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How can I get a second passport?

Dear Anita,

I am an American and travel to the Middle East often. Is it legal to get a second passport? I would feel safer if I could.

Larry W.
Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear Larry

Yes, it's legal to get a second passport; however, serious consideration should be given before acquiring one. To acquire another passport in a foreign territory you must be willing to accept dual citizenship. With terrorism on the rise, international travel can be particularly hazardous to citizens of certain countries. Therefore, it's not a bad idea for those who travel a great deal into hostile areas to have this option.

A second passport may give you access to travel in countries where your own passport might not be used due to restrictions. There can be difficulties getting into some countries if your passport shows that you have visited certain places. For example, if you want to travel to Israel and then on to some Arab countries it can be advisable to get a second passport as many Arab countries will not let travelers in if they have visited Israel.

Every country has its own citizenship rules. Some countries welcome individuals with nationalized ancestors. Others give passports to those of a certain religion. Some for simply buying real estate or large bank accounts. Panama and Costa Rica have set up passport programs where citizenship is granted to individuals who act as "financial benefactors" or "special investors"; basically you are buying a passport, and that can be a shaky proposition.

There can be adverse consequences for having two passports. According to the U.S. Department of State, Americans can lose their citizenship in certain circumstances. For example, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it could lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

Something else to consider is that dual citizenship is not recognized in all countries. This can lead to serious difficulties for dual passport holders when they are in the country of their second citizenship. Case in point, a young Canadian who had dual citizenship in Italy was detained by Italian authorities because he was considered an Italian citizen and would be required to perform military service. It took much beaurocratic wrangling between Canadian and Italian authorities before he was allowed to leave Italy.

Furthermore, if you travel with two passports, you could be subject to increased scrutiny by immigration and security officials. You could be questioned about missing entry or exit stamps, as well as your reason for having two passports. In some countries, possession of a second passport could result in its confiscation or a fine. What's worse you could be prevented from leaving the country. Lastly, you could be faced with taxation problems as you may encounter obligations in both countries.

Keep in mind, dual citizenship is only good if the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship are extended with it. If not, it's not worth considering. The best sources for information on how to obtain your second passport are through family members, legal counsel, and the appropriate consulate or the U.S. Department of State in Washington.

I hope I've been helpful.

Anita Dunham-Potter

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