We have received so many questions on how to travel with two passports that we created an eBook! If you’d like more detail in addition to what we provide on this page, check out the book:
So first things first, in order to travel with two passports, you actually need to have two (or more) passports. There are a few ways this can happen. This is definitely the coolest…
But assuming you aren’t a secret agent government assassin like Jason Bourne, you may have to go through other channels to acquire that second passport.
So How Do You Get Two Passports?
- Dual Citizenship by Acquisition – The most common way to have a second passport is if you are a citizen of two different countries at the same time. Mostly this covers individuals that started out their lives in one country and then for various circumstances moved to another eventually acquiring their new country’s citizenship without giving up their original.
- Dual Citizenship by Birthright – Alternatively you could have dual citizenship through birthright. Let’s say for example your parents or grandparents came from another country and because of that country’s laws, you qualify for citizenship there as well. This can all get very complicated, but you see it a lot with people of Italian, Irish or other European descent.
- Additional US Passport – A third option is to actually get a duplicate US passport which is possible by special request. You just need a reason to justify having two simultaneous passports and the State Department will issue you an additional two year book. Obviously having two of the same passport doesn’t give you all the benefits of having two passports from different countries, but it still has its perks.
Benefits of Having Two Passports
- Visa Issuance: For frequent travelers, having to send your passport away to issue a visa can be a problem if you need to travel during the same time-frame. Having two passports (of the same or different countries) solves this by letting you send one passport away while you continue to travel on the other.
- Country Conflicts: Not all countries get along. Some don’t recognize others existence and some take it so far that if they see a stamp in your passport they don’t like they may not let you in. Let’s say for example you visit Israel and then later on the same passport you need to visit Lebanon. Lebanon is not going to let you in because of that Israeli stamp but a second passport provides a clean slate and no questions asked. Remember: although the country that issued your passport may be able to see your travel history, other countries for the most part, cannot.
- Visa Requirements: Every country’s passport brings with it different entry requirements as you travel around the world. Having two passports from different countries lets you choose which passport is the most beneficial to use at any given time. Because each citizenship is absolute, you never need to present yourself as a dual citizen but instead whichever you prefer at the time (there is an important exception to this which I will get into later). For example, Chandra and I are both US citizens but I’m also an Italian citizen so last year when we went to Brazil Chandra had to go to the Brazilian Consulate and get a $140 visa but I just opted to travel on my Italian passport which has no visa requirement for Brazil and I entered for free.
- Reciprocity Fees: Some countries may not require you to have a visa, but may charge you a “recriprocity fee” to make up for what your country charges their citizens when they enter. Americans feel the effects of these fees the worst and mostly in South America. US passport holder? A visit to Bolivia will cost you $140, Paraguay $65 and Argentina $160, just to name a few. Got another passport? Use it instead!
- Immigration Lines: Definitely the most trivial of the benefits, but most countries make it far easier for their citizens to enter than foreigners. Have an EU passport? Enjoy a shorter line in all 28 European Union countries.
- Citizenship Rights: Obviously a passport denotes much more than just travel benefits. As a citizen of a country there are endless benefits such as right of abode, work permission, land ownership, possibly healthcare and even education. But it also gives you the rights of that country while traveling. For example let’s say you’re abroad and shit goes down. Thanks to your second passport, now you can beg for help at two different embassies!
- Avoiding Controversy: Sometimes governments don’t make the best decisions. Sometimes you may want to avoid a potential security risk. Sometimes, in movies, the terrorists separate all the Americans and let everyone else go. Sometimes it’s good to have two passports.
When to Use Which Passport
So I mentioned earlier that since citizenship is absolute, you can decide which passport to use based on which is better for you given the circumstances. But there is a definite exception to this. You must always present yourself to authorities of your country as a citizen of that country. This is very important. You can’t commit a crime in your home country and then flee to your other country’s embassy. You can’t enter your home country using your passport from another country. Doing these things will have serious legal consequences so here are some important procedures to remember should you have two different citizenships.
- When traveling internationally, you must use a single passport for each leg of a trip. You can’t switch mid-stream. Meaning, you can’t check into a flight in New York using your American passport and then enter Brazil using your Italian passport. This will cause problems because the airline records the identities and citizenships of everyone on the flight. Your information won’t line up.
- It is especially important to always enter your home country using that country’s passport. Let’s say you have two passports and you are returning home to the USA after a trip abroad. For some reason you decide to enter the US using your Italian passport. Now you are in the US as a visitor and granted a temporary entry visa. After three months, that visa will expire and you will technically be in the United States illegally, even though you are also a US citizen. Avoid messes like this. Use the proper passport from check-in all the way through to immigration.
- It’s a good idea to always travel with both of your passports no matter where you are going. You never know what may happen. A friend of mine, unaware of how things work, recently traveled to Argentina using his Israeli passport and left his US passport at home. When trying to board his flight back to the US from Buenos Aires he was denied boarding because he didn’t’ have a valid visa to enter the US. Even though he is a US citizen, he didn’t have his US passport and was out of luck. He ended up having to fly to Canada and have a family member drive his US passport across the border to Montreal so that he could reenter the USA. Don’t do that.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Unlike Jason Bourne, you are not a secret agent. You may think that because you have two passports it’s like you are two different people. But in reality most intelligence agencies will verify a passport not just on name and nationality, but on name, birthday and other info they always ask for when entering another country. The bottom line is that if the government wanted to figure out if American you and Italian you was the same person, it would be pretty easy. Don’t pull any funny business.
- Follow the rules on when to use which passport and make sure you always present yourself as a citizen of the proper country to immigration and other officials.
- Never leave your home country without your home country passport. And never enter your own home country without using its passport!
- Any questions? Want a personal consultation? Check out our eBook!
Please note that for simplicity sake many of the statements I make in this post are very US-centric and also overly simplified. In truth, acquiring secondary citizenship can be very complex and each country will present new challenges in how you then must interact with the world. Be sure to do the research pursuant to your specific situation.