How to use multiple passports?
June 24, 2008 4:53 PM   Subscribe

A family member born in another country recently became a US Citizen and got a US passport. Her old country does not allow dual citizenship and would revoke her citizenship if they found out about her becoming a US citizen, but she still wants to use the native passport on trips to the native country and retain her citizenship.

How can she do this? When a passport is scanned at customs, what info does it provide the customs agent?

She's currently an expat in a 3rd country where she uses her US passport. If passport scans show all previous entries/exits to other countries, the last item will show entry into the US, but not an exit. Would this require her to go to another country and enter/exit there on the home country visa prior to actually entering the home country?

Or does the passport scan not even reveal this data? I know many people use multiple passports, but usually when both governments allow this. Anyone know how it works when one country does not allow dual citizenship?
posted by b_thinky to Law & Government (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Mentioning the Other Country will go a very long way to getting useful answers.
posted by Ookseer at 5:08 PM on June 24, 2008

Well, you've already given away the fact that she's female, so I'm sure whatever country she's from is already scouring their databases trying to ascertain her identity, and spending millions on statistical analyses to get this number down to a "manageable" level, even if she's from some teeny small country like Iceland (where she has a very very high likelihood of being found out - 1 in 150,000!) All so they can CRUSH her attempts at dual citizenship!

Seriously, the only salient bit of information needed here is her country of origin. So why is that the only thing you've left out?

The USA has deals with some countries to notify them - Bosnia & Herzegovina was told when I became a US citizen. Other countries, no. There are other things to consider as well - but all pointless without a country ID.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:16 PM on June 24, 2008

The U.S. has pretty strong feelings about dual citizenship. The oath of citizenship explicitly says that you renounce all other allegiances, and I have heard that if the U.S. find out about her using another passport, her citizenship may actually be on the line. This is not something to be flippant about.
posted by idb at 5:30 PM on June 24, 2008

The U.S. has pretty strong feelings about dual citizenship.

It does, see here.

In short, they discourage dual citizenship but don't prohibit it. There are plenty of dual-US/English citizens in the US who keep both passports.
posted by zippy at 5:48 PM on June 24, 2008

People from my home country do this all the time, don't worry about it. As long as she's not trying to fiddle the tax system or marry anyone it's pretty much a non-issue.
posted by fshgrl at 5:55 PM on June 24, 2008

Home country = Indonesia
posted by b_thinky at 7:08 PM on June 24, 2008

If you immigrate to the USA you can keep your native citizenship but USA born USA citizens cannot pledge allegiance to another country. I know, the citizenship oath seems to be different from he actual law. Weird.
posted by b_thinky at 7:10 PM on June 24, 2008

B_thinky-- many U.S. citizens do take on additional citizenship. It is not accepted but the U.S., but it is not specifically prohibited. My brother-in-law's native country revoked his Colombian citizenship, but later returned it when he became an American citizen. He carries two passports, as do I, an American citizen by birth.

Your family member needs to worry about Indonesia, not the U.S.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:28 PM on June 24, 2008

She should just be sure to use her USA passport when entering the USA.
posted by zia at 7:29 PM on June 24, 2008

but USA born USA citizens cannot pledge allegiance to another country

Without losing their citizenship, you mean? They absolutely can.
posted by oaf at 7:38 PM on June 24, 2008

but USA born USA citizens cannot pledge allegiance to another country

That certainly comes as a surprise, given that I (as a natural born American citizen) got my Australian citizenship two years ago. *snort*

So yeah, I've got two passports. I was told to make sure that I use the appropriate passport when entering Australia or the US, but other than that, it's not a problem.
posted by web-goddess at 7:45 PM on June 24, 2008

When my relatives (including my sister) obtained new citizenship, there was a stamp on their passport that allowed them visa-free access into their home country (Bangladesh) for life. I know this for a fact for British citizens, and I'm guessing it's the same for US, Australia, and Canada (since I have newly-citizenized relatives there).

That said, having a US passport generally allows you visa-free entry to most places, so I don't think it would be an issue for her to go back to Indonesia. Most of my relatives went overseas precisely to get a better passport. My mum's hounding me to live permanently in Australia for this very reason (without listening to me when I say the process has become more complex!).
posted by divabat at 8:37 PM on June 24, 2008

WAIT! OK, I did a crappy job on this post evidently.

Indonesia does not allow dual citizenship/passports. She wants to use the Indonesian passport when entering Indonesia, and the American passport everywhere else. She wants to be *mainly* American but if she needs to return to Indonesia for long term to take care of parents, or just live there in case aliens obliterate the USA and she survives, being there on a tourist visa will be a major inconvenience.

So she wants to enter Indonesia on her Indonesian passport. When customs scans a passport in Indonesia is there anything that will flag her as having an additional passport? Although it's not permitted in Indonesia many people do it, she just doesn't know how. Would she simply leave one place (say, the USA, Taiwan, Japan or any other country), using her USA passport and arrive in Indonesia with her Indonesian passport?

That's the question.

