How to Travel with Two Passports: The Stress-Free Flying Guide

How to Travel with Two Passports: The Stress-Free Flying Guide
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Last Updated on March 19, 2022

You’ve gotten dual citizenship – yay! There’s something so satisfying about finally having your second passport in hand. But how do you actually travel with two passports? When do you show what and what are the rules to follow?

While traveling with two passports should not be difficult, it can be intimidating the first few times you do it. You don’t want to make a mistake and get into any trouble!

To provide the clearest explanations possible, I’m going to use examples, many of them being from my own situation as a US and EU citizen. If you have any questions about your specific situation, please leave them in the comments so I can help!

You can read more about how I got my Italian dual citizenship.

Traveling With Two Passports: FAQs, Answered

How can you get two passports?

A person can apply for a passport in any country in which they have citizenship. If you were born a dual citizen, you likely can apply at any time. But you can also obtain dual citizenship in other ways, most commonly through ancestry, naturalization, and marriage. Once you’ve obtained dual citizenship, you should be able to apply for your passport right away, but you’ll have to check your country’s specific rules.

It’s important to note that every country has different policies on this (and it’s important to note that all the information in this article may vary depending on the country in question.) Always check official rules, which can usually be found on government websites, regarding if dual citizenship is allowed and their rules on traveling with two passports.

Is traveling with two passports allowed?

Yes. And people can even have more than two! It’s usually advantageous to have multiple passports (if your home country allows it). Having a second passport allows you to choose which one makes your entry into a foreign country easier and you’ll likely have shorter lines to wait in.

Do dual citizens need to travel with both passports?

No, you are not required to have both passports on you when you travel – just the one you are using. In my case, if traveling back and forth from the United States and the European Union (EU), I need both because I enter and leave the EU as an EU citizen and enter and leave the USA as a US citizen. Scroll to find detailed definitions of “entering” and “exiting.”

I highly suggest always bringing both passports with you when you travel, even if you don’t plan on using one of them. This assures that if you run into any trouble, you have all your documentation on hand and can explain your situation as a dual citizen. Follow these other international travel tips for a smooth experience.

Can you enter a country on one passport and exit on another?

No. The way that countries track whether or not you have overstayed your visa or the amount of days you’re allowed to stay there is based on what passport you used.

So, for example, if you enter the EU on an American passport, but then exit on an EU passport, then “on file” it will seem as though you never left the EU because they’ve seen you entered on an American passport.

Some countries do not stamp passports, which would then imply it doesn’t matter which you show. But to avoid trouble, the number one rule for traveling with two passports is to keep it consistent.


Defining “Entering” and “Exiting” a Country

The reason why I want to define these terms is that their messaging can get confusing in the context of the full flight journey.

This is because there is not just one stop where you show the passport you’re traveling with and move on. There are multiple passport control stops that can make you doubt which passport you are supposed to use.

Entering a country is when you land and you go through passport control. You will enter your destination country, but you will also re-enter the country that you are returning to. And this may cause you to use two different passports on the same journey.

For example, I am an EU and US citizen. If I travel to the US, I will use my American passport. But when I re-enter the EU, I will present my EU passport because I want to be considered an EU citizen in the EU.

The same goes for leaving a country. I will leave the EU on my EU passport, the same I used to enter it. And when I leave the US, I will present my US passport; the same I used to enter it.


Step-By-Step Flying Guide with Two Passports

Booking Your Flight: How to Choose Which Passport To Use

The first point where you will need to decide on which passport to use when traveling is when you go to book a flight. The main factors you will want to consider when choosing which to use are:

  • Destination country’s laws. Your destination country may have certain laws about which passport you can use, usually if it’s the country from which you have citizenship. For example, US citizens must enter and leave the US using their US passport. So even if you are a dual citizen of another country, you don’t have the choice to use that passport to enter the US.
  • Ease of visa requirements. The benefit to having two passports is that you can choose which one allows you to enter a country more easily. For example, if I’m traveling to Venezuela, I would choose to use my EU passport. With my EU passport, I don’t need to apply for a visa, whereas with the US passport I would have to apply for a visa, pay for it, and do the entire waiting process for it to be granted. These visa requirements are all based on agreements between the countries regarding the visitor’s nationality, length of stay, reason for visiting, etc.

Part of the booking and online check-in process can also get muddy when they ask for nationality. Dual nationals should always put the nationality that goes with whatever passport they are traveling on.

Airport Check-In

When you check in for your flight, you will present the passport that you used to buy the ticket. The airline wants to see the passport information match up and they want to know you have valid entry to your destination country.

