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Secrets of Traveling with Two Passports

by Anu Sarma on September 21, 2016 Comments Off on Secrets of Traveling with Two Passports

The passport is a personal identification document that proves to countries you are exiting or entering that you have a right to be there—or HAD a right to be there. It helps a country understand who is visiting and assists in controlling who is a resident of a nation for the purposes of receiving benefits and other issues. It sounds pretty straightforward, but the use of passports can get tricky if you happen to have more than one.


There are three reasons a person might have more than one passport:

1. Dual citizenship
This usually happens when a person has been born in one country and receives automatic citizenship, and then moves to another country where citizenship is acquired by application. The country of birth may always recognize natural-born citizens as legal citizens of the country. And the new home country may not recognize the perpetual citizenship of the country of birth.

2.Travel between countries in conflict
Some countries will not allow visitors from nations they are in conflict with. For example, some countries in the Middle East will not allow people to enter if their passports contain a stamp from Israel. In this case, the U.S. State Department may allow a person who knows they will be traveling between two such countries to carry two passports, so they can separate the stamps. In some cases, a person is allowed to carry a paper with the stamp from the conflicting country that can be removed when entering the other country in conflict.

3. Application gap
Some countries require that actual passports (not copies) are sent to them to apply for a work visa in that country. It can take a while to process the visa, but the traveler might need a passport in the meantime to travel to other countries. If this is known ahead of time, the U.S. State Department might allow the traveler to have two passports—one to send with the visa application and one to use for actual travel. The second visa is usually valid for a shorter amount of time.

In the last two cases, it is fairly clear which of the two passports to use when traveling. However, in the case of dual citizenship, it can be confusing. Which passport do you show to the country you are leaving or entering?

How to Decide Which of your Two Passports to Show When Traveling

A general rule of thumb is to use the correct passport to prove what is of concern to the entity you are dealing with. An airline, for example, needs to you to prove you have the right to enter the country you are entering. It’s different for immigration officials.

When you are leaving a country, some immigration offices need to prove you HAD the right to be in the country you are leaving. In that case, you would show the passport that proved you were a citizen of the country you are leaving.

Most countries want you to prove you are citizen of the country you are entering, so when dealing with the immigration officials of the country you are traveling into you would show the passport that proves you are a citizen of the country you are entering.

What about situations for which you are not present physically? This might include booking flights or making arrangements in a country before you arrive. In this case, you would use the passport you might show if you were there in person. For example, if you want to book flights to Spain and you are a dual citizen in the U.S. and Spain, you would in this case provide the Spanish passport to prove you have a right to enter Spain as a citizen of that country, rather than entering as a foreign visitor from the U.S.

For more information, check out this article covering some of the subtleties of using dual passports:

Would You Ever Want to Use the “Other” Passport?

It is possible, in some cases, that it might be advantageous to use your visitor passport to enter a country instead of the passport that shows you are a citizen. Some people say you might have better protection from the U.S. authorities, for example, if you enter a hostile country and you have entered as U.S. citizen. However, the fact remains that you are a citizen of the U.S., and protections for citizens of this country would likely be extended to you even if you entered the country as a citizen of that country.

This could be complicated and advised actions can change with every situation, so it might be a good idea to check with the U.S. State Department and other authorities before entering a country where there could be a potential problem.

For the most part, it’s probably a good idea to use only the one passport that applies to your situation rather than showing two passports at the same time, which could cause confusion. However, if questioned about this, we suggest being honest, admitting your confusion, and asking for advice from the officials you are dealing with.

The ultimate goal for both you and travel officials is to make the travel verification process easy and clear.

Anu SarmaSecrets of Traveling with Two Passports

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