Dual citizen: good idea to maintain both passports?
September 23, 2020 4:30 AM   Subscribe

I live in the US, having moved here from Canada 6 years ago. I recently became a naturalized US citizen, and my passport is currently in process. My Canadian passport is still valid for several more years. What would be some benefits of maintaining the Canadian passport? Assume I don't have any plans of moving back anytime soon, but just curious.
posted by cozenedindigo to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Our current situation is instructive in that the borders for non essential travel have been closed, except to returning canadian citizens. So long as we continuously fuck up the pandemic response those borders will continue to be closed. While it's possible to go back on a US passport by providing proof of Canadian citizenship showing the passport just makes things a lot easier.

A Canadian passport would also enable you to visit Cuba and other countries blocked by whatever nonsense the US has gotten itself into with other countries.
posted by Karaage at 4:50 AM on September 23, 2020 [24 favorites]

It's easier to renew a passport when you have a current one than to request a new one after you've let it lapse.
posted by emd3737 at 5:12 AM on September 23, 2020 [31 favorites]

Well, you're still a Canadian citizen, and having a passport is a clear & simple way of proving that without any hassle. Renewing it once a decade is cheap & good insurance against the unexpected - you can't predict the future and you never know when it might come in handy.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:16 AM on September 23, 2020 [24 favorites]

As a general rule of thumb, you need to show your national passport to the country you enter of which you are a citizen. I am Uk/USA and I enter Uk with the British and USA with the American. You should always do this or you activate the process that visitors would need to go through. For me, that means I would have a limit on how long I could stay and if I went back through the next time they might pull me aside to explain myself.

I did it once because I got caught out with an expired passport and that’s not a good idea.

Unless you will never set foot in Canada again for the rest of your life you should maintain the passport.
posted by pairofshades at 5:27 AM on September 23, 2020 [26 favorites]

Like everyone else said, maintaining the Canadian passport is practical as an easy way to prove citizenship. (Also check whether Canada expects you to enter Canada with it. The US requires US citizens to enter (and "leave"--whatever that means without exit controls) on their US passport, but many other countries don't have such a rule.)

There are a number of countries in South America who are in a tit-for-tat visa fee battle with the US, meaning US citizens pay ~$100 for a visa, but other passport holders don't, so several of my friends have saved themselves the $100 and entered those countries on their non-US passport.
posted by hoyland at 5:30 AM on September 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

pairofshades is correct, I am a US/Canada dual citizen and am required to enter each country with the corresponding passport. Also, if you fly between the two, check in for your ticket with the arriving passport, not the departing one. It causes a lot of confusion if you don't.
posted by wellred at 5:34 AM on September 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

(For pairofshades: While the rule of thumb of entering on the country's passport if you have it certainly holds, my understanding as a US/UK passport holder is that you can enter the UK on any passport, but if I needed to stay beyond the six months (or need recourse to public funds or ...) that my US passport would get me, I'd have to sort out my status with the Home Office and I really don't want to have to do that.)
posted by hoyland at 5:34 AM on September 23, 2020

As has been pointed out, most countries require you to use that country's passport to enter/exit if you are a citizen; using another passport may be explicitly illegal.

Apart from that, I consider it a good idea on general principles to keep both my passports in order, because they provide options, and I never know when I will need those options. I would never not renew a passport or ID document, any more than I would give up citizenship without being forced to.

I always take both passports with me when I travel internationally, even when I don't expect to use one of them at all. You never know what's going to happen, and what unexpected event might cause your flight to be diverted to an unexpected location (where you may wish, for whatever reason, to be legally allowed to leave the airport).

I'm not talking about apocalyptic scenarios like WW3; it could be something much less horrible, like a volcanic eruption. Although given the current circumstances, international air travel is likely to be full of abrupt surprises for quite a while.
posted by confluency at 6:44 AM on September 23, 2020

(Addendum: my two passports give me visa-free access to very different sets of countries, and one of them has a US visa while the other does not. If both your passports currently get you into pretty much the same places, these considerations may not seem as important to you... but again, you never know what's going to happen in the future.)
posted by confluency at 6:47 AM on September 23, 2020

Depending on the amount of travel you do passport arbitraging can be beneficial. For instance in the past I've typically entered South American countries with EU passport instead of US passport due to reprocical fees imposed on Americans. There may also be different visa requirements -- Canadian may not need a visa in some countries that require it for Americans and vice versa. For instance, does Canadian/ British Commonwealth passport give easier access to some other countries in the Commonwealth realm?
posted by zeikka at 6:52 AM on September 23, 2020

i use my dual passports mainly to avoid waiting in line at either EU or US airports. That's the main advantage for me, just avoiding those loooong lines. With Clear/Global Entry in the US and "EU only" line in EU, that experience is now down to minutes.
posted by alchemist at 6:53 AM on September 23, 2020

Currently (as of the date of posting) the Canadian passport will get you into a lot of places the US one won’t, although that may only be the case while travel itself isn’t very attractive in the first place.

I consider my second passport a kind of travel insurance. When travelling carry both, but in different places. One in pocket one in backpack etc. This way if you lose one (or one is stolen) you can still fly home without having to extend your trip and without having to get the passport replaced while in a foreign country. US customs/immigration will get VERY pissy if you fly into the USA on the Canadian passport and they figure out you’re also American (personal experience, not fun) that said I would wager it’s a lot more fun then having to deal with getting a new US passport overseas.

Even if you’re mugged no one is expecting you to have two passports, so give one away and keep the other one.

For the price of a Canadian passport once every 5/10 years you could save yourself the potential hassle of getting caught without travel documents, and all the associated hotel and airline fees that come with extending a trip at the last minute.

Also if you travel to interesting places and things GET interesting while you’re there it’s nice to have the option of running to either the US Embassy or the Canadian/UK embassy (I’ve been told the UK will generally help you out in in places where there is no Canadian one, as the Commonwealth is still kind of a thing).

I like to joke I use my Canadian passport to get IN to countries, and if things go haywire I would use my American passport to get OUT. All things being equal the embassy protected by marines is more attractive then the one with like one unarmed mountie, but if the US embassy is the one attracting attention then having a plan B doesn’t hurt.
posted by tiamat at 7:32 AM on September 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

Two passports simply equals more flexibility. Flexibility is, in a neo-fascist era, a good thing to have.
posted by aramaic at 8:03 AM on September 23, 2020


I'm unable to come up with any reasons why it wouldn't be a good idea.
posted by howling fantods at 8:04 AM on September 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

The other way to think about this is -- is there any downside or cost to having both passports?

I can't think of any intangible downside apart from ludicrously farfetched situations in espionage novels.

As for cost, the cost of a 10-year adult Canadian passport renewed from within the United States is CA$260. (Plus the value of your time of course, but Canadian passports renewed from the US are renewed by mail, so under normal circumstances you don't even need to go to a Canadian embassy or consulate.)

In other words that's less than $30/year to have a second document that might be indispensable in a crisis situation. As "insurance" goes that seems pretty inexpensive!
posted by andrewesque at 8:12 AM on September 23, 2020

What would be some benefits of maintaining the Canadian passport?

Health care.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:55 AM on September 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some people are mixing passport with citizenship. You never lose your citizenship but it can be a pain in the butt to restablish if you lose your birth certificate or citizenship papers.

One other reason - if you’re ever in some third country and need to be evacuated (civil war breaks out etc), Canada is part of the commonwealth. US is not. Family member got out on a British navel ship this way (Arab spring - long story).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:38 AM on September 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

What would be some benefits of maintaining the Canadian passport?

Health care.

Having a Canadian passport doesn't entitle non-resident citizens to health care coverage. It's one of the reasons snowbirds are so very, very careful about their time in the US -- they don't want to trip over the magic line that makes them non-resident.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:53 AM on September 23, 2020 [8 favorites]

Having a Canadian passport doesn't entitle non-resident citizens to health care coverage.

True, but it makes it a lot easier to become resident again when you really need to, and now now now.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:44 PM on September 23, 2020

For when you are able to travel abroad again, and you need to leave a passport for security when renting a motorbike or hotel room *and* you need a visa for the next destination...
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:03 PM on September 23, 2020

True, but it makes it a lot easier to become resident again when you really need to, and now now now.

Note also that some provinces have a waiting period between when you establish residency and when coverage begins. In Ontario it's three months (though they're currently waiving it due to public health concerns related to COVID-19.) In BC it's until the end of the second calendar month after you arrive. On the other hand, Manitoba & Nova Scotia offer "first-day" coverage. The main point is: don't rely on this plan to automatically get you health care immediately upon your return.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:03 PM on September 23, 2020

I'll agree with everyone above who says that there's no good reason *not* to maintain two passports, and that you should be aware of which passport you use to enter/exit different jurisdictions. Once I was transiting from the EU to Canada via Iceland and they got confused then politely asked if I had a second passport, because apparently I'd mixed up which one I was supposed to use for exit and which one for entry...
posted by jpziller at 3:32 AM on September 24, 2020

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