I have two passports/nationalities. How do I use them when I travel?

  • I am a citizen of two different countries, and have two passports. How should I use my passports when traveling?

    This question was properly put forward in META and agreed upon either by comment or answer or general apathy. We should be using this question as the controlling reference for future questions matching this one. @jpatokal

    are those 2 passports somehow bringing the same group of facts? e.g. are those 2 from commonwealth countries(Canada / Australia) are those from the EU (Austria / Spain) ?????

  • lambshaanxy

    lambshaanxy Correct answer

    6 years ago

    This is a common situation, and it's generally no problem. I'll use A for the country you're in, and B for the country you're going to, but all the "flows" described here work equally well if you want to use your B passport to go to a third country.

    Case 1: Same name, dual citizenship OK

    If you have the same name in both passports (that is, same first name and last name, minor variations are OK), and both countries accept dual citizenship (if you're not sure, find out here), the basic formula is:

    • Show the airline the passport of the country you're going to
    • Show immigration the passport for the country you're in

    In step-by-step detail, when flying from A to B and back:

    1. At check-in, show your B passport. This way the airline knows you will be allowed to enter your destination.
    2. At exit immigration, show your A passport. (In countries without exit immigration, like the US, you may need to show A as well at check-in.)
    3. At the gate, show either passport, doesn't matter.
    4. Fly.
    5. On arrival immigration, show your B passport.

    And on the way back from B to A, just reverse the process:

    1. At check-in, show your A passport. This way the airline knows you will be allowed to enter your destination.
    2. At exit immigration, show your B passport.
    3. At the gate, show either passport, doesn't matter.
    4. Fly.
    5. On arrival immigration, show your A passport.

    Pictorial representation for a UK/US dual citizen visiting the US, courtesy @GayotFow: enter image description here

    Case 2: Different names, dual citizenship OK

    If your names are different, but your countries are OK with each other:

    1. Book your flight with the name on your A passport.
    2. At airline check-in, show your A passport that matches the name on your ticket, and your B passport, that proves you're allowed to enter.
    3. At exit immigration, show your A passport.
    4. At the gate, show your A passport, so that your name matches your ticket.
    5. Fly.
    6. On arrival immigration, show your B passport.
    7. On the way back, at check-in, show your A passport only.
    8. At exit immigration, show your B passport.
    9. At the gate, show your A passport, so that your name matches your ticket.
    10. Fly back.
      1. On arrival immigration, show your A passport.

    Case 3: Same name, dual citizenship not OK

    Things get harder if one or both your countries does not accept dual citizenship, especially if they care enough to look for visas or arrival stamps. The key thing to understand here is that the airline is not a part of immigration. They do not care if you have multiple passports and they are not going to tell immigration if you do, all they want to know if whether you will be allowed in at your destination.

    So here's one way to avoid letting A know you are also a citizen of B (but B will know you've come from A):

    1. Book a flight from A to B via a neutral third country C, where you do not need a visa. (For example, Malaysia does not accept dual citizenship, so dual-citizen Malaysians often travel via Singapore.)
    2. On check-in, show your A passport.
    3. At exit immigration, show your A passport.
    4. Fly to C.
    5. Connect to your flight to B.
    6. At arrival immigration, show your B passport.

    On the way back, though, you will need a short detour:

    1. At check in, show your B passport.
    2. At exit immigration, show your B passport.
    3. Fly to C.
    4. On arrival at C, do not go to transfer, but instead go to immigration, show your A passport and get it stamped. (Leave enough time for this!)
    5. If you need to check-in again, show your A passport.
    6. At C's exit immigration, show your A passport again and get it stamped again.
    7. Fly to A.
    8. At arrival immigration, show your A passport. This will have a departure stamp from C, neatly hiding that you were actually in B.

    Beware that this is not totally foolproof, as a very careful inspection of your stamps will reveal that you were not in C for the whole time, but unless you're North Korean, it's unlikely you will be subjected to this level of scrutiny. Some people choose to go through immigration in C on the way out as well, so they get more decoy stamps. Doing that is necessary if you also want country B not to know that you've come from A (making the scenario symmetric).

    Case 4: Different names, dual citizenship not OK

    If you have different names and your countries don't like each other, you can still use the same method as above, but you'll likely need to book your A-C-A flight in your "A" name and your C-B-C flight in your "B" name.

    Great info that works well when flying, but not always overland. 3rd world and developing nations sometimes check to see that you exited the previous country legally and are not fleeing something. So playing musical passports during a multi country driving trip requires a little more pre-trip country specific research (just a warning from a lesson learned the hard way ;-).

