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Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

People who have more than one citizenship often hold multiple passports, so what does this mean for crossing borders? Here's what you should know.

A person holds a German and British passport.
A person holds a German and British passport. Photo: picture alliance / Britta Pedersen/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa | Britta Pedersen

For many readers of The Local, gaining citizenship of the country where they live helps them to feel more settled – but there are also travel benefits, including avoiding the long ‘non EU’ queue when coming back into the Schengen zone.

But this week the problems associated with travelling while holding dual citizenship came to light, leaving many people wondering what they should know when they are entering different countries.

Put simply – which passport should you use? And do you have to carry both with you?

Financial Times journalist Chris Giles tweeted that the UK Border Force “detained” his dual-national daughter while she was travelling from France into the UK with her German passport – and not her British one. 

He went on to say that UK border guards released his daughter. According to Giles, the border staff said she should have had both passports with her “and asked why she was travelling on her German one”.

The rules on dual-nationality have not changed, but now that the UK is not in the EU, there are strict rules on non-Brits who enter the country (and vice-versa) which has made it trickier for travel.

For instance, UK nationals receive a stamp in their passport when entering Schengen member states because they are only allowed to stay up to 90 days within an 180 period (unless they have a visa or residency card).

READ ALSO: Brexit: EU asks border police not to stamp passports of British residents 

People coming from the EU to the UK can generally visit as a tourist for up to six months without a visa – but are not allowed to carry out any work while there.

So which passport should you show?

The first thing to be aware of is there are no specific rules on travelling with more than one passport. 

Travellers can choose to use whichever passport they prefer when going to a country. 

But one thing to note is that it’s worth using the passport that is best suited to your destination when travelling there. Each country has its own set of immigration and visa rules that you’ll need to research closely.

It could be that one passport is better suited for your trip – and you may be able to avoid visa requirements.  

READ ALSO: How powerful is the German passport?

In the case of the UK, many people are still getting to grips with the different rules that apply because it’s not in the EU anymore.

A question submitted to the Secretary of State for the Home Department in September 2021 provided some insight into this issue. 

The question from Labour’s Paul Blomfield asked what steps the UK government “is taking to enable dual UK and EU citizens to travel to the UK on an EU member state passport without having to further prove their UK citizenship?”

The Conservatives Kevin Foster said: “Border Force Officers examine all arriving passengers to establish whether they are British citizens, whether they require leave to enter or if they are exempt from immigration control.

“Where the passenger claims to be British, but does not hold any evidence of British citizenship, the officer will conduct all relevant checks to satisfy themselves the passenger is British.

Border control at Hamburg airport.

Border control at Hamburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

“When dual nationals who are eligible to use e-gates travel to the UK, they will enter via the e-gates without being examined by an immigration officer.

“We recommend all dual nationals, including EU citizens, travel on their British passport or with evidence or their British citizenship to minimise any potential delay at the border or when commencing their journey.”

The Local contacted the UK Home Office to ask if there was any official advice. 

A spokesman said: “An individual can present whichever passport they desire to enter the UK, however they will be subject to the entry requirements associated with the nationality of the passport they present.”

They said anyone who is looking for more information should check out guidance on entering the UK and on dual nationality.

In short, if you present a German passport on entry to the UK you will be treated the same as any other German citizen – which can include being quizzed about your reasons for visiting the UK – as border guards have no way of knowing that you are a dual-national. 

Do I have to carry both passports?

There’s no rule requiring you to have both passports, but you won’t get the benefits of a British passport (entry into the UK without questions) if you don’t show it.

Likewise if you are a French-British dual national and you enter France on your UK passport, you will need to use the non-EU queue and may have your passport stamped.

Should I think about anything else?

An important thing to remember is that if you apply for a visa and register your passport details, the same passport has to be used to enter the country. 

It could also make sense to travel with both passports, just in case. 

However, note that some countries – like the US – require that US nationals use a US passport to enter and leave the States even if they are dual nationals. 

In general, it’s best to use the same passport you entered a country with to depart.

The rules and systems are different depending on the country. But many countries require people to show their passport when leaving – and they will either stamp or scan the passport – this is how authorities know that a foreign visitor hasn’t overstayed their time in the country. 

So if your passport is checked as you leave the UK, you should show the one you arrived with, just to ensure there is a record of you arriving and leaving.

However as you enter France/Germany/other EU destination, you can show your EU passport in order to maximise the travel benefits of freedom of movement.

