I will be traveling to Europe and Asia with my Hong Kong passport (tickets were booked with my previous legal name) and coming back with my US passport (I will be booking the ticket with my Hong Kong passport, since it has my previous legal name).

Will I get into trouble with US immigration when coming back? Since the US doesn't check passports going out of the country, how do they know who went out? Or doesn't it matter?

  • @JonathanReez that's not a duplicate. In the other case, the traveler is asking about leaving the US passport behind altogether and showing the foreign passport on return to the US. In this case, the traveler plans to take the US passport and show it on return.
    – phoog
    Dec 6, 2017 at 13:25
  • You'll probably get some questions about it from the border agent upon your return, since your U.S. passport won't have the proper stamps for where ever you're coming back from, so make sure you have a proper answer prepared. This same thing happened to a coworker of mine, though he unintentionally used two different passports. Dec 6, 2017 at 14:56
  • @HopelessN00b I would say the probability is very low. I've never had a US border officer look for passport stamps from other jurisdictions. I'm sure it happens, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule. If they do ask, though, the "proper answer" is of course "I used my other passport, which you're welcome to see of you want."
    – phoog
    Dec 6, 2017 at 15:25
  • @phoog It's probably more likely these days, with the current administration's attitude towards... "border issues". My coworker had been using his passports interchangeably for decades without so much as a question before his incident earlier this year. Either way, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Dec 6, 2017 at 15:31
  • @Hopeless N00b but in this case, as in mine, one of the passports is a US passport. That makes a huge difference when one is entering the US.
    – phoog
    Dec 6, 2017 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


It does not matter. I've done this several times. There's a law that requires US citizens to "bear" a valid US passport when leaving and entering the US, but there's no penalty for violating the law, and in any case using a non-US passport is not forbidden.

  • Agreed, I always use my European passport in Europe, and US Passport in the states.
    – Christophe
    Dec 6, 2017 at 10:00
  • The one requirement OP hasn't mentioned is the having a proof of name change since ticket and Passport names are different.
    – DTRT
    Dec 6, 2017 at 14:27
  • @Johns-305 it seems to me that two current photographic (probably biometric) identity documents from different jurisdictions showing different names ought to be sufficient.
    – phoog
    Dec 6, 2017 at 14:37
  • 1
    @phoog Ehhh.....grey area. CBP specifically says "proof of your name progression" implying the start and end points may not suffice on their own. help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1209/related/1/session/…
    – DTRT
    Dec 6, 2017 at 14:44
  • @Johns-305 what if there's no "progression" or change, but the person simply has two different names because of conflicting name laws? Anyway, CBP does not matter here. Once the traveler arrives in the US he just shows the US passport. It doesn't matter what name the ticket is in, nor the foreign passport. The question is checking in for the return flight, which the airline controls.
    – phoog
    Dec 6, 2017 at 15:21

One point of confusion here is that leaving one country is not the same as entering the next country. We have questions on this site (for example this one) about traveling between two countries using two passports, where you want to use one passport for one country and another for the other country. You should enter and leave each particular country with the same passport, so you should leave country A with the passport you entered country A with, but you can then enter country B with a different passport. In other words, on a single flight, you can "use" two different passports for the two ends of the flight. So "entering" the destination using your HKSAR passport does not imply that you "left" the US with that passport.

Of course, with the US, there are no exit checks (technically CBP could conduct random checks of departing passengers, but it is extremely rare and I have never seen it happen). In this case, you "leave" the US without needing to do anything. Although US law technically requires a US citizen to "enter" and "leave" the US with a US passport (with some exceptions for children and people with certain border crossing cards), when there are no exit checks, you vacuously satisfy the requirement to "leave" using a US passport without doing anything (technically the law says "bear" a US passport, which could mean just having it in your possession).

  • 1
    Just to add airlines don't enforce borders but can be worried to get back (for free) someone cannot enter destination and can asks to see your passport, in those cases show your destination passaport to the airline crew.
    – jean
    Dec 6, 2017 at 10:13
  • Apparently there are certain flights where CBP exit checks are common, though overall they are indeed rare. @jean airlines may enforce documentation requirements. One time I tried to check in to an international departure from the US at an automated kiosk with my foreign passport, and the kiosk wouldn't let me do so without scanning a visa or green card. That was with an airline I don't often use, but I've never had that problem with the airlines I usually use. Certainly, airlines submit document data to CBP to reconcile departures with entry records.
    – phoog
    Dec 6, 2017 at 13:06
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    @phoog that's is odd and sound like "We need to know if you overstayed, in this case instead of letting you to leave we are deporting you". My comment was unclear, I stated that for cases where your origin passport needs a visa but your destination passport don't
    – jean
    Dec 6, 2017 at 13:26
  • @jean a US visa does not determine whether someone has overstayed; the place to look for that is the I-94, which is retrieved using the passport number.
    – phoog
    Dec 7, 2017 at 4:26
  • @phoog So a good question is why they want to see your visa/greencard? To block any try to re-enter? and this is really odd if the subject is carrying a usa passport anyway
    – jean
    Dec 7, 2017 at 9:41

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