What makes people keep or apply for more than one passport? We asked our followers and fans on Facebook and twitter if they have a second passport, and why.
After the Brexit vote, there was a rush of applications by UK citizens to get an Irish passport. We wondered if the same might apply in Switzerland, which is going through its own EU negotiations, or if other nationalities kept different passports for similar reasons.
Some readers like Patricia had various reasons for keeping different passports. But many of our readers told us that their reasons for having more than one passport was really about being able to belong to the place in which they live.
A sense of identity
“I was born in Switzerland, but as you know that doesn’t make me Swiss, as my parents are from abroad. I am therefore French but my parents had me naturalised when I turned 18. It was absurd to say ‘I’m French but I come from Switzerland’, to people who asked and didn’t really understand. The lack of a sense of belonging to a place made me focused on my identity.” Sophie A. (in French).
"Each of my children have three passports. My husband and I each have two but different nationalities. For children, it is up to them to choose to keep or return the passport when they are adults. I cannot decide for them. For my husband he loves both countries. For me, convenience is the reason.” Matilda S.
“Swiss and Kiwi [New Zealand] because we have two hearts, one beating for each country :-)” Leo S.
“I have two, US and Swiss. I only got my Swiss passport out of Swiss pride and almost always use my US passport.” Curtis F.
For others, practical reasons determined their choices.
“I’ve got three; Swiss, French and Australian. Swiss by birth, French from my mother and Australian by naturalisation. Travel with all three and it does help.” Christophe W.
“I had two [passports] for 12 years (after getting my Swiss), until I finally got around to going all the way to Bern to give up my US one in 2009…My kids have three each (CH, US, CDN), but are looking to give up the US due to the banking problems. I kept my US passport until my kids were adults, otherwise would have given it up sooner.” Tom O.
“Three citizenships (Switzerland, UK, Canada) but only one passport (Swiss), because renewing passports is tedious, expensive and not always indispensable.” Andrea V.
Urgency over symbolism
The fear that a change in your own legal right to remain in a country, or in a group of nations, can drive an urgent sense of the need to secure your legal status. As seen by Brits rushing to get Irish (ie. EU) passports, or foreigners in Switzerland rushing to apply to become Swiss.
In February 2016, Swiss voters rejected an initiative to enforce a previous ‘yes’ vote on the deportation of convicted foreigners. However it did not change the fact that people without a Swiss passport – a quarter of the Swiss population – who commit a serious crime (or two lesser crimes within ten years) could still be deported for up to 15 years.
The vote highlighted that foreigners face the potential threat of being thrown out of the country – if they commit a crime, of course. This, coupled with the ongoing uncertainty of how a vote to re-introduce quotas for EU citizens will be implemented has meant more non-Swiss who live in the country are applying to become Swiss.
Between January and May 2016 the State Secretariat for Migration recorded a 27.7% increase on naturalisations compared to the same period a year earlier. That’s 15,265 people who received Swiss citizenship within this timeframe. Since the beginning of the year, Italians, then Germans and the Portuguese were the biggest groups adding another passport to their nationality portfolio.
While multiple nationalities are not a problem in Switzerland, not all countries allow their citizens to hold more than one passport. Whether it’s for emotional or practical reasons, having more options to hand seems to make sense for many people.