Member comments

  1. You mentioned above that “The first thing to be aware of is there are no specific rules on travelling with more than one passport. Travellers can choose to use whichever passport they prefer when going to a country.”

    However, many countries require you to enter with the passport of that country if you are a citizen of that country.

    E.g. from this official US government site: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/Advice-about-Possible-Loss-of-US-Nationality-Dual-Nationality/Dual-Nationality.html

    “U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States.”

    1. Hi Steven, yeah we mention the US rule further down in the article – but this is focusing on travel between the UK and EU for dual UK/EU nationals

  2. If you have a Swedish and UK passport, leave Sweden with your Swedish passport and enter Britain with your UK one. On return, leave Britain with your UK passport and enter Sweden with your Swedish. Simple. And if you travel to elsewhere in Europe, use your Swedish passport, unless you love queuing!

  3. As a dual EU/UK national I’d understood best practice is now to use the EU passport when entering and leaving the EU and the Uk passport when entering and leaving the Uk. A pain to carry both but allows a quicker passage, ensures the systems in each country register who’s coming and going and avoids issues with visas etc. Usually no problems doing this, but recently at Eurostar terminal where the UK and French controls are next to each other a member of staff tried to stop me doing this. Said I had to leave the Uk and enter EU with the same passport. Another then stepped in and said it was fine… so it seems clarification would indeed be helpful!

  4. It’s a no brainier really and the journalist from the FT should simmer down.

    It’s obvious that they must go by the passport presented. I think reasonable to ask why you didn’t use your UK passport.

    My partner is dual German/British.

    By ferry from Caen to Portsmouth.

    UK at checkin (booking on UK)
    German at French control.
    UK at Portsmouth

    Dual nationals are so lucky, take all your passports 🙂

  5. Those with an Irish passport just need to carry that one: the benefits of an EU citizen entering France and unrestricted UK access due to the Common Travel Area.

  6. I agree with Steven above – many countries require that you enter the country of your nationality on that passport. For example Canadians CANNOT enter Canada on anything other than a Canadian passport. But when travelling back to Ireland, I need to use my Irish passport meaning that, as far as Canada know, I am still there, drifting around without a job or home.

  7. I hold both Canadian and British passports. What’s to stop me entering the Schengen zone with my UK passport and staying the maximum 90 days? At that point, I leave Schengen for a day and re-enter with my Canadian passport. Can I then stay another 90 days?

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TRAVEL NEWS

French teachers blame Brexit as schools cut trips to UK

The number of French pupils crossing the Channel on school trips - even daytrips - to the UK has plummeted post-Brexit, with teachers blaming the additional cost and paperwork involved.

French teachers blame Brexit as schools cut trips to UK

“I wanted to, but I gave up. It’s dead,” middle school teacher Murielle Bourré told local paper La Voix du Nord.

Schools in northern France used to do regular day-trips to the UK, since it’s just a short ferry-trip away, as well as longer visits, but many teachers say they have stopped this since Brexit.

School trip organisers in northern France have noticed a large drop-off in the number of school trips to the UK. “Before Covid, we used to organise about 40 trips a year. This year, it will be about 10,” said Edward Hisbergues, a school trip organiser from Maubeuge in the Nord département.

According to Hisbergues, Ireland is now the more straightforward option because it is an EU Member State, although trips there are more expensive.

Since October 1st, 2021, any European citizen wanting to visit the UK has needed to hold a passport when previously a national ID card was sufficient. 

Since the ID card can be used for travel anywhere within the EU, many French people don’t have passports, meaning that parents need to apply for a passport for their children in order for them to go on a school trip.

For French children aged up to 14, a passport costs €17. For children aged between 15 and 17, it costs €42. An adult passport costs €86. It is often enough for hard-pressed parents to think again, especially for day trips to cities in the south-east of England, such as London, Canterbury, or Brighton.

Meanwhile, children at French schools who hold non-EU passports require a tourist visa, at a further cost of £100 – it also requires a trip to the British Embassy in Paris.

One possible solution – a collective passport, allowing groups of French children to travel to the UK on one document – has reportedly been discussed in government, but plans have not yet seen the light of day.

Pre-Brexit, around 10,000 school trips a year came from France, representing a direct annual input into the UK economy of £100m, according to travel companies.

Detailed post-Brexit figures are not yet available – since travel was heavily restricted by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 – but anecdotal evidence from trip organisers suggests that the number has fallen. 

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