At Security Check

You will present the passport associated with your ticket. Again it makes sense, as the agents all want to see that the information is consistent and that you won’t have problems entering the destination country.

At Passport Control When Departing

When you go through passport control after having checked in and gone through security, you will then present whichever passport you used to enter the country you are currently in. So, if I am in Italy, I would present my Italian passport.

Now, for example, if I have a connecting flight from Italy somewhere in the EU on my way to the US, I will not go through passport control in Italy. I will go through passport control at the last EU country I am traveling from.

Arriving At The Destination

When you go through the immigration check at your destination, you’ll present the passport you used on your ticket to fly there. This makes sense, as its the passport that is allowing you entry into the country.

Departing From The Destination

Same as when you arrive, you’ll show the passport you used to enter the country.

Returning Home/Re-entering Departing Country

So, now when you go through border control after your return journey, you will present which passport is most advantageous for you to enter that country with. Remember, this is the passport you will then use to leave this country the next time you take an international flight.

If I’m an EU citizen returning to the EU, then I will use my EU passport.


Final Thoughts

Traveling with two passports is not difficult, but it can be intimidating. It’s hard enough trying to travel stress-free and now it’s a whole new world with two passports in hand!

Now when you travel with two passports you will be a pro!

XOXO

Michela

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22 Comments

  1. Hans
    June 17, 2022 / 10:22 pm

    Hi Michela. My name is Hans i have both Nicaraguan and German Citizenships.

    I was born in Nicaragua and in the beginning of the year i booked a flight from Nicaragua to Amsterdam with my Nicaraguan passport, nevertheless, a month ago i obtained my first German passport.

    My concern lies in that as a nicaraguan citizen i obtain both my father and mother last names while under the german legislation my second last name (my mother’s) is eliminated.

    The Nicaraguan government obligates me to book my flight with my Nicaraguan passport that has the two last names (which i did back in the beginning of the year) and the info has to correlate with an exit authorization form that i have to fill about 48 hours prior to leaving. If it is not identical i can have issues.

    So where i see the problem is that when i enter Paris which is my connecting flight to Amsterdam and go through inmigration my ticket will have my two last names and my German passport only one last name. Do you think that inmigration will understand if i explain them my situation? I strongly feel that the correct thing would be to enter the EU with my EU passport but i am afraid of running into trouble. I would appreciate you insight. Thank you!

    • Michela
      Author
      June 24, 2022 / 7:52 am

      Hi Hans,

      I totally understand your fear because there is no way to contact anyone you’ll encounter at immigration before you arrive. I do believe you are correct that you should enter the EU with your EU passport.

      Airlines are most concerned with seeing that you are allowed to enter the country that you are traveling to. For example, I was returning to Italy from the US and had flights booked with my US passport. The airline in the US asked me if I had proof I could travel to Italy and that’s when I showed my Italian passport and everything was fine.

      And when I do arrive back in Italy, I just use my Italian passport and go through the e-gates. I don’t think you will be asked to show your ticket and passport if you enter through the e-gates since you are an EU citizen.

      My best advice would be to try to email the Paris customs and get a response back in writing of what they advise you to do because then you can print that email and have it as a backup document (depending on what they write to you) that justifies your actions! You may even want to do the same and contact Amsterdam customs.

      I hope this helps and that you have a smooth trip!

  2. Ava
    June 21, 2022 / 9:03 pm

    How do you answer visa questions about where you were born when traveling with second passport? I have a US passport and a Costa Rica by investment passport. I am unsure on some of the questions on the visa applications. Thanks for any help you can give me.

    • Michela
      Author
      June 24, 2022 / 7:41 am

      Hi Ava,

      I believe the way you answer visa application questions is all based on which passport allows you to most easily enter/obtain that visa. I would keep all the information the same so once you choose one passport to fill out the application with, only input information related to that passport. Of course I know that filling out paperwork can be really confusing because they don’t allow you to explain your whole story, but I believe you should be okay if you fill out the paperwork in this way!

      I hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions!

  3. Ray pruk
    July 10, 2022 / 2:29 pm

    Hi Michaela,

    I have both a US passport and Thai passport. I was in Thailand on my US passport and went to Europe. I left Thailand and entered Europe on my American passport. However, when I came back to Thailand I left Europe on my American passport and entered Thailand on my Thai passport.
    Now I want to travel to Australia but I am in Thailand (entered using my Thai passport). For visas, it is much easier to enter Australia on my US passport. Is it this correct, I purchase my ticket using my US passport even though they have no record of me in the country with US passport? And when I get to border control in Thailand
    I show them my Thai passport and when I arrive in Australia I show them my US passport?

