British Nationality

Second passport holders: what are their UK immigration and visa options?

By Amer Zaman

on October 25, 2023

Read Time: 8 Minutes

Life for those who hold two passports – which, for the purposes of this article, we are largely presuming to mean holding citizenship of two countries – can be complicated, especially when it comes to navigating immigration control and international airports.

This complexity can increase still further when one needs to account for whether they will be travelling for business or pleasure, as well as the different approaches and laws that different jurisdictions have on dual nationality. There might also be political differences between certain countries that prevent easy travel between one and the other – another factor that could greatly impact on your immigration or travel plans.

If this describes your situation, you might be unsure how your status as a holder of two passports affects your rights, and what your visa and immigration options may be.

Below, then, our experts in UK immigration law here at Cranbrook Legal have sought to bring some clarity to this topic that can be so confusing to great numbers of migrants and travellers.

What does it mean to have two passports in the UK?

When we refer to someone having “two passports”, what we are generally referring to – for the purposes of this guidance – is the situation of a person holding citizenship or nationality for two territories. So, you might – for example – be a British citizen, but also a citizen of one or more other countries.

It is important to appreciate that not every country around the world accepts or recognises the concept of dual citizenship (also known as dual nationality). If you are uncertain as to whether this is the case for a given country you are a citizen of, we would urge you to ask about the country’s policy towards dual nationality at their consulate or embassy in whichever territory you are based in.

Fortunately, there are many countries across the globe that do allow the concept of dual citizenship. These include, but are not limited to, the likes of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States.

The UK is also among the countries that recognise dual citizenship. In other words, as we touched on above, it is perfectly permissible to be a citizen of the UK, at the same time as being a citizen of one or several other countries.

Nor is dual citizenship in the UK a status that you need to specifically apply for. If you are a British citizen, you can simply apply for a particular foreign citizenship that you desire, and obtain that citizenship, while keeping your existing British citizenship.

Which passport should dual citizens use in the UK?

When you arrive at any national border, you will need to prove to the immigration authorities in the given country that you have the right to enter, for the stated purpose of entering. Naturally, the exact procedure you will need to follow will depend on the specific territory you are seeking to enter.

If, for instance, you are a dual national who is a citizen of the UK and a citizen of a member state of the European Union (EU), such as France, you are generally advised to do the following:

  • When entering and leaving the EU, show the EU border officers your EU passport or national identity card
  • When entering and leaving the UK, show the UK Border Force officer your UK passport

There will be some instances of both these passport controls being in the same location, an arrangement known as juxtaposed border control.

An obvious example of this would be when someone travels by Eurostar from King’s Cross St Pancras in the UK to France. This journey entails first passing through UK Border control in order to leave the UK, followed just a few metres away by passing through French border control, in order to enter France. In the above situation, you are advised to show your British passport to UK Border control, and your EU identity document to French border control. It is a similar process when you return by Eurostar, with stations such as Paris and Brussels having their own juxtaposed border controls.

Does a dual national require a visa in order to travel to the UK?

By its very nature, if you have British citizenship as well as citizenship of another country, you will not require a visa in order to enter the UK, because your British citizenship will already give you the right to enter the UK, as well as to live and work there, free of any immigration controls.

However, some confusion can arise on this topic, because British citizenship is not completely synonymous with British nationality. In fact, British citizenship is just one of six types of British nationality, with the others being:

  • British overseas territories citizen
  • British overseas citizen
  • British subject
  • British national (overseas)
  • British protected person

Your exact status will have certain implications with regard to the rights that you have to enter, live, and/or work in the UK.

If, for example, you are a British overseas territories citizen, you will have the right to hold a British passport, as well as to get consular assistance and protection from UK diplomatic posts. However, as a holder of this type of British nationality, you will still be subject to UK immigration controls, and you will not have an automatic right to live and work in the UK.

Alternatively, of course, you might be a dual national of two countries, of which the UK is not one (for example, a citizen of both France and Spain). In that situation, if you wish to visit or relocate to the UK, your exact visa options will depend on such factors as your reasons for intending to travel to and enter the UK, as well as your ability to satisfy the eligibility requirements for a given visa.

You might, for instance, be looking to visit the UK for such purposes as tourism or business (e.g., to attend an interview, meeting, or conference), with the intention that you will not be in the UK for longer than six months. In that situation, it may be the Standard Visitor visa that represents your best option for travelling to and entering the UK.

On the other hand, some dual nationals from outside the UK might wish to come to the UK in order to work here. If this describes your situation, there are various work and business-related visas for the UK that might be suited to your needs. One common work-related route is the Skilled Worker visa, which enables a foreign national to relocate to and work in the UK, provided that they will be doing an eligible job with a Home Office-approved employer.

There are certain groups of dual nationals from outside the UK who will be able to come and work in the UK without needing to apply for a visa, even if they do not have British citizenship. One example of this would be someone who has Irish citizenship. Such an individual does not require a visa if they wish to live, work, and study in the UK, even after Brexit. This is because both the Republic of Ireland and the UK form part of the Common Travel Area (CTA), which is an open-borders area encompassing the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. The CTA was in place prior to the EU memberships of both the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and is not dependent on it.

Why would you need two UK passports?

So far in this article, we have covered the question of how dual nationals – those who have citizenship of more than one country – can navigate the UK immigration system and make sure they are permitted to enter the UK by Border Force officials.

However, the term “two passports” might also conceivably refer to someone having two UK passports. As someone presently located in the UK or overseas, there are various reasons why you might need to apply to HM Passport Office in the UK for additional passports.

Those reasons could include:

  • You need to obtain visas for the purposes of business travel
  • You need to travel to incompatible countries (in other words, countries with political differences which may prevent travel between the two)
  • You travel frequently

HM Passport Office does not normally allow more than one passport per person. However, it may issue additional passports to certain individuals who genuinely require one, and who can provide evidence to show this. Those individuals will also need to satisfy certain other criteria.

If you do submit an application for an additional UK passport, and this is approved, you can typically expect your additional passport to be issued in the same name, and to have the same observations, as your original passport. There are, however, some possible exceptions to this, such as if you have a title or title observation that must only be included on one of the passports, or if you are a dual national who needs to travel to an incompatible country.

Contact the Cranbrook Legal team for more advice and information on your visit or move to the UK

We mentioned at the top of this article that we would seek to bring clarity to the subject of how those who hold multiple passports can best navigate the UK’s complicated immigration system.

As we have hopefully made clear, the situation can vary greatly according to a range of factors, including the exact passports that a given prospective visitor or migrant holds, and their exact reasons for wishing to relocate to, or visit, the UK.

For these reasons, we would urge you to seek tailored advice and guidance if you are unsure about any aspect of your situation. As award-winning specialists in UK immigration law here at Cranbrook Legal in central London, we would be pleased to give you the benefit of that advice and assistance. Our help can even extend to the project management of UK immigration applications from start to finish, in the event of this being required. To learn more, please feel free to call our team today on 0208 215 0053, or to fill in and submit our straightforward online contact form, so that you can arrange a free consultation with one of our skilled and knowledgeable legal professionals.

How Can We Help You?

I would like to speak to Cranbrook Legal on the telephone.

0208 215 0053

I do not know what my immigration needs are and need to discuss my requirements.

Book A Free Consultation

I know what my immigration needs are, so I would to discuss my case.

Book An Appointment