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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

Tips for short-haul foreign travel from Denmark this Christmas

For the past two Christmases strict Covid rules prevented many people from travelling. This year that isn't an issue, but there are strikes, service reductions and high ticket prices to contend with.

Tips for short-haul foreign travel from Denmark this Christmas

Whether you’re a foreigner in Denmark planning a trip to see friends or relatives over the festive season, a second-home owner or you’re planning a Christmas or New Year trip to Denmark, there are several things worth keeping in mind when planning travel.

Strikes

If you’re taking a trip to the UK, be aware that rail workers are currently engaged in a protracted battle to secure pay increases that will help them cope with the soaring cost of living, and have not ruled out further strikes over the festive season.

If you’re going to Italy there are widespread air and rail strikes in November that could continue into December, while Germany has also seen airline strikes. Low-cost airlines in Spain are also staging strike action that is currently scheduled to last until after Christmas.

You can find the latest in Italy here, Spain here and Germany here.

Flying

Many airlines are struggling to bring back staffing to pre-pandemic levels, making it difficult for them to increase the number of flights to meet demand. The current oil prices have also significantly increased airlines’ fuel costs.

Long-haul flights have been particularly affected, with flights from Denmark to New Zealand for a family of four costing around 100,000 Danish kroner over the Christmas period.

Short-haul flights aren’t quite as jaw-dropping but can still be expensive.

One tip to consider, is flying from a different airport to reduce savings. 

“For the first time in six years of living here in Copenhagen we are using Billund airport to fly to the U.K. for Christmas as it was a third of the price of flying out of Copenhagen on the same dates in December,” The Local reader Rachel Prowse said.

Flights for two adults and two children for two weeks over Christmas from Copenhagen to London Stansted currently cost between 3,500 and 4,500 kroner. From Billund to London Stansted for a family of four it costs between 1,700 kroner and 2,500 kroner depending on the flight time. 

Another reader of The Local suggested advance booking and avoiding check-in luggage to keep costs down.

Trains

DSB is the national rail operator in Denmark. Timetables and tickets can be found at dsb.dk, including discounts for travelling outside of rush hours. The timetable for train travel over the Christmas period which includes slightly adjusted times.

Copenhagen central train station has direct services to Sweden and Germany. From Germany, you will have access to the rest of Europe.

Thanks to a newly launched overnight train service in 2021, you can catch an evening train from Copenhagen and wake up in either Hamburg or Berlin.

The train stops in Høje Taastrup and drops off in Hamburg and Berlin the following morning, although there are not many tickets left over the Christmas period. 

The Seat 61 website provides tips on how to travel comfortably and affordably by train. It includes an introduction to train travel in Europe, as well as an extensive search feature to find trains by starting location.

For example the website guides you through taking trains from Aarhus, Aalborg, Kolding, Odense or Copenhagen to Brussels, Cologne or Hamburg. From Brussels you can take the Eurostar onto London.

However be aware that the Eurostar is running around one third fewer services in order to avoid massive queues due to the post-Brexit passport check rules, and passengers are now advised to allow 90 minutes for pre-boarding checks. Financial troubles at the company have also seen ticket prices rise.

The Trainline is an international platform focused on train travel. The company is based in the UK but has extensive coverage of train travel in 45 countries across Europe.

The aim of the Trainline is find to the cheapest tickets for a selected route. Most of the time, this means booking in advance.

Ferry

An overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo for a family of four costs around 3,300 kroner without including meals. 

There are two ferry routes operating between Denmark and Sweden: Frederikshavn to Gothenburg and Grenaa to Halmstad, which costs around 900 kroner for a family of four without a car over Christmas.

You can travel between Denmark and the UK using ferries. You can take a train from Copenhagen to Hamburg, then Hamburg to Rotterdam and sail overnight from Rotterdam to Hull by P&O cruise ferry.

You can also take the overnight ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle by DFDS Seaways cruise ferry. You can get from Copenhagen to Amsterdam by train via Hamburg or you can take the car.

This method may not save you money but can make the journey more fun if you want to avoid airport delays.

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