    When I leave Australi should I book on my US passport, correct?

    Kind regards,

    RAY

    • Michela
      Author
      July 10, 2022 / 4:11 pm

      Hi Ray,

      First I just want to say that since I don’t have these two kinds of passports and have not personally experienced this travel route, I always recommend trying to get in contact with the border police in order to confirm your situation and receive an answer directly from them.

      Now, from my experience, you are exactly right. The airline is concerned about whether you will be allowed into your destination country, whereas the border police are looking to make sure you are entering and exiting a country on the same passport.

      So, you should book everything related to your Australia visit on your US passport. Show your Thai passport to the border police in Thailand upon exiting and re-entering, but give your US passport to the airline agents so they can check you are eligible to enter Australia and that all info matches and also to the border police in Australia when you enter and depart that country.

      If on your way back to Thailand the airline agents are questioning whether you can return (since they are looking at your US passport), you should be able to also show them your Thai passport so that they know you are allowed to enter that country. It once happened that I booked my flights to and from the US on my US passport (since that is the law, even though I’m in the EU on my EU passport) and while checking in for my return flight to Italy, the agent asked me if I had proof that I could go back there. I then just told her I am a dual citizen and showed my Italian passport as well and all was fine.

      Like I said, if you can get confirmation from border police agents that this works for your situation, all the better. It’s my go-to strategy, as written confirmation by email is hard to refute. I hope this information was helpful and that you have a safe and smooth trip!

  4. Jen
    July 26, 2022 / 6:16 am

    Hi , thanks for this.
    I have two passports and both are visa free to enter EU for 90days /180z I wanted to enter EU after the first 90 days with the first passport. Can I use the second passport to reenter with this 180 days limits? they check stamps only? Do they have electronic system to know it’s me the same person?

    • Michela
      Author
      July 29, 2022 / 12:18 pm

      Hi Jen!

      I’m nearly 100% certain that border police do cross-reference your passports if you are a dual citizen and that you can risk a fines/other penalties trying to enter with another passport to avoid the 180 day limit!

  5. Graeme
    July 28, 2022 / 1:23 pm

    My daughter has UK and Spanish passports. My question is over what you say above: “When you check in for your flight, you will present the passport that you used to buy the ticket. The airline wants to see the passport information match up and they want to know you have valid entry to your destination country.” but then when arriving in the UK “When you go through the immigration check at your destination, you’ll present the passport you used on your ticket to fly there. This makes sense, as its the passport that is allowing you entry into the country.”. If she uses her SPANISH passport to BUY the ticket and CHECK IN in in Spain, why should she not use the UK passport once she arrives in London and when she leaves?

    • Michela
      Author
      July 29, 2022 / 12:02 pm

      Hi there!

      So, if your daughter is flying to the UK from Spain, I would assume she should buy her ticket with her UK passport, which would be the passport she shows to airline agents and immigration officers in the UK!

      Meanwhile if she is flying to Spain from the UK she would do the opposite – buy the ticket to Spain with the Spanish passport and show that to the airline agents and the immigration officers once she lands in Spain.

      Does that make more sense? I hope it helps!

  6. Muhammad Omar
    August 10, 2022 / 4:11 pm

    Very helpful, thanks.

    • Michela
      Author
      August 12, 2022 / 3:47 pm

      I’m happy you have found it useful!

  7. Erica Yang
    August 11, 2022 / 6:30 am

    Hi Michaela,

    I have both Taiwan and New Zealand passport. I’m going to China end of the year. I book my flight ticket with my Taiwan passport because i don’t required visa to go in.
    But the last time I enter nz I’m using my nz passport, so is that ok if I show the border police my New Zealand passport even tho my ticket is under my Taiwan passport ?

    And when I’m leaving China n going back to New Zealand , which passport I should use to book my flight ?

    • Michela
      Author
      August 12, 2022 / 3:58 pm

      Hi Erica!

      You could almost think of the airline agents and the border police agents as separate parts of your journey. The main priority of the airline agents is to see that you are allowed in the country to which you are traveling, which is why you are correct in that you should book your ticket with and show the airline agents your Taiwan passport.

      The border agents want to make sure you are entering and exiting the country on the same passport, which is why you would show them your New Zealand passport when leaving New Zealand. If you showed your Taiwan passport, they would see you entered New Zealand with one passport and left on another, which means they don’t know where you are/can’t track you and this could cause problems in your future international travels.

