Too many Passports in the Family

A couple of years ago I had a little blog post about the various passports in our family. Back then I thought it was rather amusing to have so many different ones but by now I have changed my mind.

I have both the Finnish and the German nationality and this also applies to both kids Nathan and Nathalie. They got both nationalities due to jus sanguinis which is applied both in Germany and in Finland. I on the other hand have both nationalities as my father is German and my mother in Finnish. But as my wife is Chinese and maintains her Chinese passport both kids are by Chinese law also Chinese citizens. However as China does not recognize dual citizenship they are per se really Chinese. Some smart people in some higher ranks in China probably realized that this is not such a great idea to just say no to such interracial kids and thus they soften the regulations and voila the Chinese travel document was created. At the beginning it was only valid for two years but by now (at least according to our embassy visit in 2018) our kids can (re)apply for it untill they are turn 18.

Just a few of the passports in our collection by now

Alright so we got now actually three Nationalities for the kids (kind of three, more like 2 1/2 right now with the travel document). This all sounds pretty nice to have especially when traveling as the Finnish and the German Passport belong to the most powerful ones in some rankings. It basically means that they have one of the most visa free travel rights around the globe. Really great isn’t it? Well that is till you actually travel somewhere as a family. No we do not take all the passports with us as that would be just madness. But alone for the two kids we need to have already 4 Passports with us! Especially when we are at the check-in/ luggage drop at the airport things can get a bit messy. For example last year in Japan (Osaka) the check-in took nearly an entire hour for us as the staff was just too confused with all the documents we had with us. To make it even worse for the staff we had not checked beforehand which passports we took with us. This means that Nathan and Nathalie had both their German passport and the Chinese travel document with them. But what was so confusing for the staff was the fact that I had only my Finnish passport with me and they could not quiet understand how the kids can have the German passport but non of the parents have one!

What is my nationality?

For this years’ trip to China (and perhaps Thailand) we will make sure to take the “proper” passports with us. Meaning that the kids and I have all the German papers with us in order to not overly confuse any staff at the airports. Besides this year my father won’t be coming with us so there will be one less passport to handle. I never imagined back in the day that the whole passport matter could cause trouble at the airports. I did started to realize it first time when applying two years ago for a Visa for China here in Germany and I brought only my Finnish Passport along. Oh what trouble that was as I had to bring a paper from my hometown stating that I am a registered foreigner even though I am actually German but just could not prove it at the Visa Center.

Did ever run into any troubles at an airport?

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33 thoughts on “Too many Passports in the Family”

  1. Wow, that’s complicated!

    The only similar situation I’ve ever had is that Israel wants me to have their passport instead of American, but I really don’t feel like doing the paperwork so I’d rather just not go there again

    1. Oh so Israel wants you to get rid of the American and have only theirs then?
      A friend from University had the Finnish, American and Isreali passport.
      Anyhow the paperwork is always a mess and I am not looking forward renewing my German passport

      1. I don’t know if they expect me to get rid of my American one, but they said last time that I must use an Israeli passport to visit and I can’t just claim America anymore.

        I generally assume that when having multiple passports, it is best to not tell the other countries ☺

  2. OMG. As soon as I started reading I began to imagine the potential horror of it all…

    I had to get my US passport renewed when I was in Cambo, so I flew to the capital to apply and later to pick it up. Great, right? But then I realized that I needed to carry both at all times of travel because Imm wanted to see what passport had my original visa. Even though my new passport had my new visa, they sometimes asked to see the visa that I originally entered on.

    This became a real stressful situation when I was applying for visa renewals or work permits because everything had to be mailed to the capital and my work didn’t always request both passports – until it was too late. So then I had to send the other one and wait on pins and needles because I needed my passports to travel. I also did not enjoy being without my MOST important identifications and in the ‘developing country’ mail system.

    So I got used to carrying the dang things and they are bulky. So, I can only imagine the weight and bulk all your passports take. Super crazy.

