Dual Citizens: How to Travel With Two Passports

Learning how to travel with two passports as a dual citizenship owner has many advantages, but very few disadvantage. As a dual citizen you belong to an exclusive club, as it is estimated that just 1% of the world’s population carries two or more passports. The main advantage of traveling with two passports is fairly obvious – you get to travel (and stay) in a wider range of countries without the need of a visa. As a dual citizen myself (USA and EU) I have learned first hand how, with the right combination of passports, it is possible to travel extensively without the need of applying for expensive visas that can sometimes take weeks or months to process, and money. And this, dear reader, is the greatest advantage of them all.

Passport stamps overstayed visa

Passport stamps are not visas, but they are the only proof you'll have the you have entered the country legally. Make sure you request the officer to stamp your passport if he appears to forget doing so.

Common Problems and Reasons for Concern

Carrying two passports doesn’t come without its burdens and using the right passport at the right times can sometimes be a confusing process- and there are several important factors to keep in mind. The first is whether or not the countries you hold passports for allow dual citizenship. While most countries are fine with dual citizens, a few countries will not recognize this concept. Saudi Arabia, for example, has been known to confiscate foreign passports from its citizens. Other countries, such as Norway, force their naturalized citizens to renounce their other citizenships. In several Asian countries (namely South Korea and Singapore), dual citizenship is recognized only up to a certain age (typically around 21), at which point you must decide which citizenship to retain. In any event make sure you’re aware of how much time you can spend in the country you’re visiting no matter what passport you’re using and be aware of consequences if you overstay your tourist visa.

How to Properly Use Each Passport

Assuming you carry passports from countries that both recognize dual citizenship, there is little to no risk of any incidents arising from your dual citizenship status when traveling as long as you use your passports correctly. As a general rule, you should enter and exit each of your citizenship countries with your corresponding passport.

When traveling to foreign countries you should always enter and exit any country with the same passport (although sometimes I have sometimes forged this rule). Not doing so is a common mistake made by dual citizenship holders and can be the source of an immigration nightmare. In addition to having to explain yourself, some travelers are forced to purchase a plane ticket on the spot and ‘deport’ themselves immediately.

Scenario 1: Traveling between countries you have passports for

For example, if you hold an EU and US passport and are taking a trip to the US:

  1. ​Exit Europe with your EU passport
  2. ​Upon arrival in the US, show you US passport at the US immigration check
  3. ​When you return to the EU, show your US passport again upon exiting the US.
  4.  Enter the EU with your EU passport.

Scenario 2: Traveling between two countries you don't have passports for

Some time ago I was traveling in South America on an extended trip, and shortly before the trip began the US had decided to request a visa to all Brazilian nationals. As a reply, Brazil began doing the same. So what passport did I use when traveling from Uruguay to Brazil and back?

  1. I had entered Uruguay with my US passport, so I exited Uruguay with the same passport.
  2. Since Brazil now requested a visa for US citizens, I showed my Spanish passport upon entering the country (I saved 115 USD).
  3. When leaving Brazil I showed my Spanish passport at customs.
  4. And when entering Uruguay I showed my US passport again.

Scenario 3: You have a passport for one of the two countries you're traveling between.

​Assuming you don't need a visa for the country you are visiting with at least one of the two passports you own, the process is very simple (in which case you'd follow scenario 2) choose the passport you like most, or the one you think is friendlier. 

It may be the passport of the country you're departing from, so you'll simply have to show that same passport at every customs post you go through. Simple!​

Your passport is your most important document when traveling. Always:

  • Make two copies of the first two pages of your passports before leaving on your trip and give one to close relatives or friends.
  • Keep your passport with you while traveling to show officials at the port of entry.
  • Secure your passport to your body while touring local areas.
  • Leave your passport in a safe place.
  • Report a lost or stolen passport immediately.

Conclusion

Many travelers are concerned about what will happen to them if immigration officials discover they are traveling with multiple passports. In a vast majority of countries, this can at worst cause a lot of confusion. The best way to prevent any hassle is to not volunteer any information regarding your dual citizenship status, especially when dealing with domestic airlines and travel companies that do not have a lot of experience with foreign passports.

Learning how to travel with two passports as a dual citizen is advantageous for a number of reasons. As long as you take the necessary precautions and research the dual passport policy for the countries that you plan on traveling to, using two passports is a safe and legal way to explore the world.

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