Ask LH: What’s The Best Strategy For Travelling With Multiple Passports?

I am both a US and Australian citizen, with an Australian wife and young children. Next month my family will be travelling to the US, and the information online about which passport I should use is quite confusing.

According to the US embassy site, “all U.S. citizens must enter the United States on a U.S. passport, regardless of any other citizenship claims”. Meanwhile, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship notes that “Australian citizens who hold dual or multiple nationalities must hold an Australian passport and use it to enter or leave Australia, even if they use a foreign passport overseas”.

With this in mind, it seems dual US/Australian nationals are required to enter and depart the States using their US passport, and enter and depart Australia using their Australian passport. Is this possibly correct? Also, given there are separate lines for citizens and non-citizens (in both directions), how can I ensure that I can wait in the dreadful line with my family, and thus helping my wife juggle a jetlagged toddler and infant?

Pass The Port

Dear Pass,

That interpretation is largely correct in my experience, but the outcome isn’t quite as bad as you would think. Let’s look at what happens at each stage:

  • When you depart Australia, there’s only one queue regardless of nationality. You can all use Australian passports here, but even if you had to use your US one, it wouldn’t make a difference.
  • The most problematic area is arriving in the US. Firstly, make sure that you’ve applied for and paid for an ESTA for your wife and kids. While there are separate queues for US and non-US travellers, the staff can process either type of visitor (I’ve seen people redirected to the US citizens counters once all Americans have been cleared). So I’d queue with your family in the international line and then explain why you don’t have a form when you get to the front. If they do send you to a US citizens queue, you’ll still get processed very quickly. Make sure you have a copy of your return flight details in case they want convincing you’re not trying to return permanently.
  • There’s no formal immigration clearance process when you leave the US; that gets handled when you check in to your flight, so using different passports wouldn’t matter. (Also note that the US ruling you quoted actually relates to entering the US, not leaving it.)
  • On returning to Australia, everyone will have Australian passports so you can use the regular line. (As you’re travelling with young kids, you aren’t eligible to use SmartGate.

If any readers have succeeded or failed in getting through US immigration procedures this way, share your experiences in the comments. Good luck with the trip!


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