And sorry if I'm misunderstanding the dual citizenship laws. Based on the writing inside my passport, I was led to believe making an oath to a foreign state would result in the loss of citizenship. But, really, that's not what this topic is about.
posted by b_thinky at 9:39 PM on June 24, 2008

Ok, my kids are dual US-Malaysian, so I know where you're coming from. Malaysia also doesn't allow dual citizens and so my children will be in this bind upon their majority. It's like this: the US doesn't keep lists of its dual citizens, and it doesn't routinely share lists of that kind with other countries. That's what I was told by the US embassy. (War on Terror stuff being an obvious exception.) So Indonesia shouldn't know ahead of time that you're now an American citizen. It certainly won't be in your Indonesian passport. The only way a routine passport inspection on entering Indonesia could cause trouble is if they inspect your visas and don't find an American one. In Malaysia, this has never happened to my kids or any of the few dual citizen adult Malaysians I know. They save their scrutiny for foreigners, not citizens. Lots of Malaysians are dual - in practice the only thing it does is bar you from politics, a welcome side-benefit in my opinion.

If you are super concerned about it, you could do the following: transit to a third country on the way. Enter and exit that country on your Indonesian passport. Now your Indonesian passport appears as though you just went for a weekend trip to Singapore or wherever.

(I won't bring up how incredibly lax Indonesian borders are and the beyond-the-law options you could exercise because I'm sure you're aware and not interested.)
posted by BinGregory at 10:10 PM on June 24, 2008

One wrinkle may come when your family member renews her Indonesian passport: if she tries to do it in the US, she's meant to show a valid visa or green card, which she obviously won't have as a US citizen.

The general guidance for dual citizens travelling to Indonesia is 'you will get a lot of shit at passport control' and 'if you enter on your non-Indonesian passport, we'll at least be able to provide consular assistance if you get a lot of shit'.

I was told to make sure that I use the appropriate passport when entering Australia or the US, but other than that, it's not a problem.

Unless you're considering a future career as an Australian MP...
posted by holgate at 11:36 PM on June 24, 2008

And BinGregory's more or less correct. The US oath of citizenship only carries standing in Foreign Country if said country a) chooses to treat it as a renunciation (increasingly uncommon, but applies in this case); b) knows you've done it. There is no subatomic citizenion that flies from one country to another when you swear the oath.

So: there's no option that doesn't run the risk of trouble, and presenting an Indonesian passport means the US consulate can't get you out of trouble. But as long as your relative doesn't volunteer more information than is necessary for citizens at passport control, she should be okay. One proviso: flight manifests do carry passport information, so when flying to Indonesia from Foreign, she'd want to present her Indonesian passport at check-in.
posted by holgate at 11:58 PM on June 24, 2008

One proviso: flight manifests do carry passport information, so when flying to Indonesia from Foreign, she'd want to present her Indonesian passport at check-in.

Whoa, crucial information! Thanks, holgate.
posted by BinGregory at 12:17 AM on June 25, 2008

Unless you're considering a future career as an Australian MP...

Not according to Alexander Downer. "Australian citizens have... The capacity to seek election to the Australian parliament where eligible." Of course, whether the voters would elect a dual citizen is another matter, but it certainly doesn't look like there's any law against running!
posted by web-goddess at 12:40 AM on June 25, 2008

Apologies. Upon further googling, I found this blog post that claims dualies are barred from standing for parliament. Odd. They never told me that one at DIMIA.
posted by web-goddess at 12:42 AM on June 25, 2008

If she goes to a 3rd country can she leave on an Indonesian passport while she entered on an American one? That's what doesn't make sense to me... no matter where you go you have to switch passports at some point.

And when you go through customs, they swipe the barcode on your passport. What info do they get from that? Detailed info on your travels? Or just something that says the passport is valid?

If they check for a USA visa it could get sticky since she had to surrender her green card when she got citizenship.
posted by b_thinky at 1:38 AM on June 25, 2008

Here in Armenia, tons of people have 2 passports. No one will ever know.
posted by k8t at 2:39 AM on June 25, 2008

She should remain consistent about entering and leaving on the same passport though.
posted by k8t at 2:40 AM on June 25, 2008

Executive summary: always present the passport which shows the requester what it wants to see.

Example (although these countries both tolerate duality, the reason for presenting each passport is what matters):

I'm a dual Brazilian-US citizen. I use my US passport normally. If I am flying US to Brazil, I present my Brazilian passport on check-in (they are looking for that or for a Brazilian visa so they know I won't be sent back. I don't present a passport to the government on my way out, because the US does not have exit control for citizens.

On arrival in Brazil, I present my Brazilian passport. If I'm asked for ID in Brazil, I use that passport. I don't get consular protection, but them's the breaks.

Checking in for the return flight, I present my US passport (again, to prove I'm allowed to go there). I present my Brazilian passport to exit immigration control in Brazil, to prove I was allowed to be in Brazil. It's not Brazil's concern how I'm going to enter the US--just the airline's. I present my US passport if I'm asked again at the gate by the airline. US passport to US immigration on arrival.

posted by deeaytch at 5:17 AM on June 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

I don't get consular protection, but them's the breaks.

You also don't get fingerprinted on either side. I'd say that's a very good way to use multiple passports.
posted by oaf at 9:34 AM on June 25, 2008

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