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Thursday, May 1, 2014

The A to B of traveling with two passports


My 10-step guide to traveling with two passports shows a very simple pattern, actually. It looks like a pattern of poetic meter:

ABA BAB

Even simpler—when you look at it it just alternates:

AB AB AB

It’s simple enough in my first example, where you’re traveling from the country of one of your citizenships to the other. You use passport A to enter and exit country A, and passport B to enter and exit country B.

In a moment, I’ll give an example of how this same pattern works in any combination of countries, even when your passports aren’t from either. But first, what are the advantages of traveling with two passports? Even if you’re entitled to more than one, what’s the advantage of paying to keep both up to date?

Some practical advantages are:

·       Your passport entitles you to live and work in a country and to stay as long as you want. Obviously, this is true of the country the passport is from—if you’re an Irish citizen, you can live and work in Ireland, and don’t need a visa or any plans to depart. But an Irish passport also entitles you to live and work in the United Kingdom, without any restrictions—exactly as if you were a British citizen. Furthermore, Ireland is part of the European Union, so any EU country will let you live there as well.

·       Even if you don’t want to stay in a country indefinitely, it’s usually a lot simpler just to enter if you have a passport from that country (or, in this example, an EU passport). You can breeze through the “fast lane,” answer minimal questions (or none at all), and get no stamp restricting your stay. If your plans change and you wish to stay longer, so what? You haven’t promised anyone at the border to leave by a certain date—you don’t have to.

·       In any “third” country, you can pick whichever passport gives you the least hassle. Maybe that country requires visas from American citizens, but not for EU citizens (Brazil is an example of this). Or maybe there are fees to pay on arrival, but they’re less for Europeans than for Americans. Show that Irish passport and you can save money and time.

·       Speaking of visas, in many countries and situations, they’re a pain to get. You have to mail your passport off to some embassy, and as well as pay a fee, wait while they process your visa. If you have another passport you’re free to travel in the meanwhile, rather than be held hostage by some third country’s embassy.

I used “hostage” and “embassy” there together as a deliberate exaggeration; I’m obviously not talking about a situation such as the U.S. embassy workers in Iran were in in 1979. If you saw the movie Argo, you know that the movies portray dual passport usage in a very different way. Forged passports (or in this case, genuine Canadian passports that were deliberately issued to false identities for the Americans) are used in daredevil operations, either to get away with a crime, or to get away from bad guys like the Iranian hostage takers.

But this is not the movies, and your passport is a travel document, nothing more. It is not your identity; you are still one person, with a name and a date of birth, no matter how many passports you legitimately hold. You can’t use a second passport to be a different person. Some people think they can visit a country on passport A, stay the maximum length of time, then revisit on passport B as if they were someone else. Don’t try this.

American you and Irish you are still the same person. Besides, once you’re in a country as an American, you need to stick with that until you’re out of that country (always enter and exit on the same passport, remember?) Don’t leave the airport and start showing your other passport as identification. Especially, you don’t want to do this in a country of which you’re actually a citizen; never identify yourself as Irish to American officials, or as American to Irish officials.*

But—let’s say you’re a U.S. citizen with permanent residence in Canada, and you want to visit Brazil. This is where your two passports will really come in handy even though you aren’t a citizen of either Canada or Brazil. In this example, the first passport you’ll use will be your Irish (A), because that’s what you’ll use to get into Brazil visa-free. Your U.S. passport (B) is what you use in Canada, because that’s what your Canadian resident visa is in.

A         Book your flight and check in at the airport with your Irish passport.

B         Canada doesn’t have exit immigration controls, but if it did, you would always show your U.S. passport. You’re in Canada as a U.S. citizen with permanent residence, so don’t confuse anyone by showing your other passport—it’s irrelevant in Canada.

A         Board your plane and arrive at Brazilian immigration with your Irish passport. You don’t have to get a visa (or pay a fee). Enjoy your visit to Brazil!

B         When you check in for your flight home to Canada, use your U.S. passport. That’s what the Canadians expect to see, and since you don’t have an onward flight out of Canada, the airline needs to know you’ll be let into Canada indefinitely. So they want the passport associated with your Canadian residence visa.