    Small improvement suggestion: Case 1, step 3: Show passport B. In my experience it does matter, at least in one case.

    @GregHewgill Can you explain? In my experience, at the gate they only cross-check your ID vs name on ticket, I've never had anybody look for a visa at that point.

    @jpatokal: One time I was called up to the counter at the gate on international departure from LAX. The airline wanted to double check my passport, because they only had the details for the passport A which I used to *enter* the US, but they wanted to confirm that I had documentation for my *destination* (passport B). My original motivation for using my passport A was to ensure that the US recorded my departure correctly. (I confirmed that they did, by looking up my I-94 online after I returned home. They probably connected my details for passports A and B.)

    @GregHewgill Sounds like the airline screwed up there: that would usually have been sorted out on check-in, when they should have checked how you're planning to enter B.

    The picture for the first case does not match the text. You have to show your US passport (i.e. the one from the country you are *leaving*) to the airline desk as well because they will share these data with the authorities.

    @Relaxed The picture is correct, but you're right, that differs from the usual: the US is a bit of a special case because unlike almost everywhere else, they don't have separate exit immigration.

    @jpatokal The picture is not correct for another reason. In the general case, you should show the airline the passport of the country you are flying *to*, since they need that information to determine whether they should let you board or not. So the "Airline check in" part of the image on the US side should show "UK passport" not "US passport". (In the case of a UK/US dual citizen the point is moot, since US citizens don't need a visa to go to the UK, but this answer is supposed to be general.)

    @AlanMunn On the other hand, if for example a dual UK/South African resident has for some reason entered the US with the South African passport and then checks in with the UK passport, it seems there's a chance that the person's departure will go unrecorded. In such a circumstance, it might be better to show both passports at check-in.

    @phoog Yes, that's true for the US , especially since now the US appears to do exit tracking via the airlines. It's not clear whether this is done by passport or just name, however. But it can't hurt to ask on checking in for sure. I don't know how many countries rely on the airlines for exit tracking vs. having you go through exit immigration.

    @AlanMunn since I-94 records are tied to passport number, it's almost certainly done by passport number. Otherwise it would be impossible to guarantee a unique match. How many Alan Munns are there in the world?

    Case 3 is obviously wrong! On step 2, you said show B passport, bam! You're caught, because the airline will provide the API info to departure country (most major countries), you should defnitely use A passport on step 2.

    @abottleofwater Agreed, it's better to use it if possible - but unless you're on separate tickets, you may need to show it to prove you can enter B. Airlines are also OK with using different passports for the ticket (APIS) and proving right of entry.

    @jpatokal Exactly, after research, I found buying separate tickets is the key.

    One thing this answer is missing; is that sometimes you don't have a choice which passport to show when entering - as in the case of the US where it is illegal for someone holding a US passport to enter with a foreign passport; even if the foreign passport does not require a visa.

    @BurhanKhalid None of the cases here suggest entering a country of citizenship with a foreign passport.

    One thing which this doesn't cover is the pre-flight notifications that the airlines are now required to make in many cases. In cases where this is notified to both the country of departure and that of arrival, which one should you give?

    Why is the procedure in case C not symmetric? Why don't I make the same detour going as I do returning? It seems I would need to, so that in A it would seem like I really went to C.

    @einpoklum A is primarily interested in where you're coming from *now*. A departure stamp from C on your outbound leg, meaning several days/weeks ago, is not really relevant, although as noted it's not going to hurt.

    So why isn't B interested in where I'm coming from now?

    @einpoklum The scenario assumes B knows/doesn't care about your A citizenship, which is usually the case. If both your countries don't tolerate dual citizenship, then you need to do it both ways.

    @jpatokal: I've suggested an edit to emphasize that point.

    This answer seems to assume that the countries you are traveling between are also the countries you are a citizen of. In this case, everything is easy - you have a legal right to enter both countries and there is nothing that can go wrong. If you are not a citizen of the countries you are traveling to/from, then things are more difficult, as irregularities may cause you more trouble. I don't think this answer is comprehensive enough to be canonical.

    @Thomas What difficulties would these be? Excluding the odd geopolitical hotspot like Israel and Kosovo, most countries don't care about the nationalities of non-citizens.

    Regarding case 2 (different names) and similar to what the first comment by @user13044 already highlighted. When you are return back to the country where you flight from they would want to see proof that you exited the other country but the stamp will be only on the other passport. Did anybody faced this issue?

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM