Is it legal to have two passports?

Is it legal to have two passports

The laws regarding passports can get quite confusing to some people. Whilst a few countries will seize your old passports, most people have a stack of passports accumulating somewhere in their house. This is not a crime, but what happens when you have multiple active passports?

There are some cases in which having two active passports is not legal. To help you better understand the nuances of the passport system, we have created this expert guide, answering all of the questions you might have surrounding passports. 

Is it legal to have more than one passport? 

Yes, it is legal to have more than one passport in your possession and under your name, but it depends which country you are a citizen of. Many people don’t get rid of old passports so they have multiple passports, while some other people also have more than one passport that is valid since they are dual nationals. 

Dual nationals are people who have citizenship in two countries. There are different ways in which a person can claim dual citizenship, whether it is through maintaining permanent residency in a foreign country for a period of time, or claiming citizenship due to birthright. Whatever the reason might be, these individuals are entitled to be citizens of at least two countries and hold two passports or sometimes more. 

Advantages of obtaining a second citizenship 

Reasons why someone might have multiple passports

There are different reasons as to why a person might have multiple passports and the laws vary from country to country. 

Here are common reasons why people have multiple passports: 

  • They have multiple passports to have more visa free travel (more travel freedom) 
  • To always have a passport when you renew your other passport (more personal freedom) 
  • To have passport to be able to travel to their country of citizenship (a safe place to call home) 
  • They have dual or multiple citizenship obtained through birth right, marriage or naturalization 
  • They have been granted a diplomatic passport.
  • They need a new passport due to having been banned in certain countries 
  • They do citizenship by investment to be citizen of a tax free country (potential tax advantages) 

Whilst a lot of countries understand the need for multiple passports, in certain situations, it is important to note that not all countries are as lenient in allowing citizens to have multiple passports from different countries. Some countries, such as Japan and India have extremely strict passport laws which do not permit citizens to have a second passport. Although it is still possible to do citizenship by investment if you are from these countries. 

What happens if you have two passports?

Having two passports from two different countries brings with it all the dual citizenship benefits which can make traveling a lot easier as it decreases the likelihood of needing a visa. Gaining dual citizenship means that you are legally a citizen in two or more countries, meaning you gain ease of access into any countries that your passport has good relations with. 

Each year, the passport rankings are released which tell travelers what the best passport is, meaning the one which allows you to enter the most countries without needing a visa. This year, Japan and Singapore were ranked first, allowing citizens holding one of these passports to enter an impressive 192 countries visa-free. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Afghanistan, whose passport allows citizens visa-free entry into only 26 countries. 

If you have the opportunity to become a citizen of a country which is high on the list, it will make traveling a lot easier. If you have two passports, you have the luxury of choosing which will be easier to travel with. Moreover, if you have a passport for the country you are traveling to, it will make the customs and immigration wait time and processing a lot easier. As a returning national to the country you are often granted access through the fast lane which is reserved for citizens of that country. 

How do you qualify for a second passport?

Here are reasons why someone would qualify for a second passport:

  • They are born in one country but their parents are citizens of a different country. 
  • They get married to a citizen of a different country.
  • Naturalization after a certain number of years living in the new country.
  • They invested a significant amount of money in the country’s infrastructure through a citizenship by investment program 

To qualify for a second passport, you need a legitimate claim to another country, which can sometimes be extremely difficult to prove. In some cases, foreign citizenship is gained automatically. For example, if a child is born in one country to parents who are citizens of another country, they may automatically qualify for citizenship in certain countries. In many cases, a child will have citizenship in the country they were born in and the country of their parents citizenship.

There are also other familial routes to qualifying for a second passport, such as through marriage. If you marry a person who is a citizen of another country and you live with that person on a visa for an extended period of time, you will eventually become a citizen of that country. This process is longer and requires a lot of time and patience before you are granted a second passport and dual citizenship. Different countries establish their own laws and regulations for obtaining citizenship through marriage. 

Citizenship by investment is also a way to gain citizenship as a foreign national and get a second passport. If you donate a significant amount of money to the country that has a citizenship by investment program, they will reward you by offering you citizenship to their country. Different countries require different amounts of investment to gain a second passport. 

Whilst most countries will allow you to hold dual citizenship and there are many dual citizenship advantages, it is also important to note that in some cases, gaining citizenship in a new place might result in you losing your original citizenship. You therefore need to gather all the information you need before making a decision. 

Find out more about citizenship by investment

Should dual citizens travel with both passports?

Yes, it is advised that dual citizens travel with both passports. You may need your home country passport to enter and leave the country in which you are a permanent resident, but this does not mean that you will use the same passport in the countries you are visiting. 

Your alternate passport might be the only one granting you visa-free entry to a country on your journey, meaning you will need that passport to enter your desired destination. There are many cases in which taking both of your passports with you on your trip will be beneficial. 

The most important piece of advice we can give you when traveling abroad as a person with dual citizenship is to check the entry requirements of every country you are visiting, this way you will know what passports you need to bring with you on your trip.

Can I enter a country with one passport and exit with another?

No, you should not enter a country with one passport and exit with another as it might suggest to the border control that you have overstayed. However, in practice some people enter and leave a country on different passports without an issue. Most countries stamp your passport on arrival, and when you leave, customs and immigration control will check your passport to see the date of your arrival and make sure that you have not overstayed in their country. 

If you use a different passport to enter the country than you use to exit, you will not have that initial stamp in the passport you are using to leave which might look suspicious to the border control agent. Depending on the country where you are travelling, you should therefore consider using the same passport to enter and exit a country. 

A solution could be to bring all your passports with you when you travel. This can come in handy, especially if one country does not allow you to enter the country on a particular passport. 

Talk to an immigration attorney

The benefits of dual citizenship and obtaining a second passport are huge if you are an avid traveler, or even if you are simply an expat looking for an easy way to fly home and see family and friends. However, the process of obtaining a second passport can sometimes  be long, time consuming and often extremely complicated.

It is therefore advisable to seek the help of an immigration attorney to guide you through the entire process. Gaining dual citizenship is deliberately made difficult by government officials, but our team of expert immigration attorneys can streamline the process for you, so you don’t get lost under a mountain of paperwork.

We understand that the reasons for gaining second citizenship or residency in a new country are different for everyone. This is why we handle the needs of our clients on a case-by-case basis, to ensure you get the help and proper advice you need. 

Get in touch with an immigration attorney