How to travel with two passports

We now live in the 21st century and given how easy it is to buy a ticket and jump on a plane, it should be no surprise to see the modern generation of young adults with two, three or even more citizenships. (Holiday romance, perhaps?)

There are many ways people can become a dual citizen. The vast majority involve being born with parents or grandparents of differing nationalities, or you have one nationality but live in another country long enough to naturalise into your country of residence, or you get married and the new country allows you to acquire nationality through that marriage.

Photo by Patrick Barry, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

If you possess dual or multiple citizenship, lucky you!  The world is a better and more tolerant place when we embrace diversity.

Unless you are travelling on a domestic flight or within the Schengen area, you will probably encounter the need to show your passport. But what should you do if you have dual citizenship? In this post we go stage-by-stage into what document you should show. Please note, this post does NOT discuss how to travel with two passports issued by the same country.

Booking your flight

Airlines face severe penalties if a passenger is turned away at the arrival country's border. Therefore they will sometimes be overly cautious to the extent they will deny boarding unless you have definitive proof of your permission to enter your destination country.

In reality it does not really matter which passport you book your flight with. (Big caveat though, see first paragraph of the section “Border Control at Arrival Country”) This practice extends to international trains or ship sailings. Therefore you should book your travel which gives the easiest access, i.e. if one passport requires a visa and the other does not, then use the passport that does not require a visa.

Check in desk

If you need to visit the check in desk, understand that this is run by the airline or a contractor for the airline. They are not country officials but rather are private entities. You MUST present the passport which you booked your travel, but keep the other one at hand in case there are any further questions.

Like above, the check in agent will not care if you hold single or multiple passports, but only that they will not face penalties if you get turned around at the border.

 

Border Control at Departure Country

Some countries like the United Kingdom and the United States do not stamp passports to record that you have departed. But nearly all other countries will involve some interaction with border control.

You must show whichever passport you originally used to entered the country. If this is a country where you have some kind of time restriction (e.g. tourism) then this is to make sure you do not exceed the permissible time. Another significant reason may also be in case you need to prove your location for tax calculations.

Border Control at Arrival Country

Some countries, such as the United States, require its citizens who hold multiple citizenships to identify themselves at the border using that passport. For example, a dual US-Italian citizen flies from Rome to New York. Both passports are visa-free but due to US laws the arriving passenger must go to the passport control and use his US passport to enter.

If you hold multiple citizenships you should understand carefully whether your countries require a similar practice. There is no general situation here and you should understand the law carefully.

If you do not hold citizenship of the arrival country, then you are free to use whichever passport you want to enter, subject to holding the correct visas. Therefore you should use the passport that will give you the ‘least hassle', i.e. does not require a visa or has a cheaper visa.

One important caveat though, if you are travelling with a family member (spouse, child or parents) within the European Union, you may be covered under EU Freedom of Movement laws. Check my post about ‘Surinder Singh‘ and the ‘EEA Dependent Ink Stamp‘ which explains these very specific issues. Note this law only applies if you are an EEA citizen living in another EEA country that is not one which you are a citizen, unless your country of citizenship treats its own citizenships the same as other EEA citizens.

Examples where countries exercise their right to ‘reverse discriminate' (i.e. treat its own citizens worse than other EEA citizens for the purposes of family reunion) are: United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, Italy and a few more. Consult an EU immigration law specialist in your country to clarify.

Slightly unrelated but still worth checking is my post 5 laws EU citizens should know when they travel.

 

Happy travels!

 

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Comments

  1. You have some incorrect information here:
    “In reality it does not really matter which passport you book your flight with.”

    This is not true. In many cases, if you are travelling to a country you are a citizen of, you must use that passport in your initial flight booking. For example, if you have both X and Y citizenship, and you are travelling to X from Y (residing in Y, yet visiting X) you must:
    1) Include the passport info from X in your booking
    2) Check in using X passport, and
    3) On return to Y, check in using Y passport (update your travel booking before heading to the airport if possible)

    Some countries will link both of your passports with Immigration now so there is no confusion on your outbound trip from the country you are a resident of. It’s important to note that you may need to travel with both passports if travelling between two countries you have citizenship in.

    • The post already describes the situation about arriving into a country of your own citizenship, but I have added the caveat to further clarify. I’ve travelled with about 10 different airlines to countries of my citizenship and booked the flight under my other passport. In 30+ years of travel I still haven’t encountered any issues whatsoever.

      • Good work. Using the wrong passport detail for a flight booking would just cause a headache at the airport. The check in agents can get so confused by dual citizenship, that the traveller needs to know exactly what they need to do.

  2. I’ve held dual citizenship for over 20 years and never had a problem. When In the EU, I travel between countries as an EU citizen freely and would never bother using my USA passport. However, when I leave and enter the USA, I use my USA passport for ease of use of Global Entry. Common sense rules.

  3. It’s a lot easier to pick one passport and travel with it all the time. Thankfully, it seems common that online systems now accept storing multiple passport info (like United), that makes things a lot easier!

  4. So if I have a Dutch passport and am a US citizen, I can leave on my US passport and enter the Netherlands on my Dutch one? And in that case there will be no 3 month limit to my stay? When I arrive back in the US there won’t be a problem because they won’t know when I left?

  5. i hold both taiwan and Australia passports.

    When I go back to taiwan I always enter and leave with the Australia passport. Never had an issue.

    • Taiwan doesn’t force you to enter with Taiwanese passport (as far as I am aware). Especially important for men who have not done military duties!

  6. I was going to write that it’s very glamorous having two passports until you get a security clearance in the country that you became a citizen of. You would then find that you were required to eliminate the passport of your birth country. This made travel very interesting as you explained why you are entering with a foreign passport that says you were born in the country you are entering after waiting in line 30 minutes to show your passport in the fast track lane as I did on December 25th.

    Then I decided I should double check what the law actually was before posting this. In doing so I found out that the law changed last year and you no longer have to give up the foreign passport, at least not for the country I come from. Thank you for writing this article, I would never have found out otherwise!

    • Glad this help, if indirectly! One thing to note, citizenship is not always granted due to the country you are born in. USA and South America are famous for their ‘jus solis’ derivation of citizenship but most countries are ‘jus sanguis’ (right by blood) which means it is determined based on parents’ citizenships.

  7. Hi

    I’m a joint UK/Canadian citizen living in Vancouver. I’ve just booked a trip YVR-LGW-BOS-YVR in March, and there was only the option of listing one passport, so I’ve used my Canadian one. Am I correct that this is all fine, but when I arrive in the UK I should present myself to the UK Citizens queue with the British passport?

    Thanks!

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