Logistics Of Traveling With Two Passports (And Dual Citizenship)

Filed Under: Travel

I’m lucky enough to have dual citizenship, as both of my parents were born in Germany, and I was born in the United States.

A reader emailed me a question about the logistics of traveling with dual citizenship, and I figured it was worth addressing in a post, given that I imagine she’s not the only one who has wondered about this.

A reader question about traveling with two passports

Reader Susannah asked the following question about traveling between the US and Austria as a dual citizen:

“I’m a dual US-Austrian citizen. Normally when traveling back and forth, I book my tickets on my American passport and enter/exit both countries with it. With COVID entry restrictions, this is now more complicated (I haven’t flown since COVID began due to health concerns but now I’m fully vaccinated and planning travel).

How do you advise to best go about the passport logistics of a Dulles-Vienna roundtrip? Do I book the ticket with my Austrian passport? What happens when I check in at VIE for the return flight – will I be able to check in with the Austrian passport if I’m an American citizen flying home? Do I need to present both passports at every stage? What’s the best way to go about this to avoid any problems with check in agents and/or border control?”

Figuring out immigration restrictions can be complicated

How I decide which passport to use when traveling

I’m going to address this topic more generally, not factoring in coronavirus, given the extent to which coronavirus has impacted entry restrictions.

When traveling, I generally use my passport from Germany:

  • When I’m entering Germany or any other European Union country; this allows me to avoid getting “stamped,” as I’m always trying to avoid filling up passport pages
  • When I’m entering a country where a German passport is advantageous compared to a US passport; for example, some countries have reciprocity fees or require visas for those with US passports, but not for those with German passports

I use my passport from the United States in virtually all other situations, including:

  • When I’m entering the United States, both since I have Global Entry, and since entering with my German passport would require an electronic travel authorization
  • When I’m entering countries under any other circumstances, since it’s easier for me to get a second passport in the US than in Germany, if I run out of pages

Furthermore, I usually try to use the same passport when entering a particular country, even if it’s not the United States or European Union. For example, I once used two different passports to enter the same country several months apart, and that got me sent to secondary, as it seemed to trigger some alert in the system.

I use my US & German passports in different situations

A practical example of passport logistics

Let me answer Susannah’s question by giving an example of my routine when traveling between the US and Germany. There are a few general things to keep in mind:

  • You always need to enter and exit a country with the same passport
  • Many countries require you to use your passport from that particular country if you are a citizen
  • There’s no shame in admitting you have two passports, if you get confused at any step in the process; you could even proactively present both passports every step of the way

With that in mind:

  • It doesn’t matter what passport information you enter into the itinerary when you book, if it’s even required
  • When I check in for my flight to Germany, I provide my German passport, since this is the information shared with German authorities, and determines my eligibility to enter the country
  • When I land in Germany I use my German passport at immigration, which avoids me getting a stamp (and saves space in my passport)
  • When I check in for my flight back to the US, I provide my US passport, since that’s what will be shared with US authorities, and avoids me needing an electronic travel authorization
  • Then when I go through departure immigration (which is a step that doesn’t exist on the outbound, since we don’t have that) I present my German passport, since it’s the passport with which I entered the country
  • Then when I land in the US I again present my US passport, since that’s what I need to get through immigration, and also what has Global Entry

I’ve certainly been absent-minded in the past and accidentally showed the wrong passport, whether at check-in, immigration, or wherever. However, that has always been quickly noticed and corrected without issue.

When traveling to Germany I use my German passport

Bottom line

I’m incredibly fortunate to have dual citizenship, as I have both a US and German passport. Hopefully the above sheds some light on how I decide to use each passport, and also helps anyone who may be trying to figure out which passport to use when traveling, especially with how complicated travel has become.

To anyone else who has passports from two different countries, how do you decide which to use when traveling?

  1. Canadian and British. I am Canadian for Canada and the USA. Elsewhere I am British. Except if a visa is cheaper or not required.
    But when my passport is checked by immigration most can see I have a second passport now days.

  2. A couple of things to note:

    – entering the US must be on a US passport if one’s a US citizen
    – checking in for a flight to the US would not be possible on a foreign passport without an ESTA. If the person somehow manages to get an ESTA and board the flight on their foreign passport, they would get secondary at immigration since there would be no record of them being on board any flight

  3. Pretty much what you said… I use whichever is most convenient/economical in terms of time and money for a given country.

  4. Great post.

    Couple of points:

    – US citizens must by law enter the US on their US passport – may want to update the post to reflect this.

    – I can echo the point about using the same passport for each country. I once had a long wait at passport control in Singapore when I entered on a different passport to a visit many years earlier!

    – On logistics, my worst experience to date was an itinerary flying DUB-JFK-GRU. This was in the days that Brazil required a visa for US citizens and charged huge reciprocity fees. So I was using my US passport to enter the US for the connection and my other passport to enter Brazil. This caused huge system issues at check-in at Dublin. Check-in took over an hour and I literally had to be escorted through customs pre-clearance to make the flight (and in the end they were only able to check me in as far as NY).

  5. Also as a tip for the person asking you the question and anybody else in that position – never enter a country for which you hold a passport on a foreign passport since that puts you in tourist status and liable to possible deportation if you overstay. So for anyone with an EU passport, they should use that regardless of where in the EU they enter. Not that difficult to carry and use the normal passports.

  6. I wonder how Official or Diplomatic passports are used in conjunction with personal ones. For example, I have a UN Laissez Passer for work travel out of the USA, but upon my return I use my personal one since I have GE (and also because the US does not accept the UNLP, while many others do).

  7. Hi Ben,
    I have also heard what Sorin mentioned. I have both EU and US passports, and have been advised by US immigration that all US Citizens MUST enter the country on their US passport. I always present both passports when checking in for international flights, as this avoids any confusion. All agents have known what to do. Especially during Covid times, it has been helpful to just show both passports as one allowed me to be in a country and the other allows me to travel to my destination.

  8. Thanks for this topic, Ben.

    This might be silly, but does anyone have any suggestion if the other passport is from a country that doesn’t allow dual citizenship?

  9. Here is an interesting one… My son’s name is Matthew. We have dual US and Lithuanian citizenship (LT is very handy for the EU). But the Lithuanian language alphabet doesn’t have a “W” and the passport uses a “U” instead. He’s always ticketed using the “W”, and this usually causes minor problems at check-in on the outbound. But avoiding the lines for non-EU persons is well worth the effort.

    We also have Nexus; on application we had to state any other passports we had. I’d expect all that is also linked for Global Entry. However we always check in with the US passport on returning.

  10. @Ben, there might be an exception to your claim that “It doesn’t matter what passport information you enter into the itinerary when you book, if it’s even required” in “Trusted Traveler” situations like NEXUS/SENTRI/Global Entry. My NEXUS profile clearly says I’m Canadian and I provide my NEXUS to any airline I fly between Canada-USA. Any NEXUS member would, as it significantly enhances the airport experience: TSAPre, Diplomat/Crew queue at security in Canada, etc. So in this case, revealing one’s citizenship to an airline would certainly have consequences on travel day.

    I suspect the same is true, even for un-Trusted” travelers, since USA and Canada use airline data to capture exits from each country and they share it with each other, per treaties signed in the 00’s after 9/11. I’d expect that data to include citizenship.

  11. The EU passport totally allows you entry into the EU right now? Or just the country of issuance? Could you fly from the U.S. to, say, Italy, and enter with your German passport (even for tourism purposes)? Covid has caused all sorts of confusion for me on this point.

  12. To add on to what’s been said before about it being illegal for an American to enter the US on a passport other than their American passport, this all stems from the fact that technically while the US allows dual/multiple citizenship, it does not recognize it. So it’s entirely legal for an American to also be, say, German, but at the same time the US also pretends that not a thing. So, for example, as far as the US is concerned, Ben is *only* American and thus it’s illegal for him to enter the US on his German passport because it’s kind of like it’s invalid

  13. Generally every country requires you to enter and leave that country on that countries passport if you are a citizen.

    What passport you show to an airline is (to some extent) irrelevant, BUT if you are interacting with an official from a country from which you have a passport, that is the one you should use.

    Some countries (UK included) allow frequent travelers, to have 2 valid passports (from the same country) at the same time. This can really confuse some immigration folks, and once led to my father being escorted off a plane at gun point. Long trip, going to Middle East and Israel – left -redacted- ME country on “wrong” passport with Israeli stamps in it.

    Point is, that it may be worthwhile to internally designate one passport for “interesting” countries and the other for “normal” countries if there is a choice!

  14. I have triple citizenship. When flying from the US to Europe, I always check in and present my US passport at the counter at the US airport. I only use my EU passport once I land in Europe and have to go through immigration. The fact that I checked in with the US passport was never an issue and I have done that more than 100 times. When checking in back to the US in Europe, I again show my US passport and the last time I use my EU passport to to leave EU going through immigration on my way to the gate. Just to clarify, the only times I use my EU passport is to enter and exit the EU, never at the check in at airports either in the US or in Europe.

    Similar to you, since I have 3 different nationalities and passports I chose the most convenient depending which country I am visiting.

  15. Is it really true you have to enter/exit using the same passport?

    Just curious because many years ago I entered a country without any passport but left the country using an American country. I didn’t sneak into that country but flew into a military base (I was a DOD civilian).

  16. Hi Ben,
    not sure if you are aware, but its quite easy to have 2-3 valid German passports at the same time.
    “Zweitpass” has to be reasoned, which is rather easy: I usually explain it with one passport being at an embassy for a visa application while needing the other one to travel. Many road warriors have it here.

  17. I became UK citizen and gained another passport on top of the EU one after the Brexit. Ironically by doing so my ability to travel to UK and EU remained unchanged but all the Brits who voted for Brexit lost the privileges. And I will not need to pay for ETIAS when it’s introduced next year.

  18. I am dual US/EU(Luxembourg) so it basically works the same as Ben described (which would be the same for all EU/Schengen holders). My sister and her family live in Frankfort Germany. I plan to visit them at some point in the near future when we are allowed. I have a healthcare card and use the EU passport when in residence locally. I may stay with them a month at a time as it is simply easier to be an EU citizen in the EU than even a US citizen. I have to go to NYC to the consulate office for renewal (not a big deal my brother lives in NYC and I hang out with him for 2 days). Coming and going is largely based on which line is shorter at the airports. I am Global Entry and TSA precheck so it is usually painless.

  19. All countries in the world – EVERY country, requires its own citizenry to enter their home country using that country’s passport. I have a friend who’s a dual French-American national and her American passport had expired shortly before a trip to the US, so she entered SFO after a flight from CDG using her French passport. She was flagged by CPB who told her that for entry purposes she must always enter on her American passport. She was told that as a US citizen, they will allow you to enter on an expired US passport and that would be her only warning – in the future she’d receive a large fine. So regardless of which number of citizenships one holds – you must always enter a country where you hold citizenship on that state’s passport.

  20. Lucky, I’d recommend checking in from the US going to the EU, using your US passport. Airlines are required to share the exit record with CBP and if you use your German passport, there isn’t a matching entry record to link it to. You can always show them your European passport as well, once they scan the US one in.

  21. I’m a dual North Korean Paraguayan citizen. So when I fly to the Congo I usually let the immigration officer pick which passport to use

  22. @Alfonso – How does one acquire dual North Korean/Paraguayan citizenship? That is quite unusual. Does NK even utilize recognized passports? I am not sure a NK citizen could go anywhere other than maybe China and even that may be hard.

  23. My wife has a Taiwan (born there) and US passport. When going to Taiwan, she checks in with her US passport. When she arrives in Taiwan and goes through immigration she uses her Taiwan passport. When she leaves Taiwan to go back to the USA, she checks in with her Taiwan passport but they will ask if she has a green card or visitors visa so she shows her US passport. Finally she also uses it going through immigration after landing in the USA.

    When we travel to other countries she mainly uses her US passport.

  24. Note,. If your going between two different countries on a land border, and switch passports,(better visa conditions) that can cause issues. They look for the stamp of the country you just left. That can trigger border security.

  25. @DAP,
    yes it is possible to enter Italy with a German passport. You can enter practically every country in Europe, but some countries still have some form of a quarantine requirement or testing requirement in place. But you can visit these countries for tourist purposes with a German passport. This is especially true if you fly through Germany. But as far as I am concerned there should be no difference if you fly direct from the US.

  26. I have three passports (Canada, UK, New Zealand) and have a US Green Card on top. Overall, my method is fairly similar to Lucky’s. Before I had a green card my US visa was based on Canadian citizenship, so I always had to use that passport to enter the US. My Cdn passport is full of messy scribbles from the CBP officers, and my status of my residence being in the US but not having permanent residence used to really throw off airport check-in on international flights. A couple of times at AA check-in at SFO it took more than half an hour, and they’d put my residence as “Canada”, even though I haven’t lived there for many years. All these issues went away with the green card. Having the three passports was handy in the days before India started issuing e-visas for business, they would sometimes hold on to your passport for several weeks. That’s why I would usually have the Indian visa in my NZ passport, as it was my least used one. But once in a while they’d arbitrarily change the rules, so I’ve had Indian visas in all three passports. Back when it was still legal (2009), I once entered Canada on my British passport. This was necessary because I was driving a US-registered rental car, you are not allowed to drive those over to Canada as a Canadian. They changed the rules a couple of years later I believe.

  27. @Flyer: that is exactly what I thought. You have to make sure there is record you left the country (either the US or the EU country). When leaving the US they scan your US passport which shows you are leaving the country as an American citizen. I wonder what happens when a US citizen exits the US using a EU passport. As for arriving in the EU I don’t think they care to know in advance if I am arriving as a US or EU citizen since you will have to go through immigration anyway and when I then scan my EU passport I am good to go.

  28. I have 3 passports – After some hassle and a back room (all very polite) with Israeli airport security a few years back I learned to keep all Muslim countries on a separate passport from that I use to visit Israel. They were concerned I’d visited Malaysia a few months before Israel.

  29. @Santastico – there is no exit immigration in the US. There are possibly two places where you would show a passport – at security, which is irrelevant when it comes to immigration laws or passports and during check-in / boarding, where the point is to make sure you can enter the country you’re flying to. So flying US / EU holding passports in both you’d use your EU passport to check-in to your outbound and at immigration entering EU, then use your EU one at exit immigration going back but your US to check-in and to go through immigration in the US.

    Some airlines support this very well (you can enter multiple passports on a ticket), some support it somewhat (like Delta where you can skip entering passport at booking and then enter each individually at check-in) and some don’t at all (Korean for example, this requires checking-in on return in person).

    For what it’s worth imagine doing this when you have two passports under two different names. Manageable when the names are close, really fun when they’re not. There is a way to get a US passport with alternate names printed in it (must apply in person and get lucky to have someone who knows how to do it), not sure if there are other countries that support this.

  30. Dual US/UK here. One problem I’ve encountered is that some airline check in systems don’t handle multiple passports very well. This is particularly a problem if I’m flying UK/US since (as others have mentioned) i have to enter the UK with my UK passport and the US with my US one.

    Often the online check in for the return flight won’t allow me to enter a different passport number from the one that was already used for the outboard flight. So that means I have to check in in-person at the airport and get stuck with whatever middle seat at the back is still left. Sometimes even if the passport number is changeable it will then flag that as suspicious (or just silently fail) and still require that i check in in person.

  31. I have a Canadian and a South African passport.
    Except for not requiring a visa for Russia, a South African passport is very poor.
    South Africans even require visas for many African countries.
    They are talking about a unified African passport but I don’t see that coming anytime soon.

  32. A tip I can give is depending on your Non-US citizenship, showing both passports at the border can get you in trouble.
    While the US may not care and not pursue any foreign passports, countries like Japan do not recognize dual citizenship and if you have a foreign passport in addition to a Japanese passport, they’ll make you renounce your Japanese citizenship.
    I was 14 at the time when I did this and while at that age I could keep dual citizenship, they cautioned me that if I was older, I would have needed to pick one or the other.