      I also have never traveled to China or New Zealand, so I always encourage people to try to get in contact with the country’s border police before traveling if something seems unclear. I have done this before with other countries’ border police and I will usually print their email response to me about what I should do and bring that to the airport with me so that I feel confident while traveling.

      When booking your return flight, as I mentioned, it is best to book with the passport that allows you access to the country you are traveling to. Now, I, for example, have booked a roundtrip flight US-Italy all on my US passport after I had spent about a year in Italy. When I went to check in for my return flight to Italy, I gave the airline agent my US passport since that is what I used for the roundtrip ticket and the airline agent asked me if I had proof that I was allowed to return to Italy (since you can only stay there for 3 months as a US citizen every 180 days) and I simply showed her my Italian passport. Everything went fine!

      I hope I was able to explain myself clearly and that this has been helpful!

  8. An interested traveller
    August 16, 2022 / 2:10 am

    Hello. Say I am an Indian citizen with an Indian passport in the US and have a green card. Over time I obtain US Citizenship and Passport. Now India does not allow dual citizenship.

    Now say just have obtaining my US Passport, I have to travel to India for an emergency, can I present my Indian Passport to enter and then exit India.
    Does anybody in India check in any system that I am a US Citizen now?

    • Michela
      Author
      August 18, 2022 / 3:30 pm

      Hi there,

      Since I have no personal experience with these types of passports and visas, I would highly recommend you reach out to your local consulate to get clarity on the situation. Safe travels!

  9. Vivienne
    August 20, 2022 / 11:42 am

    Hi Micheala,
    My son has an Irish passport and a US passport. He was born in the US. I was born in Ireland. He will be studying abroad in Spain from 9/22 to 12/17. Under 90 days so no visa required. He will fly to london beforehand on Sept 3 to visit my sister, and also fly to Ireland to visit my brother. A total of 18 days before flying to Spain. It’s his first time abroad alone so I’m kind of worried about passport use and visas. I know he was told he didn’t need the visa to study in Spain because it’s under 90 days, and he has an Irish passport, but he has those added days in london and Ireland.
    Would you be able to take us through passport use for his trip?
    He will leave The US on the US passport. Should he use that same one to enter london? I think that is the correct one.
    He will flys to Ireland for a short visit, and then back to london. For this he will use his Irish passport.
    When he leaves london on 9/22 for his stay until 12/17 which passport is best? Ireland and England are not belong to Schengen Area so you are only allowed the same 90 days with no visa as a US citizen. (But you can leave and come back again on the Irish passport)
    12/17 he flys Seville to Portugal to connect with his US flight home
    Im concerned, as he enters and leaves Seville that it will all go correctly. I’m anxious that some one will not let him in somewhere. I believe has to make sure he gets stamped everywhere along the way.
    When he returned to the US, does he need to primarily show the border patrol stamps in his US passport showing; that he arrived in london, departed london, arrived Seville, departed Seville, arrived Portugal, departed Portugal, arrive chicago? I know any flights to Ireland or EU countries, while studying abroad, he will use his Irish passport. But the trip listed above is his round trip in and out of the US.
    I hope this makes sense.
    Thank you.

    • Michela
      Author
      August 23, 2022 / 1:20 am

      Hi Vivienne!

      I completely understand why you are nervous, as traveling with two passports can definitely be confusing.

      I believe he could use the Irish or the US passport to enter London, as long as he uses that same one when he leaves London to go to Spain.

      When entering and leaving Spain, since both passports have the same stipulations of 90 days no visa required, he should be fine to use either one, again as long as the one he chooses is the same one that he leaves Spain with.

      I remember in London, and now in many places in Europe, there are e-gates where you scan your passport and you don’t receive a stamp, but this has never given me issues when returning to the US. I believe he can choose to see a border control agent for a stamp but it could also depend on the airport.

      As long as he enters and exits each country using the same passport (enters and exits Ireland on the Irish passport, enters and exits US on the US passport, etc.) then he should be fine!

      When he goes from Seville to Portugal, he should only have to cross border authorities in Portugal since the flight from Seville to Portugal is an EU flight. It’s when he is leaving the EU that he would have to cross border control.

      I always encourage reaching out to a country’s border control authorities, as most will respond to emails, and traveling with that response to lessen the anxiety!

      I hope this has been helpful – since I don’t have personal experience with both these types of passports, I can only say what I believe are the best practices, so like I said, if you can reach out to border authorities to ask your question, this is best!

