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Traveling with two passports

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I recently became a dual citizen after passing my US citizenship test and one of the first things I was told to do was to apply for a US passport. Since I already have a British passport, I wasn’t sure why I needed a US one as well until I found out that US citizens can only enter the US on a US passport, not a foreign one.

I started researching anything else I might need to know about traveling with two passports and what I might need to know about being a dual citizen when it came to travel. I thought I’d condense some of my research in one post in case anyone else was looking for this info all in one place.

The number one thing to know about traveling with two passports

I’m going to say this over and over in this article, so I’ll start with explaining why it’s so important: how you travel with two passports depends very much on which countries those two passports are from.

It is impossible to write an article on traveling with two passports that will encompass every single person who has passports from different countries, because every country will have its own rules. Before travel, it’s imperative that you check the laws of the country you’re visiting in relation to the passports that you carry to make sure you know exactly what the rules are.

This article is simply an overview that will hopefully provide the basic information and answer the main questions, but it’s then important to do your own research for your particular passports.

Which passport to do I use when traveling with two passports?

This was the most obvious question I had when I began traveling with two passports, but unfortunately it’s not a totally simple answer.

The short version is generally that it depends. For some parts of the trip, it doesn’t really matter. When you book airfare, for instance, and they ask for a passport number, you can usually use either passport number. However when it comes to actually entering and exiting a country, you might need to use either one passport or another.

When it comes to exiting a country at the beginning of a trip, you will most likely use the passport you used to enter that particular country on. You do this so that the country has evidence that you’ve left the country, meaning less challenges down the line if you return at a later date.

If you live in one country and are visiting another, use your home passport to leave the country; that is, the passport from your country of residence. Again, this provides data that shows you’ve left the country.

As to which passport you’ll use to enter a country, that very much depends on where your passports are from and where you’re going. Some countries do have specific rules on this so it’s worth doing some more research in this particular area.

If you’re going between the two countries you have the passports from, you generally use the correct passport for that country. For example, I have passports from the UK and the US. When I go back to the UK, I use my US passport to leave the US, then use my UK passport to enter the UK – and the reverse on the way back.

I do this so that I have all of my rights as a US citizen when in the US, and all of my rights as a British citizen in the UK. The US also requires all US citizens to re-enter the country on a US passport, which is where researching a country’s particular rules comes in.

If you’re traveling to a country that you do not have a passport from, you would generally use whichever passport had the least restrictions for those entering that country. The only place this tends to get complicated is where you have to declare if you have any other passports, and that passport might create challenges – I’ll cover this more in ‘difficulties of traveling with two passports.’

Benefits of traveling with two passports

Less lines and less paperwork

While it was necessary for me to get a US passport once I became a citizen, it wasn’t necessary for my children to get UK passports as British citizens; since we don’t live in the UK, they didn’t really need them and could easily travel back and forth on their US passports.

The reason we decided to get them, however, was to make immigration easier when we travel. It is so much quicker and easier to enter a country when you have a passport for that particular country; there is usually a separate immigration line for those people, and considerably less – if any – paperwork to fill out. Now we can use the British citizen line in the UK and the US citizen line when we come home.

More travel (and living) possibilities

When it comes to travel, there are some countries where you cannot enter on a certain passport. Other countries allow you to enter, but you need to obtain a visa beforehand. However you might have another passport you can use to gain entry to that country.

This offers up more travel possibilities. While US passport holders can travel almost anywhere on their passports, I know of many immigrants in the US eager to get their US passports to allow them to travel more freely than they would have been able to do on the passport from their own country.

Having a passport from a different country can also up opportunities when it comes to where to live and work. If you have a passport from a country that is a member of the European Union, for example, you can live and work in other E.U countries without the same restrictions as those holding passports from other countries.

Difficulties of traveling with two passports

It’s more complicated

I mean, it must be or else why would I be writing an article about it?!

Having two passports means constantly needing to think about which passport to present. If you use the wrong one, it can mean anything from having to wait longer at immigration to being denied entry to a country to even being detained.

It also means keeping track of two different documents, both at home and when traveling. I’m always a bit anxious about losing my passport while traveling, so adding a second one to the mix does mean having to be even more careful.

It can put your safety at risk

This might sound a bit dramatic, and for those with passports from places like the UK, the US, and Canada, it probably won’t ever be too much of a problem.

But there are some countries where traveling with two passports can be a challenge, especially if the second passport is from a country that might not have the same travel privileges.

I know of a friend with a Moroccan passport who tried to enter a country on their US passport, but was questioned because they simply declared that they had a Moroccan passport as well (that they hadn’t even brought with them on the trip). They were ultimately allowed entrance to the country, but it left a bad taste in their mouth and have said they will travel more cautiously in the future.