  33. So glad to see all the multiple citizenship representation in this thread 🙂 It’s frustrating how many computerized immigration systems there are out there which don’t gracefully handle multiple passports. For my part, I use my US Passport only for entry to the US, and either my New Zealand or Canadian passports elsewhere. It’s 99% smooth sailing, but the proliferation of automated exit controls is the bane of my existence. Of course when flying to the US, the US passport needs to be entered into SecureFlight in order to board, but some exit systems (ahem, Australia) use those outbound airline records as primary source, rather than matching you by passport to your entry record. They are lazy, lazy, lazy developers for not handling edge cases properly.

  34. Very straightforward for those of us with dual or more citizenships and passports:

    1. Entering the US you must use your US passport.
    2. Entering and departing any other country use the passport (same one) that gets you into that country with no or little questioning. For example, if you have an EU country passport then use the EU passport for entering/departing an EU country. If you have a South African passport use it to enter/depart South Africa. If US citizens do not require an entry visa then it may even be more beneficial to use the US passport for entry/departure depending on the country. One has to be careful with Middle East countries.
    3. Whenever I use a non-US passport to enter/depart a country and I am on my way back to the US, the first thing I do after take-off is put away that passport and have my US passport ready so that there is no mix up or problems at Global Entry or having to speak to those border officers for any reason.

  35. US citizen born in Australia. Was considering getting an Australian passport during early Covid times, but considering how much they have locked down travel, and considering most restrictions are based on where you are coming from or residing, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point.

  36. @Lucky
    Have you ever used different passports when crossing land borders? I can envision a scenario where the visa requirements would be different depending upon your country of citizenship. I know of some countries that insist on seeing the exit stamp.

  37. I am US/EU (Polish) dual citizen. Two years ago I was traveling from US where I live permanently to the old country to visit family, and I only had a US passport with me as I lost my Polish one a year before it and just didn’t had time to take care of it.
    I was flying through Munich and the German immigration officer upon entering Schengen area border wanted my Polish passport, even though I showed my US passport only. So I am guessing they have some kind of information in their system that I am a dual citizen, unless he just looked at my place of birth in US passport. In the end I was able to get into Germany and subsequently into Poland on my US passport, but I was told that I need to get a new Polish passport as I should always enter EU country on that particular passport.

  38. Once I entered USA at the Eagle Pass land crossing from Piedras Negras in Mexico. They kept me in a room and wanted to know why I had visited Malaysia ( on my Australian passport).
    All persons born in Cuba, regardless of their current citizenship must enter the country with a Cuban passport. If you dont have a cuban passport, you better get one before the trip (tedious and expensive).
    US passport is a good one to have for travel. even though 16 other passports afford entry to more countries.

  39. Lucky:
    I am wondering for quite a while already, how you were able to have German and US passport. My daughter has German and Bolivian nationality, but before she gets 23 she has to decide which one she maintains as Germany in general doesn’t allow double nationality for adults. I am living now for 20 years in South America but never accepted Bolivian nationality as I would loose my German nationality immediately. Any information on how you resolved that problem is very much appreciated

  40. I use my US passport when flying to and from the US to any foreign country. When in Europe, transiting between EU countries I use my Italian passport to save time. Since eGates and Global Entry came into use, I’ve cut my passport stamps from 3 to 1 (exit stamp from EU countries) and have the expanded page passport so I have no issues with over stamps however these days I take only 8 to10 international trips per year.

  41. Super helpful article, I carry both US and Canada passports. Something I’ve wondered is entering the US with my Canadian passport. My US one expired during the pandemic and I just haven’t found the time to replace it (it was a 5 year one, so I cannot renew it online). Would I have any issue entering the US with my Canadian one? Never had to do so, so I wondered if I would get flagged for it?

  42. I was born in the U.S. but my parents are from Pakistan. I use my Pakistani passport to enter the country and show it at departure immigration. Otherwise, it’s unfortunately the second worst passport in the world with visa free entry into only 29 or 30 countries (most of which aren’t useful). That makes my strategy pretty easy 😉

  43. I have 3 citizenship and 4 passports: Canada/Hong Kong (2 passports: BNO and HKSAR)/Taiwan. May eventually acquire a UK citizenship and give up the Hong Kong passport given everything going on in HK now.

    I always choose the path of least resistance like most. I always prioritize visa free e-gate entry > visa free > lowest hassle/cost. If I am entering a country I hold the passport to, then I’ll enter using it as it’s a legal requirement.

  44. @JDawG: I meant that the airline will scan your passport when you check in. Even if you do it online you will have your US passport on your airline account. Thus, I am guessing that the information that a US citizen is leaving the country is shared somewhere but maybe not.

  45. I have Italian/US. Post Brexit is there an advantage to use an EU passport when arriving in the UK? Guess it depends on line length?

  46. Mexican passport holder, when you purchase a ticket to Mexico in AA as Mexican citizen you get discounted 30 USD from some taxes, AA is the only airline who does that, not even Aeromexico does it.

  47. Like US passport holders must do when entering the US, Canadian Passport holders must use their Canadian passport when entering Canada.

  48. The way you present it makes a lot of sense. Keep in mind that not all countries allow dual nationality.

  49. Christopher, as a US citizen you cannot enter the United States as a Canadian; from a practical perspective you are not eligible for US visas or visa waivers, and cannot be issued one to facilitate your entry. Attempting to enter the United States with a visa or visa waiver for which you are ineligible is a criminal offense. While as an American you have an affirmative right of entry to the United States, you must truthfully represent your US citizenship status to Customs and Border Protection; you will be treated like any other American citizen who presents without a passport.

  50. This is such an interesting topic. I have only single citizenship (no fun) but found this very insightful.

  51. The US doesn’t acknowledge Your dual citizenship; upon entry into the US / you MUST enter the US using your US passport if you are a US Citizen.

