I just turned 30 and British. Now what?
July 30, 2016 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Nearly a decade ago I discovered that I might be a British dual-citizen. I finally sent in the paperwork, and my application status just changed to "your new passport has been printed and will be delivered shortly." Wow! Thanks, MetaFilter! Now, where do I learn Dual Citizenship 101? What awesome new superpowers do I have, beyond being able to live in the EU UK?

I'm particularly interested in finding resources for concerns, such as:
  1. Border crossings. I understand that I must use my US passport when entering or exiting America. Must I also use my UK passport when entering or exiting the UK? The rest of the EU? Must I present both passports when crossing borders?
  2. Taxation. If I wanted to live in the UK for a few years, how do I find someone to advise me on taxes? Do I need to pay retroactive taxes to take advantage of the NHS or similar? Will my US income tax obligations continue to pay into and accrue US Social Security benefits, even if I'm earning abroad?
  3. Immigration. What if I wanted to move to the UK with an American spouse? Where do we learn how to do that?
  4. Legal advice. Where do I even find a professional specializing in this? I'm in Minnesota, if anyone has personal recommendations.
  5. Unintended consequences. Is there anything major I could accidentally screw up?
posted by SemiSophos to Law & Government (24 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can apply for an Australian Work & Holiday visa before you turn 31 just like you could before. But if you do it on your English passport, you can stay for a second year if you do a few months of agricultural work, which is a lot of fun.
posted by aniola at 7:30 AM on July 30, 2016


The US requires you enter and leave on a US passport. In practice, this means always tell the airline about the US passport and show immigration officers the passport they expect. (You can enter the UK on the US passport for short trips, but if you're staying more than six months or working,use the UK one, as you'll otherwise need to sort out your status with the UKBA and no one wants to do that.)

Basically, try to avoid acknowledging you have dual citizenship in most situations as it'll just confuse people, even people who should know better.
posted by hoyland at 7:37 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


i hope there are some good answers here as i am in a similar position. as far as awesome superpowers: my understanding is that you can do anything a uk citizen can do. apart from living in the uk it may be that some countries require visas for americans but not for uk citizens (similarly, until a few years ago, americans had to pay a "reciprocity fee" when entering chile, but brits did not). i don't know any places where this might be, but most likely are old colonies (eg hong kong, australia/nz, india/bangladesh/pakistan, etc).

more generally, the best way i have understood this is that you can get to choose which country you "belong to" apart from the countries where you have citizenship. so in the uk, you are always a uk citizen, and if you get into trouble you can't expect the usa to help you. and vice versa.

but i would love to know the exact, practical details of travelling. which passport number do you use to buy an airline ticket? does that constrain the passport you use to go through customs?
posted by andrewcooke at 7:41 AM on July 30, 2016


> it may be that some countries require visas for americans but not for uk citizens

Ooh! I found a site that compares exactly that! Looks like I can now travel to Brazil, Venezuela, and Viet Nam without needing a visa beforehand. I also don't have to bother with obtaining a visa on arrival for Bolivia, Gambia, Paraguay, and Zambia.

Meanwhile, a UK citizen gaining dual citizenship with the US would gain easier access to Canada, Equatorial Guinea, Marshall Islands, and the US itself.

</threadsitting>
posted by SemiSophos at 7:48 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if this is necessarily good advice, but I've known a couple folks that have dual US/English citizenship, and they've always presented US passport on re-entering the US. They use their British passport to enter the UK. My friends would routinely show their British passport when going to Canada, and would get hassled far, far less than those of us with US passports. Upon return, they'd just show their US passport. As far as I know, no harm ever came of switching passports at the border. As for other countries, it can be beneficial/easier to use certain types of passports, or to get certain types of visas. Student visas in Canada, for example, are handled a bit differently, and my dual/british friends had a much easier time getting them, and they had different privileges while in the country (ie, they could work while on a student visa, or whatever the actual visa was they obtained).

Most of the Commonwealth Nations have some pretty interesting visa options, work programs and perks. I'm not sure of the details, but as far as I'm aware, working in some commonweath countries is remarkably easier with a British passport and sometimes requires just minimal paperwork.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:51 AM on July 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Immigration. What if I wanted to move to the UK with an American spouse? Where do we learn how to do that?

Details for all UK immigration options are on the UK Visas and Immigration website. It's pretty comprehensive and has info about where to ask further if necessary, depending on where you live. A UK citizen bringing in a third-nation spouse (i.e. non-EU) is definitely possible but also definitely not easy or fast or cheap. There should be details on the website.

Most countries have a similar government website with good immigration information. At the moment you can still move your whole family to anywhere in the EU and have the right to live and work, and it will generally be a lot easier to move that spouse with you than to the actual UK. So basically pick whatever country in thr world you're interested in and do some googling. Make sure you're looking at the official government website for each country though, there are a lot of spammy immigration consultant type websites with out of date information around too.
posted by shelleycat at 8:13 AM on July 30, 2016


Ooh! I found a site that compares exactly that! Looks like I can now travel to Brazil, Venezuela, and Viet Nam without needing a visa beforehand. I also don't have to bother with obtaining a visa on arrival for Bolivia, Gambia, Paraguay, and Zambia.

ISTR that you might still require a visa for some of those countries because they require US citizens to have a visa (as payback for the US requiring their citizens to have visas) and just don't care that you're trying to enter under another passport.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:52 AM on July 30, 2016


Dual Aus/UK here. Regarding point 1: You needn't enter a destination port on the same passport that you left your original port. This may save you a few bob depending upon the country you're entering. Backpacking about Europe & SE Asia in the 90s I'd look at the guidebook (or sometimes a large board at the border crossing) to determine whether it was cheaper to be an Aussie or a Brit at that moment.

It may confuse the customs staff if you leave a country without the passport with which you entered, as your other passport won't have an entry stamp. I've only done that once, and was let off when I said "I'm very sorry, but the Home Office have my UK passport just now." (which was true, though I'm not sure that's relevant). If a third country, don't do that.

TBH: I'd be a little worried about the USA, their immigration people are famously awful, but I've never been there. I'd've thought the possession of a USA passport should mean you're OK on that front, but don't rely on me for that.

because they require US citizens to have a visa (as payback for the US requiring their citizens to have visas)

I don't reckon they have a list of USA citizens. I'd just enter as a Brit, keeping the other passport at the bottom of my bag.
posted by pompomtom at 9:46 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can confirm that US citizen friends have entered Chile and other countries with their other passports to avoid the fees. As far as I know, this is totally above board.
posted by hoyland at 10:12 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


but i would love to know the exact, practical details of travelling. which passport number do you use to buy an airline ticket? does that constrain the passport you use to go through customs?

When you book an airline ticket, the airline wants to know that you will be eligible to enter the country you land in. So when buying the ticket, give them the passport details that you will use on arrival. When you check in to return home, show the check-in staff the passport you will use to get into the country you are landing in, it doesn't matter at all that it isn't the one you listed when buying the ticket. (Usually they just say 'ok', type in the new details, and I'm done. If you're unlucky, you'll get an incompetent/new agent like the Delta woman at Heathrow who spent fifteen minutes trying to put in my second passport details and then went and asked for help and started again. Allow a little extra time for this.)

The passport I show customs is not based on the passport I told the airline about.

It may confuse the customs staff if you leave a country without the passport with which you entered, as your other passport won't have an entry stamp. I've only done that once, and was let off when I said "I'm very sorry, but the Home Office have my UK passport just now."

Worse, it may leave that country with a record of you entering and never leaving - which could lead to an official record of over-staying your visa if it's a country you don't have the right to remain in permanently based on the passport you entered with.

ISTR that you might still require a visa for some of those countries because they require US citizens to have a visa (as payback for the US requiring their citizens to have visas) and just don't care that you're trying to enter under another passport.

Nope. I'm pretty sure it would be a massive diplomatic incident for e.g Brazil to refuse to recognise your British passport, and your British passport entitles you to visa-free entry. I have travelled to South American countries where one passport requires a visa and the other doesn't, and I have used the passport that does not require a visa.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:46 AM on July 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


At the moment, you can live in Ireland without any restrictions.

Residence Rights of UK citizens in Ireland

This is due to a long-standing agreement between the UK and Ireland which long predates the EU, but nobody knows yet if it will be affected by Brexit.
posted by Azara at 11:37 AM on July 30, 2016


I'm a dual US/UK citizen.

I'll take on your questions.

Border crossings. I understand that I must use my US passport when entering or exiting America. Must I also use my UK passport when entering or exiting the UK? The rest of the EU? Must I present both passports when crossing borders?


Yes, US passport when entering the US. The US gets very upset about their citizens entering on other passports. (Expat American Friends entering with their UK passport daughters were told the girls were US citizens and needed a passport. They were allowed in but told they would not be allowed in next time without their passports.)

UK is not so strict but it makes sense of course to use your UK passport for the UK and the EU. Plus, the UK/EU lines are often shorter, have electronic gates, and avoid unnecessary questioning from the border guards.

For traveling between the US and UK, there is no need to complicate things. I just use my US passport to register for the round trip. I show my UK passport at the UK border. That's it.

I have *never* presented both passports to anybody. Use whichever is appropriate at the time.

Taxation. If I wanted to live in the UK for a few years, how do I find someone to advise me on taxes? Do I need to pay retroactive taxes to take advantage of the NHS or similar? Will my US income tax obligations continue to pay into and accrue US Social Security benefits, even if I'm earning abroad?


You file US taxes no matter where you live. The US and UK have tax treaties so that the UK taxes you pay count as credits toward your US tax obligations. More detail than that of course. I had a US tax guy help me file my taxes the first year. Every year after that, I just sort of learned how to do it myself. All the information is there at the IRS.

As a UK citizen, you are entitled to the NHS. It is your country and it is there for you.

Immigration. What if I wanted to move to the UK with an American spouse? Where do we learn how to do that?


Generally you get your spouse a spousal visa. Just FYI, one of the requirements is that the UK citizen must earn a certain amount (£18,000 or more) to sponsor a spouse visa.

EU rules are actually easier. That is, it is easier for you to move to say France or Germany and have your spouse join you there. This odd loophole has led to what is called the Surinder Singh route. Read about it here.

Legal advice. Where do I even find a professional specializing in this? I'm in Minnesota, if anyone has personal recommendations.


I can't help you here, unfortunately.


Unintended consequences. Is there anything major I could accidentally screw up?


Not that I am aware of. Many people seem to be under the perception that getting another citizenship is not possible without renouncing your US citizenship. You'll get this a lot but it certainly is not true. It is difficult to renounce a citizenship, either the US or the UK.

Finally---

What awesome new superpowers do I have, beyond being able to live in the EU UK?

Yes, you can live and work in the EU. It is important to remember that the UK is still part of the EU and will likely continue to be for some time.
posted by vacapinta at 12:24 PM on July 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


Yeah don't mention to border control that you have two passports. It tends to freaks out the agent. I am British in Europe, and Aussie in Oz and everywhere else. The US border people like to quiz you on every other bloody trip every taken so I'm consistently Oz on those visits.

I'm not up to date but when I lived there a decade ago a British passport didn't mean you are treated as a local student for tuition fees. There were residency requirements. I guess it was designed to reduce the burden as there are an awful lot of overseas residing British citizens.
posted by kitten magic at 1:29 PM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


What if I wanted to move to the UK with an American spouse?

Answered by vacapinta above, but note that your children (if any) will not be British Citizens at birth unless they are born in the UK (they would be US citizens either way of course), though if they move to the UK with you later they could become naturalized.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 1:31 PM on July 30, 2016


One minor possible negative to keep in mind for the future, in case this hasn't come up: unfortunately, if you wind up getting a job that requires a security clearance in the US, you will most likely have to renounce your second citizenship, even if it's to a country as low-risk as the UK.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:44 PM on July 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have dual uk/NZ and sometimes leaving on one and arriving on the other leads to questions when you get back, along the lines of "you went through here two weeks ago and sat on the tarmac then came back?", because you don't have a record of where you've been in your passport. Never been a serious problem in these countries or oz, but I could imagine the somewhat more paranoid US border security getting antsy about it. Always have your other passport with you so you can show that you entered and left the UK on the appropriate dates should it be an issue.
posted by tillsbury at 3:03 PM on July 30, 2016


I worked at a company where most of us had security clearances and there were several dual citizens (of European countries). They were not required to renounce citizenship; just to let the company security officer lock up the second passport so they couldn't travel on it. I know members of the armed forces in some countries with multiple passports who are allowed to travel on their other nationalities. Dual citizenship is fairly common and unremarkable these days. It will not restrict you.
posted by olinerd at 3:30 PM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


One minor possible negative to keep in mind for the future, in case this hasn't come up: unfortunately, if you wind up getting a job that requires a security clearance in the US, you will most likely have to renounce your second citizenship, even if it's to a country as low-risk as the UK.


This is really going to depend on specific circumstances. I know plenty of dual citizens with clearances.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 12:58 AM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


A number of my relatives have dual citizenship. Everything about travel described above used to be true, but at the airport a few days ago, for the first time, their airline required them to supply both passports so they could be "electronically linked". They were told this was a one-off thing, and it sounds to me like more of the US's faffing around with security theatre. In practical terms it wasn't a big deal, but be aware that traveling with two passports is now likely to lead to at least some complications.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:48 AM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


When you book travel from the US to the UK use your US passport when entering your passport details. When leaving the US, show your US passport and when entering the UK show your UK passport. When flying back switch around.
posted by shesbenevolent at 7:51 AM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


One thing nobody appears to have noted upthread - there is no legal status of 'dual citizen'. You're just a US citizen who also holds another citizenship, and also a UK citizen who also holds another citizenship. Neither country specifically recognises your legal status in the other country.

I've always been told that if you hold citizenship for a country, you should always enter on that passport. Otherwise you are de-facto misrepresenting the nature of your entry to a country and different rules and laws will apply to you as citizen versus a tourist. If you enter the UK on a US passport, for example, you'll only be able to stay 90 days without a visa. Whereas if you enter on your new UK passport, you will have unrestricted right of abode.

I'm a British citizen married to a US citizen who moved here, naturalised and is now both a US and UK citizen. I found the forums at UK Yankee absolutely invaluable going through that process. They are (understandably) focused on Americans trying to gain UK citizenship, but they have a lot of US/UK dual citizens on the boards who will have in-depth experience and knowledge of all of your questions.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:07 AM on July 31, 2016


As has already been mentioned countless times on this thread, just show boarder security one passport. Showing a second one is unnecessary and will cause confusion.

It is important to note that when you enter a third country on one of your passports, you have identified yourself as a citizen of that passport country only. Eg, if you get in trouble in Westeros, and entered on your US passport, you should turn to the US embassy for help. Westeros has recognized you as citizen of the US, not of the UK.

Unintended Consequences
FACTA, passed to help pay for the Affordable Care Act, means that any foreign bank has to report the assets of any American customer to the IRS. This has made it difficult for Americans to get bank accounts abroad, as some banks just don't want to deal with the hassle* (*with exceptions). I have heard of friends who claimed to have an easier time opening accounts on their EU passport. But, in theory, it shouldn't make a difference because as long as the bank *thinks* you might be a US citizen, they have reporting obligations.
posted by troytroy at 12:34 PM on July 31, 2016


Everything about travel described above used to be true, but at the airport a few days ago, for the first time, their airline required them to supply both passports so they could be "electronically linked".

Not sure what you are talking about here or if you can link to more information. I travel between the US and UK a lot. In fact, I just did so two weeks ago.

Also, as it happens I have three passports, not two. All the passports I hold is none of the airline's business.
posted by vacapinta at 4:44 AM on August 1, 2016


Not sure what you are talking about here or if you can link to more information.

It was between Australia and the US. The person at the counter said the requirement had been introduced "last week", so perhaps just after you flew. It's not necessarily going to be the same for the UK, but it's something to be aware of, especially if you're running late.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:48 AM on August 1, 2016


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