how to travel with 2 passports

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As a dual national of both the UK and Canada, having two passports has come in handy more than once on my international travels. I was born in the UK and after spending some years living in the USA, I moved to Canada with my family in 2006. After a long and drawn-out process that demanded high levels of patience, I became a Canadian citizen in the summer of 2013, and have officially spent the past four years with two passports in tow.

My Canadian passport allows much faster access to the USA – when I had just my British one I used to have to apply for a green card that would last me 3 months each time I wanted to cross the border. Thus, if I’m only traveling within the US and Canada, I only bring my Canadian passport along.

However, if I’m headed to Europe, my British passport is a fantastic benefit (well, that is until we hear what fate Brexit is to bring upon us Brits). It means that there are hardly any questions asked when I get off the plane at international arrivals. It means that at many airports I can just scan my British passport in and head out into my new destination.

Let me walk you through my recent trip from Vancouver to Cyprus, with a few international layovers in between:

Stop 1: Vancouver, Canada

I checked in for my multi-layover flight by scanning my Canadian passport, as my first destination was in the United States.

Stop 2: San Francisco, USA

I had a 24-hour layover here, and left the airport during this time. I showed my Canadian passport at passport control and entered the United States as a Canadian.

When I returned for my flight the following morning, I checked in at SFO using my Canadian passport to board my flight.

Check out my San Francisco guide here!

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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Stop 3: London, UK

Upon arrival in London, even though I had boarded using my Canadian passport, I used my British passport the moment I stepped off the plane, allowing me to simply scan my passport in the automatic reader and have my photo taken. No talking to anyone was required, and easy as that I was out of the airport and into the city.

Check out my London layover guide here!

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Tower Bridge, London

Later that evening when I returned for the next leg of the journey, I checked in for my flight to Larnaca on my British passport, as I was now flying within Europe.

Stop 4: Larnaca, Cyprus

I arrived in Cyprus and went through passport control as a British citizen, especially since up until the mid-eighties, Cyprus was a UK territory. Again, no questions asked since I arrived with EU status.

See how to spend a week in Cyprus here!

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Kourion Beach, Cyprus

After my week in Cyprus when it was time to make the homeward journey, I checked in as a British citizen as my next destination was still in Europe. At the check-in desk, because I didn’t have a return flight to Europe booked (because I was actually returning to Canada at this point), I had to present proof that I was allowed to enter Canada. Those traveling on a one-way ticket to Canada from Europe on an EU passport need proof such as a visa, permanent resident status, or citizenship.

If you have a round-trip ticket booked from Europe to Canada, visas and proof of entry are not usually required. Lengths of stay may vary. For Brits, six months is typically allowed, but do check in with your local embassy.

So, in Cyprus, I technically flew out on my British passport, but had used my Canadian passport as proof of entry for my final destination.

Stop 5: Vienna, Austria

I landed in Austria and left the airport on my British passport. After I had wandered around Vienna for the evening, I checked back in for my flight to Frankfurt on my British passport, as I was still in Europe. As Vienna and Frankfurt were just considered layovers on my trip from Larnaca to Vancouver, no questions were asked about my proof of entry status for Canada.

Check out my evening in Vienna here!

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Vienna at night

Stop 6: Frankfurt, Germany

I landed in Frankfurt and went through passport control on my British passport. This consisted of scanning my passport in an automated machine and having my photo taken, just like in London. Again, I spoke to no-one and entered Germany.

Read about all the things to do in Frankfurt on a layover here!

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Romerburg Square, Frankfurt

From here, I happened to take a train to Luxembourg for the day, but no passport was required to cross that border.

You can read about that adventure here!

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Casemates du Bock, Luxembourg

Stop 7: Vancouver, Canada

When I returned to Frankfurt, I checked in on my Canadian passport as I was now returning to Canada. Upon arrival in Vancouver, because I had left the country on my Canadian passport as well as returned on it, no questions were asked about my itinerary.

If I had been flying directly from Canada to Europe, as I did when I flew into Paris in July, I checked in for my flight on my Canadian passport, but went through passport control on my British passport when I landed. In reverse, at security I handed over my British passport and used my Canadian passport as proof of entry eligibility even though I did not use it to check in and fly with. When I landed in Vancouver, I used my Canadian passport to go through customs at the airport.

Essentially, you can use more than one passport on a single flight.ย When you get on a plane, use the passport of the country you are in. When you get off the plane, use the passport that most benefits you in getting out of the airport. Then, do the same in reverse when you head home.

I asked an airport attendant about this once and whether or not it was an issue traveling on two passports, and she said that airlines don’t usually mind. Especially since holding two passports is not exactly a rarity, all you need is a piece of official documentation proving who you are when you get on board.

Further, the people checking you in at your departing destination are not the same people at passport control in your arriving destination. Just be sure to make sure you are using the same passport to leave and return from your original destination (so for me, Vancouver) even if the one you use upon arrival and other journeys within your trip differ.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have more questions!

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