    Conversely, since I’m also a UK citizen, I can choose to enter the UK on either as the UK acknowledges dual citizenship

  52. Susannah’s question implies she doesn’t really understand it works with tickets and passports, you don’t actually have to enter any passport info when booking a ticket (I’m a travel agent, I know this, although some website may require you to, it’s not actually required).
    Assuming your name is the same in both passports, you show the check-in staff the passport you want to enter the destination country with as they typically want to verify your admissibility to that country before checking you in. If you are flying out of a country with outgoing immigration, then you usually need to use the passport you entered with, to leave, as their systems usually want to cross reference an exit with an entry.
    As mentioned in many comments above, the US as well as many other countries require their own citizens to enter their borders only with their passports. A US citizen with a EU passport is technically ineligible for an ESTA on the EU passport.
    In Susannah’s example she should simply show the AT passport when checking in for a flight to Vienna and the US passport when she checks in for the return flight back to the US and if VIE has outgoing immigration, then she should show the AT passport there.
    A question that arises all the time for me as a travel agent, is what happens when a dual citizen has 2 different names in their 2 passports (typically married women, they have their maiden name in one and married name in the other), as you can only put one name on a round trip ticket so in one direction, the ticket won’t match the passport being used. In such cases I take my best guess as to which country is more likely to get picky about it and use the matching name for that.
    Another point to point out; check-in and gate agents are often stricter than the destination country’s border control so if you satisfy them and get through you will usually be good when you land. Especially when travelling to the country you are a citizen of, but don’t have a valid passport, once you’re on the ground, they will verify your status one way or the other and let you through. I know countless US citizens who were travelling back home with expired US passports and valid foreign passports and just got some angry looks from US CBP and were let through.

    On a personal note, I am a AU/UK/US tri-citizen, and quite a few years ago I went on a visit back to Australia and my AU passport was about to expire, I renewed it locally but it wasn’t ready when I was leaving, so I left with my UK passport and that raised flags at outgoing AU immigration as there was no record of me entering the country… I explained them and they verified my story with the passport office and let me go after warning me not to try to return without it; and what would have happened if I did try to return without it? my biggest hurdle would be getting on board a flight to Australia, if I manage that and show up to immigration without an AU passport, what will they do to me? deport an Australian citizen on Australian soil?! no! they’d look me up in the system and determine I’m good to stay….

  53. Lucky, Ben’s question above is one I have also. My German wife has her EU (German) passport and a US green (now pink) card. She has been told if she applies for a US passport she must renounce her German one.

    I have US/UK passports. I leave the States on my UK one and leave England back to the States on my US one. I have done this for decades. No one has ever questioned it. The only thing this complicates is OLCI. So I just use the counter.

  54. it is incorrect and illegal for a US citizen to check in for a flight bound to EU using a non-US passport. US citizen must always enter and exit US using US passport. the US citizen certainly can show the EU passport to airline check in agent (eg in covid era to prove that they are eligible to enter EU, or in non-covid era if they wish to stay for over 90 days), but the airline check in info must still contain US passport details. when they land in EU, they then go through immigration using EU passport.

    there are 4 countries in the world that i know of, that do NOT have exit immigration. 4 out of 195. US is one of these few, anomalous countries. in this situation, airlines are generally mandated to share these details with the border patrol (which is how the BP know you exited, or whether you overstayed then exited).

    – if a US citizen did not exit US using US passport, then there is no record indicating you exited. you will be flagged when trying to re-enter later using a US passport (obviously).

    – if a non-US citizen/PR exit US after overstaying (their visa, or their welcome, whatever), they will be flagged the next time they try to re-enter. this is why many of them dont leave if they want to be able to return.

    General rule of thumb worldwide

    * you must always enter and exit the country of which you are the citizen using your home country passport.

    * you must always have entry and exit record for a country of which you are not a citizen within the same passport, or at least the same country’s passport (if you were at renewal stage), and maintain the habit of using the same country’s passport for consistency to avoid secondary inspection.

    * passport screening points at airline check-in desk vs immigration/border control are 2 different things, and every multi-passport holders should understand the distinction.

  55. @Chris – The UNLP is *not* a passport, just an official document testifying to your status as UN official traveling on UN business – while many countries accept this without your official (i.e. nationally-issued) passport, legally they don’t have to. Countries often have similar LP documents that are to be used in conjunction with the normal passport – for example for national consular officers.
    Regarding Diplomatic Passports: They function like national passports and you often have to hand in your personal passport to recieve a diplomatic one. You may be able to enter a country that you visit – i.e. during a long layover – through the diplomatic / crew lane. But do note that a diplomatic passport alone does not confer any other rights as diplomatic immunity is only achieved after accrediation with the host nation’s government and then only for specific legal issues in that country (mostly pertaining to your work).

  56. @santastico

    The way you explained it first is exactly how it should be. When checking in to depart US going to EU, you should use your US passport (that is your exit record). You should use your EU passport once you land in Europe.

  57. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/Advice-about-Possible-Loss-of-US-Nationality-Dual-Nationality/Dual-Nationality.html

    U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport to travel to or from a country other than the United States is not inconsistent with U.S. law.

