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All incoming passengers must go through border security checks upon arrival in the US. American citizens are asked to provide proof of identity and citizenship to be let into the country. Usually, your US passport will do.
What if your passport expires while abroad, or it gets lost? And do you have to get a passport for your children? This article includes information about the US requirements for US citizens. It covers birth certificate entry, COVID-19 special requirements, expired passports, and more.
As explained, the best way to ensure that you are able to enter the United States as an American citizen is to have your valid US passport with you. However, other documents may be sufficient in some cases depending on your departure country and means of transportation.
Departure countries covered by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative include Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
American citizens entering the U.S. from these countries can show a valid:
US permanent residents must provide their Permanent Resident Card (Green card). Green card holders do not need to provide a passport as well as their card.
Those arriving from locations outside the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative must provide their valid US passport. Non-American citizens are required to carry their valid non-US passport as well as a relevant American visa or travel authorization (if applicable.)
American laws require citizens to have a valid US passport to be let into the country. If you have lost your passport while abroad or you hold an expired passport, you must apply for a new one before traveling. Failing to do so may result in entry denial.
If you have lost your passport, you can request an emergency passport at your nearest US embassy or consulate before you leave. An expired passport is not normally considered an emergency that warrants the issuance of an emergency passport so it is best to plan ahead if you know that your passport will expire soon. Some embassies do offer rush service renewals.
If you have dual nationality, you are required to enter the US on your American passport — even when the country of your second nationality is included in the Visa Waiver Program. Make sure that your US passport is valid before you travel.
In some cases, it is possible to use a US birth certificate to cross the border into the United States by land.
This is allowed for U.S. minor citizens under 16 years of age, when arriving in the following situations:
However, citizens are not permitted to fly to the US with only a birth certificate under any circumstances.
Minors crossing the border with their birth certificate must provide an original or certified copy of their document. It is best to avoid using an abstract birth certificate or a short copy of the birth certificate if possible.
The birth certificate must have been issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where the traveler was born.
Hospital-issued birth certificates are only accepted for newborns whose vital records birth certificate still has not arrived. Alternatively, minors can provide a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization Certificate.
Additionally, US citizens aged 16-18 can enter the US with a birth certificate only if returning by land or sea from contiguous territory with an adult supervised school group, religious group, social, sports, or cultural organization.
During the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 testing is required to enter the United States. All air passengers over the age of 2 must provide negative COVID-19 test results. This includes American citizens and permanent residents.
The test must have been taken within 3 days of departure. Alternatively, passengers can provide proof of coronavirus recovery no older than 90 days.
Airlines are tasked with confirming the US coronavirus requirements for each passenger prior to boarding. Travelers who do not meet these requirements will be denied boarding.