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