How to travel with two passports

How to travel with two passports

If you are a citizen of more than one country, chances are that you could have a passport from each of the countries where you hold citizenship. This could literally open up a world of possibilities- especially if you love to travel.

Why use two passports

It all has to do with international relations and politics. While some passports make it easy to travel to a majority of countries, they could also make it more difficult to enter others. For example: on the Henley Index Japan is the first on the list with 189 countries that are either visa-free or has visa-on-arrival when entering with a Japanese passport. Lower down on the list, at number 50 is South Africa with 102 countries that could be visited visa-free or by obtaining a visa-on-arrival. However, while Japanese passport holders can only visit certain regions of Russia, enter only through certain borders, and then only stay for a total of 8 days (granted through an eVisa), South Africans can enter Russia visa-free for up to 90 days in a 108 day period.

This means that while a Japanese passport could provide you access to more countries, having dual citizenship with another country (like South Africa for example) could make traveling to certain countries easier.

Some countries charge reciprocity fees. Although visa’s aren’t required for these countries, reciprocity fees are charged to make up for what your country charges their citizens when entering your country. Having a second passport could assist in avoiding those fees based on the agreement between your destination country and the countries for which you hold passports.

Holding a passport for the country to which you are traveling holds the obvious advantages of being able to stay longer, work and open bank accounts among other things.

Holding a passport to your destination country could also help you save time as you can use the ‘citizen’ line when passing through immigration and customs- which is often shorter- instead of falling in line with the crowds of foreigners entering the country.

How do you get two passports?

All of this sounds great, huh? Ready to sign up? Well, here’s the catch: you have to be a citizen of two (or more) countries. This means that you need to meet the legal requirement for citizenship in these countries. While dual citizenship is possible, it is often difficult and time consuming to obtain. Some countries do not allow dual citizenship, meaning that you might lose citizenship in your country of origin when you take on citizenship of your new home country.

You can get dual citizenship by acquisition. When you are born in a country you become a citizen, if you move to a different country and meet their requirements you could become a citizen of the second country. If both countries allow dual citizenship you will then be able to obtain legal passports in both countries.

Another way of getting dual citizenship is by birth right. If your ancestors came from a different country, that country’s laws could grant you citizenship even if you were not born there. Often this only extends to one or two generations.

You could also get dual nationality by marrying someone from another country.

How do you travel with two passports?

Remember that you always need to show that you can legally be where you are at any given moment. You also need to show that you are legally allowed to enter the country that you are flying to.

  • When booking a ticket to a different country you will have to provide your passport details. If you have two different passports you should provide the details of the passport that you will be using to enter the destination country. Airlines ask for your passport information to see whether you are allowed to enter the country that you intend to visit. If you are not allowed in the country, the airline could face a large fine.
  • When you check in for your flight you will also use the passport that you will be using to enter your destination country for the same reasons as above. Have the passport for your departing country ready to avoid any confusion and questions on how you were able to stay in that country for an extended period of time.
  • At departing Immigration you will show the passport that allows you to legally be in the current country. They check whether you are allowed to be where you currently are- not where you will be going. If you are departing from a country where you are not a citizen, they will look for an entry stamp or visa that allows you to be in that country (this will especially apply when you are traveling to multiple countries).
  • When arriving at your destination, show the passport that allows you to enter that country to the immigration officers. Airlines often send a list of all the passengers on each flight to the immigration authority in the destination country. You have to show the immigration in that country the same passport you used to check in for your flight in the departing country. These immigration officers are concerned with whether you are allowed to be in the arrival country, not whether you were legal in the country you came from.
  • At the end of your trip, when checking in with your airline, use the passport that allows you to be in the country where you are going (even if it is different from the passport you used to enter the country where you are flying from). The same applies as above, the airline needs to know you are allowed into your destination country.
  • For the departing immigration you will show the passport you used when entering and while visiting the country that you are now leaving- showing that your visit was legal and no visa requirements were broken. The officers will look for the entry stamp in this passport and provide you with your exit stamp.
  • When you arrive at your new destination (or home country) you will show the arriving immigration officers the passport you used to check into your flight. This passport is the one that allows you into your destination country.

Important things to remember

  • Dual citizenship is absolute. You do not have to state that you have dual citizenship, but you do have all the rights linked to each citizenship that you hold. You can choose to be a citizen of each country for which you hold a legal passport. You can choose to use the passport that suits your circumstances better. However, when entering your home country (or any country in which you hold citizenship) you need to present the passport for that country, otherwise you will be entering the country as a visitor with restrictions on activities that you can conduct (like not being allowed to work) and how long you can stay.
  • You cannot ask for assistance from the embassy of a second country where you have citizenship if you have committed a crime in the first country. Two passports does not mean you are seen as two different people, your actions in each country should still align and fall within the laws of that country.
  • You have to use the same passport for each leg of an international trip. As mentioned before, airlines send a passenger list to the arrival country. If you use, say an American passport to check-in for, and board a flight you need to use that same passport when going through immigration at your destination.
  • Always travel with both your passports. If you leave your home country using your second passport, you will still need your home country’s passport to re-enter the country as a citizen (and not a tourist with limitations) on your return.
  • You can use sites like the Henley Index or Passport index to compare which visa’s you require for each country. This helps you to avoid any unnecessary visa fees. 
  • There could be some pitfalls to using a dual passport, for example, when entering Turkey with a Turkish passport and you are of drafting age, this could become a reality. Check with the Department of State and your destination country’s consulate for the fine print before your trip.

There you go, all you need to know to go take the world by storm, you lucky dual-passport holder, you!

Disclaimer: The author is not an immigration lawyer and this article is meant as a guide only. Please speak to the relevant embassy for more information on traveling with dual passports.

*A version of this article first appeared at

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

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