  58. @airfarer, and @ben (commenter), my understanding of German nationality law is by all accounts limited, but in Germany, there is a distinction drawn between acquisition of citizenship at birth and by naturalization. Whether gained by descent, or in a country that practices birthright citizenship, or for some other reason, citizenships you are born with are “grandfathered” in, because you took no voluntary act to acquire them. It is the act of acquisition, rather than the fact of entitlement, that triggers denaturalization provisions of German law.
    Since Lucky acquired German citizenship by descent, and US citizenship by birth, he has taken no voluntary action which would result in the loss of his German citizenship.
    Airfarer, it sounds like your wife’s American naturalization would be an event that might trigger German denaturalization; no similar provisions exist in US, or UK law. But there are exceptions made by the German government, I’m told–best of luck to her.
    And @ben, it sounds like your daughter might be a German citizen by declaration–which is apparently different than citizenship by descent, according to my research. Were your daughter a German citizen by descent at birth, and born in Bolivia, my understanding is that she would not have to choose between them. However, specifically for registration of German citizenship, the 23-year deadline comes into play, since the entitlement is statutory, not by right. It might be worth engaging a citizenship attorney in Germany to sort things out.

  59. Fun fact about what Ben said regarding Taiwan passport, most dual citizen men between age of 18-36 tend to enter Taiwan using foreign passport to avoid initiating countdown to their draft requirement. As long as their Taiwan passports are absent from the immigration system, the household registration system would exclude them from draft process. Meanwhile women usually use Taiwan passport to enter in order to maintain active status within Taiwan’s household registration system which relates to Universal Health Coverage, bank accounts, and other benefits.

    Back to multi-passport strategies, I would argue that aside from visa and cost issues, I would consider which passport is more popular among the locals, the authorities, and access to consulate/evacuation services outside first world countries where rule of law is less established…

  60. @capybara, no. Precision is important here, and we should be clear on this thread about the rights and responsibilities with respect to multiple citizenship in the US. Let us examine the claims:

    “it is incorrect and illegal for a US citizen to check in for a flight bound to EU using a non-US passport.”

    Nonsense: while US CBP does collect data from airlines about outbound international passengers, that data collection does not constitute a statement to CBP, nor does it constitute an exit control. You are not obliged to quote your US passport to your airline at check-in, nor is it required to be the document of record for immigration purposes on your US departure leg. That’s primary source information–when departing the US I flash my US passport to prove return eligibility, but I ensure that my other passport is the document of record. Increasingly, this is a requirement–for example, if my New Zealand passport was not the document of record when flying to Australia, I would be denied boarding for lack of an ESTA attached to my US passport. When the ETIAS system goes into effect for American travelers to Europe, I expect a verification scheme with similar requirements to affect Lucky.

    “US citizen must always enter and exit US using US passport.”

    Half truth: it is a legal requirement that you carry a valid US passport if you are a US citizen departing the United States. It is a legal requirement that you present yourself as a US citizen when entering the United States, but not technically a legal requirement that you carry a valid US passport when doing so, as US citizens enjoy an affirmative right of entry. CBP maintains the statutory authority to operate exit controls, so if you are stopped by CBP on departure, you must present your US passport if requested to do so. For what it’s worth, I have been traveling out of the United States on foreign passports with some regularity for 25 years, and I have never once been stopped, questioned, or even eyeballed funny by CBP on departure.

    “if a US citizen did not exit US using US passport, then there is no record indicating you exited. you will be flagged when trying to re-enter later using a US passport (obviously).”

    False: 25 years, 3 passports, and the vast majority of times I have crossed the US border I have done so with mismatched passports on entry and exit. Not a single referral to secondary or hassle of any kind has resulted with respect to the lack of a paired exit record on entry.

    “passport screening points at airline check-in desk vs immigration/border control are 2 different things, and every multi-passport holders should understand the distinction.”


  61. @Ben
    Thats simply not the case anymore. Germany allows dual citizenship (unconditionally with any other EU country and conditionally with third countries). Therefore you and your daughter could retain dual German/Bolivian citizenship. They conditional key to that is to talk to your local German representation about a “Beibehaltungserklaerung”. There you have to outline your connection to Germany (family, professional obligations) and outline why your desire is to keep the nationality/passport.

    So you could easily apply for Bolivian citizenship (if you want to) and your daughter could also retain both passports.

  62. > You always need to enter and exit a country with the same passport
    This simply isn’t true, it depends on the country. I’m a dual US/UK citizen and I was told by UK immigration to enter the UK on my UK passport and enter the US on my US passport.
    As someone else said they already know I have two passports. I once landed at LHR from Freetown and the flight was met on the gangway by Special Branch who interrogated everyone leaving the plane (no explanation). I handed them my UK passport and the immediate response was “And your other passport please, sir” 🙂

  63. South African citizens by birth need to get permission to retain their citizenship if they take on the citizenship of another country. One of the conditions is that you always enter and leave South Africa on your south African passport.
    Interestingly the current government wants to stop South Africans having two citizenships because 1) its predominantly whites who have them and 2) many Jewish citizens have acquired Israeli passports.
    The problem is that many of the older government leaders spent years in exile in France, Russia, Italy , Scandinavia and various other countries and are reluctant to give these passports up.

  64. Dual Aust and British Citizen. I use my Aussie one for the US and Canada as my original electronic visas are on that one. When leaving the travelling between Nth America and the UK , at check in I present both, and explain that I’m departing on the Aussie, but landing on the British one.

    Use the British one in Europe and Sth America (to avoid the reciprocity fees for Aust travellers), and the Aussie one in Asia.

    Aussie immigration has both recorded, as I’ve been told they already had the British details when presenting both at check in.

