the US with just our passports, but any other country's citizens need at least the basic tourist visa.

This is incorrect. UK citizens do not need a visa to enter the US (but they do need the ESTA). See Jimbob's answer above.

According to the DHS, you should apply for the ESTA 72 hours in advance - I wouldn't trust it being instant.

For that reason and also for the possible risk, this is another vote for couriering your US passport or rescheduling the flight or booking another one - it's worse to be turned back entering by air (you'd have to fly back to the UK) than entering by land. You might as well enter the country on your US passport.
posted by plep at 12:39 AM on August 16, 2011

The USA wouldn't let me get the ESTA because I'm American, and Virgin won't let me on the plane without one. All the immediate delivery options are upwards of £300, and it'll cost about £20 to get next-day (9 a.m.) delivery. So I'm getting the post office to send it and get on the flight tomorrow.

Thanks for the help everyone!
posted by omnigut at 3:10 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay I've got a question - I'm traveling to the US, I applied for an say Virgin wouldn't let you on the flight "without one" - but I didn't "get" anything....! Do I have to print out the ESTA receipt or something?
posted by Jimbob at 9:48 PM on August 16, 2011

Jimbob: Your ESTA status is communicated to the airline. Doesn't hurt to print a copy of the application status screen though so that you have your authorization application number just in case.
posted by IanMorr at 7:19 AM on August 17, 2011

When you applied for the ESTA how did they know that you are american?
posted by dark_places at 1:55 PM on September 15, 2011

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