I'm a British National (Overseas), which basically means that while I don't have the right of abode in the UK, I am permitted to visit the UK without a visa. However, my passport has expired, and while it's being renewed, the schedule is a bit tight.

At the same time, I'm an US Citizen, and since I'm only planning to visit the UK, I don't need a visa if I enter on my US passport.

I'm not familiar with UK immigration law, and given that this probably isn't too common a situation, the UK Border Agency website doesn't have an answer that I can can find, nor do they seem to have a contact form that fits my situation, so here's hoping someone knows—given that I'm a British National (Overseas), am I required to enter the UK on my UK passport, or can I just use my (valid) US passport?

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    I am a British and German citizen and have never bothered applying for a British passport because it doesn't give me any benefits over my German passport. It's a complete waste of money to apply for a British passport in my case. I enter the UK, live and work in the UK on my German passport, despite being also British, and have never had any problems. I have been a British citizen for all my life and never applied for a passport. I am happy with using my German passport in all situations.
    – user4603
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 9:07

4 Answers 4


Firstly keep in mind that the answer to this question will vary significantly depending on the countries involved.

Some countries (eg, the US) have requirements that if you are a citizen you MUST enter using the passport of that country. So as a US/UK citizen you must always use your US passport when entering the US.

The UK does NOT have such a requirement. ie, you can enter the country using either your US or UK passports - as long as the passport you use is valid for the type of trip. eg, if you were planning to be in the UK for the next year, then you could not enter on your US passport, as a US citizen can not legally stay in the UK for that long without a visa.

Where this gets messy is what your status is within the UK if you enter using a foreign passport. It could be claimed that you are in the UK as a visiting US citizen, and thus benefits such as government health care/etc might not be available to you. Realistically the probability of this being an issue are low, but possible...

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    FTR Iran also does the "Have an Iranian passport, must enter Iran on it" AFAIK Commented May 13, 2012 at 15:21
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    The last paragraph makes no sense to me. If you are a UK citizen, how you enter, whether you have a passport at all, etc. do not change anything to that.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 9:38
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    @KateGregory that's because "arriving on a Canadian passport" doesn't let you work or claim benefits etc. Your British Citizenship, however, does confer those rights, automatically. The stamp is just stating that the stamp doesn't grant those rights if you didn't already have them
    – Jon Story
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 16:13
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    re: the last paragraph, there's something called the “master nationality rule” that means, if you're in a country which you have citizenship of, that citizenship always takes precedence, regardless of whether you have other citizenships.
    – mystery
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 18:29
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    "It could be claimed that you are in the UK as a visiting US citizen, and thus benefits such as government health care/etc might not be available to you": this claim would never stand under UK law. UK citizens' rights are not curtailed if they use a non-UK document to enter the UK. The National Health Service, however, covers residents of Britain, so visitors aren't covered even if they are UK citizens who have entered with UK passports, regardless of whether or not they have another nationality.
    – phoog
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 6:15

I am a British subject with the right of abode. I had a British passport for a long time but stopped renewing it. I am also a Canadian citizen with a Canadian passport. When I enter Britain, about half the time the customs officer asks me if I am British (coming to a country to visit your sister, for example, will get you asked that) and when I say "well, I was born here", they say "why are you travelling on a Canadian passport?" (which also includes a line saying where I was born.) This is usually a reasonably glary moment that could possibly make you feel the interview was not going well, but I know they have no choice and have to let me in. I say that I've lived in Canada since 1969 and that it got to be too much effort to renew my British passport. Then they let me in.

Disclaimer: I never have any problems with border guys and then someone else comes after me with the exact same situation and has a problem. I'm extremely lucky. I can't guarantee you'll have as easy a time as me. But this is what I do.

  • Would you say using the automated passport gates (which will likely avoid the awkward conversation) can solve the problem? Obviously only applies if the second passport is permitted for the e-gates.
    – kiradotee
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 20:49

If you hold more than one passport, you're supposed to only be consistent with what you do in a country. So enter on one, leave on the other is a no-no, but you're fully entitled - as a US Citizen, to visit the UK.

I did the same when visiting South Africa - my friends were in the 'tourist' queue, and I had both passports with me, but went through the foreigner queue with them rather than use my SA one, purely because it was simpler. I asked the ticket counter when I was leaving whether it would mean I had to do anything different, and she said as well that it happens a lot, and that you just need to be consistent.

Otherwise if you use one to get in and one to get out, for example, their system could show that the US version of you overstayed - and nobody wants that :)


This forum and others point out anecdotal experiences where they or a family member with both citizenships have had no problems. The UK (unlike the US to some extent) is fine with dual citizenship, especially given the scope of the Commonwealth.

However, just a thought, you should realise you'd likely be bound by the law of entering as a foreigner, and possibly not have recourse to public funds, for example - although that part I'm not totally certain on - not a lawyer ;)

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    Are you sure? Don't know about South Africa, but a US citizen must enter with the US passport, regardless of any other citizenship, when entering the US.
    – littleadv
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 5:33
  • Prettty darn sure, a lot of friends there hold dual citizenship and chop and change depending on what passport is active. I've updated my answer with a link to a forum where answerers in the same US/UK situation have had no problems.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 6:53
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    @RoryAlsop: I've had difficulties flying out of Poland once (mid-90's), since I didn't have an entry stamp in my passport (arrived by train, where they either don't do entry stamps, or were too lazy/forgetful) - sometimes they do check.
    – Jonas
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 23:11
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    @RoryAlsop That is a great anecdote from the 80's. Unfortunately the world, post-9/11 is a far different place.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 20:23
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    The example in this answer about entering South Africa is irrelevant: what matters is what passport you use, not which queue you stand in. In the UK, the queues are labelled "UK/EEA passports" and "All passports" (not "All other passports"). Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 15:25

It can lead to complications.

Arrive at Heathrow and use my British passport (born there) to skip the lines. But I am departing for another country with its business visa in my US passport (I live/work in the USA)

They check my US passport to confirm the entry visa for destination but can't find a UK entry stamp. Look at me (I'm very white and nerdy) and ask "dual citizen? - "happens all the time, no problem"

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    that was the least complicated complication i've read in my life
    – bharal
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 17:55

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