    You better email me if you come to Thailand!!! πŸ˜›

    1. Oh that sounds terrible and it just reminded me that I was in a similar situation once!
      Back in the day I only had a temporary Finnish passport and I got elected for the National team to participate at the Youth European Champs. Well my temporary passport expired just few weeks before the competition so I had to apply for a new one. Thing was though that I was at a training camp in Spain for several weeks so I had to coordinate it somehow with my parents that they somehow applied for a passport in Germany for me at the Finnish embassy. Then I also had to carry both passports as the numbers were all different and it was such a messy sitation for a few years

      1. Yes. I used to covet those American-Thais with both passports, but now, I’m beginning to change my mind. I think when things enter a grey area folks at borders, or whoever, can make your life more difficult for no or little justification at all.

        Of course, it’s a blessing, too, right? There are perks. But I think if there is room for confusion…expect it! GAH!

  3. My family all have US passports, so no problem there. Once, though, the US immigration officer took a long time examining my passport and comparing it with a list he had, which made me suspect that someone (a criminal? a terrorist?) named Nicole Chen was at that time on the watchlist.

    1. Oh that reminds me on a story a friend had in the USA when travelling there. He (half German half Arabic) was sustained at the airport for a day till they released him. Later he found out that his name was on a watchlist but the person they were after was 30 years older…

  4. So many passports for your family, Timo. You have to be careful about showing which passport at the check in and then later at the immigration πŸ˜› When I was younger, I had multiple passports and identification cards across Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. Always confused the airport staff and they asked a lot of questions XD

    1. Haha I can really imagine their confused faces when confronted with so many ID’s πŸ˜€
      So how is your situation now? I remember that you have the Australian citizenship and Malaysia didnt allow back then dual citizenship, any changes by now?

      1. Yeah, the airline staff get so confused when they see my parents with the Malaysia passports and me with the Aussie passport when we travel…because different passport requires different visa, different immigration forms etc. πŸ˜€ Had to choose one. Been traveling with the Australian passport now as it is the more powerful one πŸ˜€

  5. Seems like a lot of passport and hell lot of confusion and trouble while traveling πŸ˜€ But as for your kids its something they can boast about when they grow up πŸ˜›

      1. πŸ˜€ I think they will start appreciating it, once they grow up and see what are perks of having so many passports πŸ˜‰

      2. For me one of the perks was free university education in Finland / actually even getting monthly payments for studying there. However a downside was the military service I had to do in Finland and Nathan will face the same once he is 18/ done with high school

      3. I think every coin has two sides πŸ˜‰ depends if the pros win over cons or not πŸ˜€ and for your kid, its long time before he turns 18 πŸ˜›

  6. Hahaha, do you have a special purse to put all the passports? It does sound like a pain in the ass during passport checks in airports.
    I will also need to get the travel permit for Baby A. when we go to Spain. But the one you can get within China is only valid for 3 months… so annoying. So basically we will have to get a new one every time we want to get out of the country.

  7. I have two passports… although I travel almost exclusively on my British one because the South African one is essentially useless. My son could have both but I have not yet gotten around to registering him as a South African citizen. Prior to becoming a naturalised British citizen I cannot tell you how many times I was questioned at airports but now I just get waved through. I wonder if Brexit will change that.

    1. Oh yeah the Brexit will bring some changes to the whole system I believe but right now no one really knows how it will all work out.
      I got my first Finnish passport when I was 16 as back then you needed to apply for it before turning 18 or something like that, or lose the chance to ever apply again. Well the Finnish Passport helped me tons over the years + I got free University in Finland thanks to it (but also had to attend Finnish Military Service…)

  8. It’s so cool that your kids can boast of three personalities! It’s quite unique 😊 But I guess it will take them some years to realize and appreciate that hehe. Is the travel document from China the same status as a normal passport/nationality?

    1. The Travel Document is accepted as a normal passport, at least last year for us. So we basically used that one when travelling in Asia but we always had as a “backup” their German passports if anything wouldnt work out

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