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Which passport to use for dual citizenship: Australian or US?

A common question I receive is from dual citizens who have both a foreign (e.g. Australian) passport, as well as a United States passport, and they want to understand which passport they are meant to exit and enter the country under. There are also always questions about expired passports, so here are your answers!

This is one of those questions that pops up constantly, and there's always some bad advice surrounding the answers. For once, it's very clear cut what the rules are and if you don't abide by them you can get into some serious trouble with immigration departments in both countries.

Which passport you should use to exit and enter the United States

As always, I like to go straight to the source of the best information, and in this case, that's the U.S. Department of State's information on Dual Nationality.

The first thing to understand is that the term “US National” includes US Citizens, so if you are a citizen of the Untied States (note: green card holders are not citizens, they are “permanent residents”) you are a “US National” of the United States.

So which passport should you use to enter and exit the US?

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

It's really quite simple, you must arrive at the airport and show your US Passport. Presenting both is absolutely no problem either and is generally recommended so that airlines can join the two passports together in their system. There is no issue with US Law with having two passports, in fact, it's outlined clearly that you are allowed to be a citizen of multiple countries and have multiple passports so being as open as possible can help in the long run!

Your passport does indeed need to be valid, as well, so don't leave the US if it won't be valid when you arrive back in the US, and make sure there is enough time on it to re-enter.

If your US passport is expired, you absolutely must not apply for a visa or ETA and enter on your foreign passport, that is not permitted by law, so it is not a tricky workaround, don't do it!

Which passport you should use to exit and enter Australia

Similarly to the US, Australia has very clear rules about what you can and can't do with dual citizenship. Like the US, Australia allows dual citizens:

A dual citizen is a person who is a citizen of 2 or more countries.

You become a dual citizen if you:
– are an Australian citizen, are granted citizenship of another country and don't lose your Australia citizenship, or
– remain a citizen of another country and become an Australian citizen 

Australia allows a person to have dual citizenship. Some countries do not. To find out, you can check with the relevant embassy or consulate.

And also like the US they make it very clear about the rules for entering Australia, however the language on the Home Affairs site uses “should” instead of “must”:

Australian citizens should use their Australian passport to enter and leave Australia.

So what does that mean? In theory, it means you can enter Australia without a valid Australian passport, but you are likely going to have issues doing this and we strongly recommend not attempting it.

The issues include:

  • Airlines not recognizing your status and not allowing you to board;
  • Your having to apply for a tourist visa for Australia, limiting your rights as a citizen (or more likely being rejected in the first place);
  • Future issues with immigration and passport renewals; and
  • Overall pain that you could have just avoided if you follow the recommended practices!

What you shouldn't do as a dual citizen

This is one of the best examples of a situation where you shouldn't ask others “what did you do and how did it work out?”

Often I see questions on forums and groups where you already know the answer, but are hoping to hear that someone else has gotten away with not following the rules. Just like every situation, you will find that some people had dramatically different experiences from what was expected but this doesn't mean you will too, and putting your immigration status at risk is a disaster waiting to happen.

If your passport for a country you are a citizen of is expired or going to expire, you should immediately renew it and enter safely and properly. Don't start your vacation or your return on the wrong foot!

Don't ask around, just renew your passport!

Josh Pugh

Josh Pugh

Josh is a business founding, digital marketing focused, charity driving, community builder from South Australia, living in New York City. After moving in 2017, Josh realized that there was an opportunity to curate and help the community of expats who moved to the United States – and launched America Josh. Josh is also the President of Variety – the Children's Charity of New York, Secretary at The Mateship Foundation, and Founder & CEO at Fortnight Digital.View Author posts

2 thoughts on “Which passport to use for dual citizenship: Australian or US?”

  1. I’ve heard that if you hold both US and Aus passports, you need to have them linked to avoid issues at the border – do you know where to go/who to call to do that, and if there is any official information about that online?

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