A         At Brazilian exit immigration, show your Irish passport again. That’s what you entered Brazil on.

B         Arrive back in Canada and show Canadian immigration authorities your U.S. passport and its associated Canadian visa. Welcome home.

Traveling with two passports is simple, but dual nationality can also make life more complicated. It’s not for getting away with anything (except in the movies). *But, that’s a subject for another day.




4 comments:

Syed Aamir said...

I have US Passport and Pakistani Passport.Can i travek with both passport. If yes which passport i will use while going to pakistand and which passport i will use while coming back to pakistan. Please help.

J. E. Knowles said...

Does Pakistan permit dual citizenship? Presuming it does and there is no problem with your holding both passports, then yes you can travel with both passports. Use your Pakistani passport with Pakistani immigration authorities--whether entering or leaving Pakistan. Use your US passport if you travel to the US. In any other country, you can use whichever passport makes your life easier.

Stefan Oriold said...

Hello,

I have been reading your blog and wanted to thank you for sharing all this great information. However, I still have a few questions and would very much appreciate your assistance. I have an Australian, as well as a US passport, live in the US and and am about to travel to Australia. While I understand the recommendation to always enter and exit a country on the same passport and to show the airline whatever passport allows you to travel to the destination, I am confused about the following:

Which passport do I associate with my ticket / show the airline in the US? I assume it should be the Australian passport since the airline would otherwise want to see a visa for the US passport. Please let me know your thoughts.

Given that there is no exit immigration in the US, will I also have to show my US passport at the ticket counter in the US?
Enter Australia on Australian passport
When checking in at the ticket counter in Australia, which passport do I show the airline? I assume the US one since the Australian passport would require an upfront visa to enter the US. If this is the case, do I change the passport information associated with the ticket before checking in and would this raise concerns since I initially had my Australian passport associated with the ticket?

Exit Australia immigration on Australian passport
Enter US immigration on US passport

I would very much appreciate your response since I have spent hours reading up on these questions and am still not clear.

Thank you very much in advance for your help and time.

Stefan

J. E. Knowles said...

Thanks for writing, Stefan! I think your concern stems from which passport do you “associate with your ticket” and do you have to change passport information associated with the ticket. That is not necessary. When you book the ticket initially, if you have to enter passport information just put whichever passport you’re going to use on the initial leg of your flight, but you don’t need to change it later (in fact, the airline website may not allow you to). When you show a different passport on another leg of your journey, the airline can update your details. The only drawback of this system is that you may have to physically show a passport to an airline official at some point, if you run into an issue swiping your passport on a machine.

1. Which passport do I associate with my ticket / show the airline in the US? I assume it should be the Australian passport since the airline would otherwise want to see a visa for the US passport.
Yes: go to the U.S. airport and check in for your flight to Australia, using your Australian passport (since that’s what allows you to travel to Australia without a visa).
2. Given that there is no exit immigration in the US, will I also have to show my US passport at the ticket counter in the US?
Yes, it is possible you will need to show both passports (if the airline official looks for evidence that you had a visa to be in the U.S., or asks you how you have legally been in the U.S.) You can either show them both or wait to be asked; it’s not a problem either way.
3. Enter Australia on Australian passport
Yes.
4. When checking in at the ticket counter in Australia, which passport do I show the airline? I assume the US one since the Australian passport would require an upfront visa to enter the US.
Yes. On your return trip, check in at the Australian airport with your U.S. passport (the above steps in reverse). It doesn’t matter that you previously used a different passport on the trip. For example, I've flown into Australia on my Canadian passport (which I used when initially booking my tickets) and then flew on to the U.S. on my U.S. passport, as required by U.S. law.
5. Exit Australia immigration on Australian passport
Yes
6. Enter US immigration on US passport
Yes.
It seems complicated at first, but it’s logical, and remember, it’s perfectly legal to hold passports of two countries of which you are a citizen. So don’t worry if you get mixed up and produce the “wrong” passport. Australian and U.S. is a very common combination and these officials probably see a dual citizen in your situation every day.
Enjoy your trip!