      I hope your son has a nice, smooth trip!

  10. Marc
    August 30, 2022 / 6:13 am

    Hi, thanks for the guide. I am a US citizen who recently obtained an EU passport. I am traveling soon to Turkey from the US, and want to use my EU passport so I won’t need a visa (unlike with the US passport). The part that confuses me is the airline check-in. You linked to the State Dept. site which effectively says, “US citizens must enter and leave the US using their US passport.”

    But if I am entering Turkey with my EU passport, shouldn’t I use the EU passport to book the ticket and check-in? If I use my US passport to book the flight, would I encounter problems when I try to go through Turkish customs with my EU passport? I assume the airline shares its passenger list, and I would show up as a US citizen. Or does that not matter? Also, the US has no passport exit control, so it seems like it shouldn’t matter on the US end either way.

    I understand that when coming back to the US, I will show my EU passport to go through Turkish exit control (same as I entered), and my US passport for my return flight. But normally when you book a round-trip flight, you enter your passport information once when purchasing. What do I do if I want to use my EU passport to book/board the flight to Turkey and then fly back to the US with my US passport?

    Thank you for the help!

    • Michela
      Author
      September 4, 2022 / 3:10 pm

      Hi Marc,

      You should book your flight with your EU passport since that’s the passport that is allowing you visa-free entry to Turkey. You will show the EU passport to the airline agent to check in and at border control entering and leaving Turkey.

      When they say to enter and exit the US on your US passport, this refers to the passport you will show at border control when coming into and leaving the US. I don’t know exactly what gets shared, but basically you can think of the airline agents and border control as two separate entities. Airlines want to know you’ll be allowed into your destination country (hence booking with the EU passport) and border control want to make sure you are entering and leaving on the same passport (US passport shown entering and exiting the US; EU passport shown entering and exiting Turkey.)

      As far as how to handle the passport booking information for the return flight, this was my experience: when I was traveling back to Italy from the US, I had already booked my roundtrip flight with the US passport details. The airline agent noticed that I wouldn’t be allowed back in Italy on my US passport since I had technically overstayed as a US citizen and all I had to do was explain I was a dual citizen, show the Italian passport and everything was fine as soon as she saw that I would be allowed into Italy. So, even if you have the EU passport details on the ticket, if you show them you are a US citizen and will therefore be allowed into the US, there shouldn’t be a problem.

      I always recommend reaching out to border control/the airline agents with your personal situation as they will best be able to shed light on the correct procedure! I know sometimes it can be difficult to get a response, but it’s always worth a try.

      I hope that I explained this well enough but don’t hesitate to ask any more questions for clarity!

  11. Bob Scibetti
    September 2, 2022 / 11:02 am

    I am a US and EU citizen, residing in NY. Never traveled on both before, but I am going to travel from JFK to LHR and will. From what I understand: Book tickets in the US provide US passport info to the airline and present your US passport at the gate at JFK. Upon arriving in London present EU passport at Border Control. On the return (as with the US there is no exit check) present the US passport to the airline and again at entry at Passport Control (Global Entry) in JFK. My question is doesn’t the airline tell Border Control in the UK that John Doe, US citizen is coming? and when John Doe, EU citizen shows up, won’t that cause an issue?

    • Michela
      Author
      September 4, 2022 / 1:54 pm

      Hi Bob,

      I don’t know exactly what happens on the other end – but I can tell you that from what I do know, airline agents care that you will be allowed in your destination country and border control cares that you are entering and exiting their country on the same passport.

      You’re completely correct to show the US passport at the border control exit and entry at JFK. From what it sounds like, it may make more sense for you to just use the US passport also during your visit to England if it gives you the same entry requirements. If you prefer to use the EU passport entering England, you’ll show this to the border control exit and entry at LHR (which I am pretty sure are just E-gates now).

      What will cause problems is if you enter the UK on an EU passport and then leave the UK on a US passport (by this I mean showing your EU passport to LHR border patrol when entering and then showing your US passport to LHR border control when leaving). Then border control sees that there is something inconsistent. So, while I don’t know what information is shared, this is how I have traveled between the US and Italy with two passports without yet encountering a problem having contacted the authorities to understand how to use my two passports correctly. I also recommend you do the same if you have any doubts! Border control authorities in the destination country usually have an email you can contact and that is the best resource for asking specific questions related to that country’s entry regulations.

      I hope I explained myself well and that you have a smooth trip!

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