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Moving to Europe as a US-Austrian Dual Citizen

Travel Forums Europe Moving to Europe as a US-Austrian Dual Citizen

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1. Posted by lost again (Budding Member 66 posts) 7y

I am from the US but have Austrian dual-citizenship through my father. The previous forum responses seem to suggest I leave the US with my US passport and enter Austria or the EU with my Austrian passport.

Help me understand what passport officials (in both the EU and US) are primarily looking for when you show them your passport upon entry and exit. I want to avoid situations of having to get out both passports to explain. Is the following logic correct?

A. Upon entering a foreign country, passport officials want to know:
1. where you came from (exit passport stamp)
2. country of origin (passport)
3. how long you are going to be staying (a return plane ticket)

B. Upon entering a home country (i.e. you are a passport holder), passport officials want to know:
1. Where you came from (exit passport stamp)
2. How long you were gone (original passport stamp when you left your home country)

C. Upon leaving a foreign country, officials want to know:
1. How long you have been there (entry passport stamp)

D. Upon leaving a home country, officials want to know:
1. That you are a citizen (home country passport)

Therefore:
1. If I leave the US, whenever I return, I need to show a US exit stamp on my US passport. So shouldn't I always leave the US with a US passport?
2. But if I fly into/enter Austria using my EU passport without any exit stamps, won't they want to know where I came from (B1)? Therefore I need to show them a US exit stamp on my EU passport. But then that doesn't satisfy D1 or B2 above?
3. What if I fly to Austria with a US passport and enter with the US passport (exit and entry stamps), then begin using my Austrian passport as my primary form of ID (though it doesn't satisfy A3)? Hypothetically no one will ever look for an entry stamp on my EU passport and I will never need to bring out my US passport? - except for the problem below...

Problematic Item
1. What happens if I fly into Austria or am in a German speaking EU country and I show my Austrian passport as an ID but then can't speak German? Do I pull out my US passport and explain my situation?

Possible solution
1. Is it possible to get both my US and Austrian passports stamped with exit and entry visas? Or would that piss off officials?


What is your advice for these scenarios?

Are my premises above correct???

Additional Question
I may have an opportunity to move-in with a friend in Switzerland. It seems with the Free Movement of Persons laws I would be able to live and find work in Switzerland without many problems, probably just some minor paper work and explaining my dual citizenship situation.

Thanks so much, I really appreciate any help you can provide!

PS - One reason I want to move to Europe is to learn German so that eventually I can actually read my Austrian passport ;-).

[ Edit: Edited on 09-May-2009, at 10:40 by lost again ]

2. Posted by Redpaddy (Inactive 1004 posts) 7y

Your language abilities are not important. If your passport is valid and acceptable, you will breeze through. All border officials are interested in (and paid to do) is check that you're OK for immediate entry.
I've done so many countries - in Europe and beyond, some with the right papers and some (my own fault) without. I've coped - and the authorities at the frontier have told me the yes's and no's. So far, I've never been sent back.
Don't worry too much.... And good luck.

3. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 7y

I agree with the above - language is completely irrelevant. Our daughter has dual citizenship (Sweden and USA) so I'm very familiar with this situation. A couple of thoughts and important points:

When you check in here in the USA for the flight to Austria (or wherever you're going in Europe), they will ask for your passport. This is just so the airline knows that you have the proper documents to enter whatever country you're going to. Show them your US passport. You will never get an exit stamp when you leave the USA for the simple reason that you don't ever see any immigration officer when leaving the country.

When you arrive in Europe (Austria for instance), you can show your Austrian passport.

If you travel around in Europe, use your Austrian passport.

When you leave Austria on your way back to the USA, you should show the airline (when you check in) your U.S. passport. You will not be going thru any immigration control when leaving Austria, or any other EU country, so there are no exit stamps. Many countries in Europe won't stamp your passport at all, unless you request them to do so.

When you arrive back in the USA, you obviously need to show your U.S. passport. They will simpy ask how long you were gone, and maybe also what countries you visited. They will NOT be concerned if you don't have any stamps in your U.S. passport from these countries. Under no circumstances should you ever show, or even mention, your Austrian passport when you arrive back in the USA.

And, never, EVER, show two passports to ANY immigration official ANYWHERE. Many countries accept dual citizenships, but none of them like the fact that some people actually have more than one passport.

If you have any additional questions, let me know!

4. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 7y

Dual passport advice:

  • Always enter and leave a country on the same passport
  • Always enter the USA using your US passport, and Austria using your Austrian passport
  • Otherwise, there is generally no problem using one passport to exit a country and the other passport to enter another country. I don't really have much to add in addition to the advice from redpaddy and bgl
5. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 7y

Greg summed it up nicely: one passport per country is the rule of thumb, and changing passports in between countries is generally unproblematic.

As to Switzerland: the Swiss have a bilateral treaty with the EU, ensuring free movement of people and labour. Since you are an EU citizen, you can move to Switzerland without problems. More official information can be found here.

6. Posted by lost again (Budding Member 66 posts) 7y

Thanks, that is very helpful! So much for my elaborate passport coding scheme :)

7. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 7y

You're welcome! But I believe one little clarification is in order to this statement :"Always enter and leave a country on the same passport". You can enter Austria on your Austrian passport. But when you leave Austria, and check in at the airport, it's important you show them your U.S. passport. That information (from the airline) will be transmitted to the U.S. Immigration, and if the U.S. Immigration gets advance information that you have an Austrian passport, and then you show them a U.S. passport when you arrive, they are NOT going to be happy. You will not encounter any official Immigration official when you leave Austria (or, as far as I know, any other country in the EU), so there's no "official" check. The airline always checks your passport, because if you don't have proper travel documents to enter the country you're travelling to, it's the airline's responsibility to bring you back where you came from!

8. Posted by lost again (Budding Member 66 posts) 7y

Thank you for the clarification. I will certainly make a note to remember that!

But a further question:
When I check in at the Austrian airport to head back to the US and use my US passport, won't they look for a Europe entry stamp on my US passport? Or are they simply looking at the passport to just record my information/make sure I am legal.

9. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 7y

Keep in mind, this is the airline you're showing your passport to. They don't care how or when you arrived in the country. The ONLY thing they are concerned about is to make sure that you have the correct travel documents to enter the USA. Plus, my guess is that when you arrive in Austria and show an Austrian passport to the Immigration official they may not even put a stamp in your passport!

10. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

Problematic Item
1. What happens if I fly into Austria or am in a German speaking EU country and I show my Austrian passport as an ID but then can't speak German? Do I pull out my US passport and explain my situation?

Yes, show them your US passport and explain that you hold double citizenship and live in the USA.

There are some countries where it is not a good idea to show that you have 2 passports (most of them in the Middle East) but the countries of the EU are not among them. In all EU countries it is legal to hold several citizenships. Show both your passports as necessary.

BTW, as Austrian citizen you can legally work and live all over the EU and some EFTA countries (Switzerland, Norway,..). So feel free to look for a job in Europe.