I will be the first to admit I have two valid US passports and upon learning this information most people assume that I am an undercover spy. The following story will explain why and how to get one of these exceptionally useful travel documents.
First, is a second passport really necessary? It sounds fishy, so why bother?
US passports are good for a number of reasons including, they are valid for 10 years, and when you fill out the pages with lots of stamps and visas, the State Department located across the continental United States may add additional pages at an additional cost. No other country offers similar functionality.
Even though the US passport is inherently more unique than any other passport in the world, it still has its shortcomings. First, when you visit politically sensitive countries like the Middle East, the stamps from those countries might cause you to travel problems at a later date. For example, most countries in the Middle East will allow you to enter their country if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport. How to get around this? Have a second passport handy!
A serious situation happened to me when I returned from a trip to the Middle East at the Philadelphia International Airport. The immigration officer wanted to know why I had so many Middle Eastern stamps in my passport and they were absurdly curious about my trip abroad.
What was particularly appalling about the curious behavior of the immigration officers was that I have passed through customs several times before, with nothing more than a nod and a smile. It got me thinking, what if it was a foreign country or a random airport stop in a foreign country? How would I navigate such scrutiny? The abrasive immigration officer then politely responded to my concerns – getting the second passport. She said the second passport with fewer or no stamps would in all likelihood allow me to avoid the embarrassing separation from the rest of my plane.
Second, since I have been committed to extended stays in the Middle East, it takes limited time to make sure I had the correct visas and that they were valid on entry. More often than not, I found myself sending my US passport back to the US in order to get a visa. Scary thought, being in a foreign country without the only ID that shows I’m an American citizen. Basically you’re stuck until the passport comes back to the county.
So, the problem: to travel to fun and exotic places, you need visas, which will undoubtedly require you to send your passport for a short time. While your passport is somewhere, you are pretty much still and that limits you to a linear route. Again, having a second passport is a solution.
The US government allows independent travelers to obtain a second passport as long as you can demonstrate the need for it. This passport is valid for 2 years and you can have it replaced after two years if you can still demonstrate the need.
I’m just a simple Joe and I didn’t know if the government would put me on a secret list. So I filled out the few necessary forms and mailed my papers. Glad I spent this extra money, as I had no release for a few days and my two passports were quickly waiting at my apartment on the promised date.
I was flabbergasted and had a slight feeling of nostalgia to reproduce a scene from James Bond.
Having the second passport has already helped me on several occasions, being able to send the 10-year primary passports to different embassies (Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Israel, etc.) without too much worry because I have the 2-year secondary in safe in my pocket.
In fact, while the increased freedom of travel is good, the biggest benefit of having two passports is immense peace of mind. It has definitely allowed me to be more adventurous when traveling abroad and I have no more run-ins with immigration officials.
Ultimately, most people only need one passport. But if you are on the move, especially in countries requiring additional visas, I highly recommend it.