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Do You Need A Second Passport?

(April 2000)

If you are planning on traveling overseas for business, pleasure, or study, the best way to ensure a relaxing, carefree trip is to prevent problems before they happen. The more you know about passports, visas, customs, immunizations, and other travel basics, the less likely you are to encounter difficulties during your travels.

Did you know some countries do not permit entry to travelers whose passports have visas showing they have visited certain other countries? A visa is an endorsement or stamp placed in your passport by a foreign government that permits you to visit that country for a specific purpose and duration. For example, many Arab countries will not allow entry to people whose passports have a visa stamp showing that they have visited Israel. In addition, some African countries have refused to admit travelers with South African visas or entry and exit stamps in their passports. The situation has improved since the end of apartheid; however, some African countries still will not permit travelers with passports showing certain South African visas.

So, what do you do when you want to travel to these countries and you have visas and stamps from any restricted countries? There is a way, and it is completely legal, according to the U.S. State Department. You can obtain a second, restricted passport, which, on the surface, looks like any other U.S. passport. However, there is one big exception: it clearly states that it is limited for travel to particular countries only. This restricted passport cannot be substituted for a regular passport, and it cannot be used to enter every country, only the ones that are specified on the application. In addition, these passports are not issued for countries that have no diplomatic relations with the U.S. You can apply for one at your regional passport office, but be prepared to document your legitimate need for travel to the country in question.

Keep in mind that if your entrance to a country depends upon using the restricted passport, show only the restricted passport whenever you are asked for your identifying papers. Be careful not to show your regular passport or in any way reveal that you are carrying two passports. Using two passports is not permitted by most governments, so there could be serious consequences.

To find out if you will need a restricted passport, check the Visa Information Sheet available from any passport office. This document will help you to determine if there are visa or passport conflicts among the countries on your itinerary. Because customs regulations change often, you should contact the consulate or embassy of each country you plan to visit when preparing for your trip.

Additional Resources:

U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs: http://travel.state.gov/index.html

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