    My British passport doesn’t scan at UK gates (although it does in all Euro countries that use gates). When I flew into London-Southend last year, which doesn’t have gates, it also didn’t scan at the desk, so the Border Force staff asked for additional ID. I pulled out my Aussie one, so he scanned that instead. Will be interesting to see if I get an overstay question next time I leave on the Aussie.

  65. Lucky, I think it might be helpful to update your post to note that most (all?) nations require their citizens to enter the country using their national passport. Your logistics aren’t just a “happy path” but the legal requirement.

    And, yes, extra care is warranted for those with dual citizenships from nations that heavily restrict it (e.g., RoK) or do not recognize it at all (e.g., PRC). Of interest, while the US does not have exit customs, airlines do collect name and passport information for foreign nationals leaving the country in order for USCIS to update I-94 records. It is always a good idea for foreign nationals to check online to ensure the departure was properly recorded — especially if they left on a different passport than used at entry.

  66. Clarification, for some unclear information… when you are a dual (or more) national, you MUST use your passport when entering a passport country, i.e. if you are US then you must use your American passport to enter the US, if Canadian, you MUST use your Canadian passport to enter Canada, any other third country, its your choice…. You cant claim to be Canadian when you are entering the US if you hold a US passport… While countries may allow dual nationality, you will be the nationality of that country when you are in that country….

  67. “You always need to enter and exit a country with the same passport”

    No you do not. At least not always. I routinely enter Europe with my EU passport but leave the EU with my US passport.

    Never had a problem with that.

  68. @Chris – I hold a diplomatic passport. Basically, most (not all) countries grant me access regardless of requirements for non-citizens. It is not true that all airports have special lanes for diplomats – i.e. many airports in the US have on special lanes/security for diplomats. While in that country, I can only receive diplomatic immunity if my mission or embassy accepts my attendance (which is almost always if I do get in trouble). However, joy riding in a country and getting into difficulties with the local authorities is not something that is generally tolerated by the country that a diplomat represents so I certainly don’t suggest that. Finally, in my case I hold multiple diplomatic passports for different regions of the world.

  69. Triple NZ/UK/US citizen, and my approach is similar to Ben’s.

    Prior to US citizenship I did get sent to secondary once when the airline agent entered my NZ passport number and called it a British passport, so when I got to SFO the immigration agent was like “you’re not even on the manifest for this flight”.

    I can say that when I have returned to NZ, I have entered on my British passport. The last time I entered NZ I had both my US and NZ passport in my hand, the immigration officer asked how long I was staying, and said “whichever one you want to use, mate”. Obviously passports are the least of one’s issue entering NZ now 🙂

    It’s highly likely that many countries are correlating your data behind the scenes, and checking on which passports you’ve entered on. My father entered the US on his NZ passport once, and the CBP officer said to him “last time you were here you entered on a UK passport”. It was fine, but the telling thing is that this information was available to them on the counter. It’s a fairly trivial record linkage thing, given the information provided.

  70. A note to people with multiple Non-US citizenships entering and leaving the USA. Because the US uses airline data to record departures (due to no exit controls), it is wise to at least use the same passport for entry/exit because failure to do so may trigger an “overstay” alert the next time you go back to the USA.

    For example, once I entered the USA on my British passport but exited on my Australian passport not thinking anything of it. On my next visit to the USA, I was asked about my previous visit to the USA and how did I leave? I satisfied the border agent that I did not overstay my previous visit by showing my other passport (luckily I had it on me). He advised me to not mix passports on US visits as it may cause issues.

  71. A few years ago my teenage son – with dual citizenship of US and EU and two passports – left the US for Europe to compete in some of his freestyle skiing required worldcup competitions. No problems occurred, since he had done this trip many times before.
    Until the night before return to the US and OLCI, when his chaperone asked: “where is your US passport ?”
    “Oops … I think I forgot”.
    As the only option, in total panic and at the last moment an ESTA was apparently successfully arranged and somehow at ZRH he was able to board his flight back home to the US.
    Upon arrival at his entry-airport the immigration officer asked him some questions, followed by immediately inquiring where his American passport was. And – always the charmer – my son was able to explain the situation to his apparent satisfaction.
    The officer even asked the outcome of the competitions and shared the win and other stories with some colleagues. They all had a good laugh and congratulations; the passport issue never came up again.
    He was unconditionally admitted with the usual “welcome back”.
    Lesson learned !

  72. oh how i wish i had at least dual citizenship….i have friends that have triple citizenship and it makes me so jealous

  73. @ schar: no, it’s not always so wish-worthy as it might initially seem ; i.e. 2 of my children have dual citizenship, of which the one that causes the most unsolvable problems is the Venezuelan citizenship. My children were born in Caracas – during the very good times in the 80’s – while we were stationed there on assignment as expats.
    Who will know in advance how a particular citizenship will work out ?

  74. I’m a Canadian-USA dual citizen, and I just use my US passport to travel to Canada, even though I hold a Canadian one. Canada has an exception for Americans. “Exception: If you are an American-Canadian dual citizen with a valid U.S. passport, you don’t need a Canadian passport to fly to Canada.”

  75. Just by curiosity, I reared some news that countries like Germany, Japan, S Korea, and Singapore … are not allow their “people” have dual/trips/or more citizenships. For people have dual citizenships by any reasons(birthright citizens by another counties), you can use them before you are 21 years old. However, you have to make a decision which citizenship you want to hold after you become 21 years old. is that true?

