One of the primary functions of the Passport/Citizenship Unit is to provide information and guidance on citizenship questions. Below are some of the most common questions we get concerning American citizenship and passports.
Can I hold more than one passport or nationality?
Yes. In the 1980’s, the Supreme Court ruled that citizenship is a constitutional right that cannot be taken away from a citizen who does not intend to relinquish it. Therefore, such actions as naturalization in a foreign country, employment with a foreign government, and voting in a foreign election do not automatically jeopardize American citizenship.
How long is a passport valid for?
In general, children under the age of 16 are issued passports valid for five years; those 16 and over are issued passports valid for ten years.
How soon should I renew my passport before it expires?
You may renew your passport at any time before or after it expires.
I let my passport expire. What should I do now?
Please see our instructions for renewal. Always check your passport expiration date well before you plan to travel in order to prevent delaying your travel plans.
My passport has already expired. I do not wish to apply for a new one. Can my passport be extended?
No. If your passport was issued with full validity (i.e. ten years for adults and five years for children), you must apply for a new passport. If your passport was issued for less than five or ten years and the last page of your passport states that it is extendable, please email: email@example.com
Will I get my passport back when I renew it?
Yes. In most cases, your old passport will be cancelled and returned to you with the new one.
I am an American citizen, but also have a foreign passport. Can I use my foreign passport to travel to the United States?
No. Under U.S. law, U.S. citizens must be in possession of a valid U.S. passport to enter or leave the United States. This is true even if you hold a passport from another country. If your U.S. passport has been lost or stolen, or if it has expired, you must apply to replace it before traveling to the United States.
My passport is still valid, but its pages are fully stamped. Can I have extra pages added to it, or should I apply for a new passport?
No. Embassies no longer add pages to passports.
I travel frequently and my passport is always at some embassy to obtain a visa. Can I get a second passport?
Generally, citizens are allowed to carry only one valid passport at a time. In the situation described above, the issuance of a second, limited-validity passport is possible.Please speak with a consular officer.
I have visa stamps in my current passport. What happens to them when this passport is cancelled?
You should contact the appropriate foreign Embassy or Consulate for advice as to how to proceed.
My passport was issued in my maiden name; can I change it to my married name?
Yes, your passport may be amended to reflect your married name.
I was born in the United States while my parents were there temporarily as students. Do I have a claim to American citizenship?
Yes, almost anybody born in the United States is an American citizen regardless of the nationality or status of the parents. The only exceptions are children of foreign diplomats who have full diplomatic immunity. Anyone else can apply for an American passport by presenting an original birth certificate showing birth in the United States and adequate identity documents.
I am an American citizen. I recently had a child born in Tunisia. Does she have a claim to American citizenship?
Most likely. Whether an U.S. citizen can transmit citizenship to a child born overseas depends on several factors : whether both parents are American, whether the child is born in wedlock, when the child is born.
The most common case is a child born to married American and non-American parents. The U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States for five years prior to the birth of the child. In addition, two of those five years must be after reaching the age of fourteen. For children born before 1986, the U.S. citizen parent must have spent ten years in the United States, five of which after the age of fourteen. The five years must not necessarily be sequential.
If both parents are American, they need only show that one of them has resided in the United States (no time requirement).
An American citizen mother of a child born out wedlock needs to prove that she spent one continuous year in the United States.
An American citizen father of a child born out of wedlock must prove five years of residence in the U.S. and must have recognized the child and agreed to the child’s financial support.
My daughter has lived all her life in Tunisia and cannot transmit U.S. citizenship to her children. Is there any way they can become citizens through their grandparents?
Yes. When U.S. citizens cannot transmit citizenship to their children born overseas because they do not have the required physical presence in the United States, they have two options:
- They can apply for the expeditious naturalization of their children, if an American citizen grandparent has enough physical presence in the United States. This procedure must be initiated through the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. The process can take up to 3 years and the child must go to the United States to be naturalized. The process must be completed before the child is eighteen.
- The U.S. citizen parent may file for an immigrant visa for the child. Under the Child Citizenship Act, once the child enters the U.S. on an immigrant visa, the child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen. The child must be under 18 and in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent at the time of entry. Immigrant visas may be applied forthrough the Embassy in Tunis.
- We are Americans living in Tunisia. We just adopted a Vietnamese girl and she is living with us here. How do we get a U.S. passport for her?
The same process as described above applies to children adopted overseas by U.S. citizens. While adoption by a U.S. citizen parent does not automatically confer citizenship, it does qualify a child for expeditious naturalization, or citizenship upon entry to the U.S.
My son has dual Tunisian and U.S. citizenship. At what age must he choose the citizenship he wants to keep?
The laws governing the retention of citizenship have been greatly liberalized. No child has to do anything at any age to retain, choose, affirm, or confirm American citizenship. In the 1980’s, the Supreme Court ruled that citizenship is a Constitutional right which cannot be taken away from a citizen who does not intend to relinquish it.
If we don't plan to travel back to the United States any time soon, why should we renew our passports now?
- The passport is proof of U.S. citizenship. Every American abroad should have valid proof of their citizenship at all times.
- Life is unpredictable. You never know when you may need to travel suddenly. The last thing you need to do in an emergency is worry about getting your or your child’s passport renewed. It is much better to do it when it is convenient for you.
- A passport is required for many Tunisian administrative purposes and you do not want to get caught with an expired passport.