Is it safe to travel with two passports?

by | Dec 25, 2020 | Anonymous Living, Anonymous Travel, New Identity, Second Passport, two passports


Do you have two passports? It may turn out to be a mixed blessing.

The door swings open to possibilities of traveling with a single ticket and two passports, yet complete freedom may be illusory — and you’ll need to be selective about which make you use at times.

You may find yourself with dual or multiple nationalities for various reasons, such as birth, marriage to a foreign citizen, or ancestry. With the proper bureaucratic requirements, you can obtain a second passport. In many circumstances, it’s a distinct advantage for foreign travel. For starters, various keys have varying levels of power, and carrying a second one may allow you to enter specific countries more efficiently—as well as avoid visa restrictions and exorbitant fees that one passport may trigger but not the other. For example, if you have German access, you’ve won the passport lottery: According to a recent poll, one of those petite burgundy beauties permits the bearer to enter 177 countries, or nearly all of them, without a visa.

Absence of fees and lines

Free passage and other benefits of having a second passport crop up frequently in our own TPG Lounge topic concerning second passports: for example, Natalie Kusonruksa, who has a Thai and an American key, claims she didn’t need to apply for a visa in Cambodia since she used her Thai passport. Rafael Hernandez, for example, argues that using his Venezuelan passport rather than his American passport on a recent trip to Brazil saved him more than $100 on the visa he would have needed if he had entered Brazil using his American key. In contrast, Carl Cabrera, a recently naturalized American citizen who kept his Philippine passport, says that his American ticket gives him visa-free access to countries that may require visas for Filipino nationals — but that he’ll keep his Filipino passport for less visa hassle when visiting Brazil.

Sometimes, countries will collect reciprocal fees instead of requiring a visa when you visit. This is a means for that country to offset costs levied by the passport holder’s home country — for example, the United States — for their citizens. Again, depending on your target country, possessing a second passport could save you a lot of money.

Aside from avoiding fees, entering another country as a national rather than a foreigner allows you to stay there lawfully for longer. Assume you have a dual passport from the United States and France. With the one from the United States, you can legally stay in France for up to 90 days. With the French one, you can spend as much time as you like in Paris because you are French. That means you can work lawfully and create a bank account without the arduous red tape and patience that trying to do with an American passport would involve.

Even if extended stays abroad on a second passport aren’t in the cards, you’ll be able to stroll through customs like the official local you are…

Who will complain about spending less time in line after a long transatlantic flight? In general, lineups for holders of passports from the Schengen Area’s 26 member countries are far shorter than those for “residents of other countries” in Europe. With the rise of biometric passports and face recognition in the EU, there is sometimes no need to queue; just a short scan, and you’re over the barrier.

In the Middle East, too, you’ll find a digital advantage. Newer passports, for example, may be machine-read at every point at Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV) that previously required a human inspection. Suppose you have both an American and an Israeli passport. In that case, you can take advantage of a time-saving automated method unavailable to people with American access (or other non-Israeli keys).

Pitfalls to avoid

As appealing as it is to skip visa hassles and fees while also flying past the customs line — more on which passport to flash and when in a moment – entering a nation on one passport may imply that you are giving up some rights linked with the other. Assume you have Turkish access as well as an American passport. Even if you’re a dual national, you’ll have used your American key to leave the country. Will you give up any of the rights or privileges that come with your US passport if you use your Turkish passport to enter or leave Turkey, as Turkey may require? Is it possible you’ll be exposed to a nebulous tax or a different type of customs inspection? Could you be drafted depending on your age? These aren’t necessarily frivolous inquiries, and it’s always a good idea to double-check with the Department of State and your target country’s consulate before traveling outside the US and Canada.

Even in ostensibly more known territory, you can be caught up. Assume you hold a Greek and an American passport. You’re an American to Uncle Sam, but you’re a Greek to the Greek authorities when you enter Greece based on your Greek key, whether you’re multilingual or not. And if you forgot your Greek passport and entered Greece with your US one, you’ll be treated as an American until you can prove it differently. The theory is the same whether you have two, three, or four passports, but not all countries treat things the same way in practice. Failure to present yourself as a country’s national to that country’s authorities can be risky. For example, suppose a dual American-Israeli citizen tries to enter Israel on an American passport. In that case, an immigration officer will likely give them a stern rebuke and demand that the dual citizen shows the Israeli key.

Then there’s the matter of passport prestige, or the lack thereof, which is distinct from passport power. Returning to the hypothetical American and Israeli passport holder, let’s say you’re planning a vacation to Saudi Arabia. Will immigration authorities accept you based on the fact that you have an Israeli passport? No, historically. And, even if they did or would do so in the future, would you want to display your Israeli citizenship in a country with no diplomatic relations with Israel? On many levels, the same principle is at work. Suppose you’re an American with a foreign passport. In that case, you should consider if American foreign policy is particularly disliked in the country you’re visiting or whether any of your nationalities might single you out as a target.

Two passports are independent in terms of physical paperwork, but they are not always, and in fact, mutually exclusive in terms of what they imply to your freedom of travel. While you don’t have to flash them all the time, it’s a good idea to always have both with you and display them as needed.

Which one are you going to show?

Wherever you go, movement across international boundaries with two or more passports in tow is now fueled by essentially the same dynamics — but the devil is in the specifics. The typical rule for dual nationals visiting one of their nations is to enter and exit on that country’s passport. When entering and leaving the United States, dual-national US citizens must use their US passport, which makes sense: you’re an American leaving or returning to America.

When airline gate agents ask to check your passport, keep in mind that they are doing so to ensure that you are entitled to go to the nation for which you purchased your ticket; mistakes can result in hefty fines for airlines. When purchasing a ticket, the passport information you provide should match the passport you want to use to enter your destination country. Airlines share passenger manifests with the destination country’s immigration authorities, which is another reason the ticket you display at the gate should match the key you show at the airport.

Returning to the case of the American and Israeli passport holders going to Tel Aviv, you must present your Israeli passport at the airport if you booked your flight using your Israeli passport number. When leaving Israel, the airline will require a copy of your passport that authorizes you to return to the United States. Still, the Israeli authorities (or, more likely, biometric scanners) will require a copy of your Israeli passport.

Remember that using a foreign passport to travel to or from a country other than the United States is not against US law, according to the State Department. Remember that even if US immigration does not examine your passport when you leave the country, you must be able to verify that you are legally allowed to be where you are on the ground before you fly.

If you are a dual national of the United States and another country, bringing your other passport to the airport is probably not necessary unless you plan to use it to enter that country to avoid paying for a visa that you may otherwise have to pay for if you used your US passport alone (in which case you probably used it when making your booking and should take it along). However, to avoid confusion, it’s a good idea to bring every valid passport in your name to the airport — you can always stow it if you don’t need to present it.

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