I’m heading home next weekend for a few days and had a sudden panic that one of my passports had expired so I’ve just had a quick check to make sure. All’s well, neither of them expire until at least 2015.
Neither of them? Yes, I have an American and a British passport. I have dual nationality and so do the boys. So when we travel as a family, we take seven passports, two each for the boys and I and one for Danny. He’s the only member of our family who is purely American and he refuses to become British as well, claiming some excuse such as having to pay more tax but it’s just a ploy, he doesn’t want to become one of the Queen’s subjects.
Keeping an eye on the expiration date for one passport is bad enough, try seven. When getting ready for a trip to the US once, we realized our oldest son’s British passport had expired. After our vacation we entered the UK knowing full well we’d have to bring him into the country on his American passport. The Immigration officials were not impressed by this and told us they would allow him to enter the country on his American passport but he would only be allowed to stay for three months. We agreed to that. What were they going to to? Come and get him in three months and ask a British citizen to leave the country?
Renewing passports can be challenging too. In the UK we needed to visit the American Embassy to renew our children’s passports. Visiting the US Embassy in London is exhausting with their high security measures, long queues and incredible bureaucracy. On our visit to renew our son’s passport when he was four, we finally got to see someone behind the counter; he then leaned over and asked my son who we were. Declan looked at us and told him that we were ‘Lorna and Danny.’ I was so shocked; he’d never referred to us by our first names before and this was not the time start. Luckily the Embassy guy re-phrased the question: ‘What do you call them?’ Thank goodness my son answered correctly, ‘Mummy and Daddy.’ We were saved and the passport was renewed.
There is a benefit to doing the passport shuffle. It means you can always use the Nationals lane and avoid the long queues. When arriving in the Immigration area of an airport, we always assess which is the quicker line. If you’re arriving into the UK on a British Airways flight, there will be more British people on board and so the Nationals queue will be busy. If you arrive on an American Airlines flight, it’s full of Americans and they fill up the other line. Which ever is the small queue, we go to it.
The nicest thing is being welcomed home into either country. If the immigration official is in a good mood, they often say ‘Welcome Home.’ I’ll leave LAX as an American next week and arrive in the UK as a Brit, somewhere across the Atlantic at 40,000 ft, I’ll make the switch.
Lorna Harris is a a British native living in Orange Country, California. She writes about her life in the US, her family, travels and what she misses about the UK (and why it’s better - sometimes) on her blog Califlorna.
Photo Credit: Author's Own.