  76. @IVO SIO:
    These 3 are the most powerful passports combination. It ranks NO1 for me
    You are the member of EU, China and US. The most powerful economy/labor markets in the world

  77. When traveling to “Muslim” countries, I use my non-US passport due to possible bias against Americans.

    Only once have I had trouble and that was in Israel. I had travelled to some middle East Muslim countries with my non-US passport, then, on the same trip, entered and exited Israel on my US passport (I think I might have asked Israel not to stamp my passport, I don’t remember). When Israel learned that I was coming from a Muslim country, it began interrogating me and strip searched me and went through my luggage and belongings FIVE TIMES. Israel saw my non-US passport and continued to interrogate me for 3 1/2 hours with five layers of security personnel. Both of my passports reveal that I travel all over the world, with stamps from every “type” of country. Anyway, Israel just could not understand why I would want to visit a Muslim country.
    My take: don’t travel to Israel on the same trip in which you visit Muslim countries and leave any passport showing stamps from Muslim countries at home.

  78. This isn’t related to the main reason for your post but I had an interesting interaction with a customs official in FRA airport when claiming a VAT refund. I live in the US and have dual US/Swedish citizenship. I entered the EU using my Swedish passport (as I’m supposed to do.) l did some shopping and when l presented my paperwork at the refund office the agent initially wouldn’t approve it as my US passport had no EU entry stamp and he claimed l could be living in the EU and circumventing the rules to get the refund. I showed my US drivers license as proof l lived in the US but he was unmoved. He finally begrudgingly approved it when l pointed out my Swedish passport was issued at the embassy in Wash DC. I assume he was just being difficult as l had done this many times before with no issue.

  79. There’s a piece missing from this article: legal constraints. Most countries require their own citizens to enter on a matching passport. The USA is an example: an American citizen is required by law to enter the United States using their American passport. Ditto Canada and Australia (the two countries of which I am a citizen).

    As for which one you give the airline, this gets a little weird. Countries that don’t have departing passport control — the USA and UK come to mind — generally use airline passenger records to track departures. In those places, you probably want to give the airline the same passport details you entered on, to make sure your arrival and departure records line up.

    After meeting those two constraints, I honestly go for whatever is most convenient. While I lived in the UK, my visa was in my Australian passport, so that’s what I used to travel basically everywhere except the USA (where I was Canadian). Now that I live in the USA, I use my Canadian passport to go basically everywhere (except, of course, back to Australia).

  80. I am dual Taiwan/US but I’ve had a run-in where immigration had proactively forced me to use one over the other.

    This happened couple years ago in Malaysia. Using a US passport doesn’t require a visa when entering but you need a visa for a Taiwan passport.

    I was using a US passport to enter when the immigration officer notice that there’s no exit stamp in the US passport (I flew from Taiwan so I used a Taiwan passport to exit Taiwan). They flagged me and forced me to pay for a landing visa on the spot and told me that whatever passport I use to exit a country needs to be the same one I use to enter.

  81. @ Kuio. That is weird. How you left Taiwan is surely not their business.
    I enter Argentina on my South African passport ( no entry fees) and leave on my Canadian (which used to require entry fees) for the US because Canadians do not need a visa for the US.
    At check in the airline needs to see how I entered Argentina because the Canadian passport does not have a stamp.
    I have never been asked in the on arrival in the US why my Canadian passport does not have an Argentina stamp.

    By best is the UK. Canadians can go through the automatic gates and South Africans need an expensive and time consuming visa. When leaving the UK I give them the South African one before leaving for Cape Town. Never been asked how I got into the UK. In fact I once said to the checking agent, “Aren’t you curious as to how I entered the UK”.

  82. @Shane Hensinger commented:

    “All countries in the world – EVERY country, requires its own citizenry to enter their home country using that country’s passport.”

    Not true…. While it is true that SOME countries including the U.S.A. requires dual citizens to enter and exit that country using the country’s passport, OTHERS do not have such requirement. Of those others without any such requirement only some do impose a requirement that you disclose your dual citizenship status to immigration or present another identification from that particular country.

  83. Everybody should keep this in mind:

    Entering another country on that country’s passport and as one of its citizens, and since many do not recognize dual citizenship, you may not be afforded any access to U.S. counselor services that you may need from the U.S. embassy or counsulate.

    Nobody plans on getting arrested when traveling but we have all heard of stories where many unexpectedly did. If their records indicate you are one of their own, they may not be aware of your dual citizenship status particularly that of a U.S. citizen.

    Therefore, if you think you may require U.S. State Department assistance, you have to request that they contact the nearest U.S. embassy or counselate on your behalf or allow you the ability to contact them yourself.

  84. Ok. Here’s my situation. I have triple citizenship (Canada/Ireland/UK). I am currently living in Canada.

    Let’s say I want to travel from Canada to Australia via the US. This would involve changing planes in the US and going through US immigration. My hypothetical outbound itinerary would be YVR-LAX-SYD.

    Now, for entering the US, I would obviously enter using my Canadian Passport as Canadians can enter the US visa free, while Irish and British citizens require a slightly more complicated VWP process that involves applying for an ESTA and paying a fee.

    However, for entering Australia, Canadians are required to obtain an ETA which requires a fee while Irish and British Citizens require an eVisitor which is free of charge. So, I would enter Australia on my Irish or British Passport.

    Now, when checking in at YVR (and having baggage checked all the way to SYD), I show my Canadian Passport (as that’s what I will need to show to US CBP preclearance in YVR). However, this gets flagged by the airline check in agent in YVR as I have a connecting flight to SYD but now ETA attached to my Candian Passport. Do I now just show my other passport that has the eVisitor (let’s say Irish) to the check in agent to be issued boarding passes for both flights?

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