Travel can be a tricky business. If you are trying to travel in Europe legally and you are not a resident in a country that is a member of the European Union, things can get hairy with visas, permits, and other red tape very easily.
How am I, a born and raised Canadian, able to travel in the EU so easily?
Because I have dual citizenship.
I hold a British passport as well as a Canadian one.
Having two legal nationalities is one of the biggest factors to influence my ability to travel. Every time I go to a new European place, I remind myself that I am fortunate to have dual citizenship.
I am a British passport holder because both of my parents were born and raised in Britain. They immigrated to Canada about 35 years ago, so I was born and raised in Canada by British parents. I qualify for a Canadian Passport because of my birthplace and parents, who hold Canadian Citizenship after living and working in Canada for so long, and I am eligible for a British passport because both of my parents are citizens there.
When I was eight years old, my family travelled back to Britain to visit family and friends, some of which my sister and I had never met before. However, my parents experienced a sudden revelation as they lined up with their British passports in the line for British Citizens… and my sister and I, age 11 and 8, queued behind the International Passports. After that, my parents resolved to get British Citizenship for us so we could always travel together and easily.
I am indebted to my parents for pursuing that option so strongly for me. I have friends who qualify for a second passport/nationality, but their parents did not chase up the option when they were children and it is a more difficult process now that they are adults.
Honestly, without my dual nationalities, a lot of formative experiences I have had may not have happened or would have been much more difficult.
Five Travel opportunities I chased with ease because of my dual Citizenship:
- Working abroad in summer placements
I was a co-operative education student at Brock University between September 2009 and June 2013, which means that each summer I could take a work placement relating to my studies. In the summers of 2010, 2011, and 2012, I worked as Camp Tutor for an Italian company called Lingue Senza Frontiere that run summer English-Drama Camps. This gave me a chance to work with drama, education, and languages. My first summer I went for only three weeks (one week of training and two weeks of camp), but the second summer I went for the whole summer, and for my third, I worked as a Camp Supervisor for June and July. I was able to work there without a work visa because my British Passport meant I was a citizen of the European Union and thus was eligible to work in any country that was a member of the EU.
- Studying abroad on exchange
After my first summer in Italy, the travel bug had officially bitten, and I wanted to travel more. My parents suggested a university exchange for a full year at another school in another country. At first, I thought I would spend the first term at one school (I was torn between Ghana and New Zealand) and the other half-term at another university in Britain, because Brock has a very specific Drama Theory class which could not be matched at any other institution… until the Exchanges Advisor informed me that Brock had struck up a brand-new institution-wide exchange agreement with Queen Margaret University near Edinburgh, Scotland. Some research showed me that they had a Drama Theory class… and the curriculum of that module matched the credit I needed! In the end, I went to QMU for the full year within their Drama and Performance Department and took 5 Drama classes, one Film class (which matched an English credit), and one sociology class (which matched a Gender Studies credit). This was so simple because my dual citizenship meant that I was already a British Citizen and didn’t need to apply for a student visa or work permit.
- Travelling for personal reasons
While working/studying abroad, I always found that I wanted to take the opportunity to see as much as possible while travelling. When working at English-Drama Summer Camp in Udine, Italy, I took the chance to visit Venice while I was only an hour away. Often host families I stayed with would either recommend sites to see or take me on weekend trips to see attractions or locations. I have had three different host families take me on weekend day trips or weekend holidays to a different country – because Europe is so small, it is so easy to cross borders. If you hold a passport from a country that is a member of the European Union, you can travel anywhere in the EU. With accessible cheap flights (such as Ryanair and Easyjet), public transport, car sharing and couch surfing, one can easily travel for business or pleasure within the EU. I went to Croatia for the weekend for my 19th birthday in June 2009, and because I had a British Passport, the border checkpoint didn’t bat an eye when we passed through. If I had tried to use my Canadian Passport, they may have asked more questions. When passing through the Italy-Switzerland border a few times for day trips, my British Passport meant I could come and go as I pleased with my host family without being stopped and questioned unnecessarily.
- Living and working long-term in another country
After graduating from University in mid-2013, I had a longing to return to Edinburgh, Scotland. I missed the city, the people, the atmosphere, and, of course, my friends there. So, after a few months of working and tidying up my life in Canada, I flew back to the UK and officially moved to Scotland in August 2013. My easy integration into the country was due to the fact that I was already a citizen! I had to register to vote, get a job, and start paying taxes, but once I was situated and contributing to society like a good little minion, that was that! A month of very little paperwork and only a few phone calls and letters had me legally settled in and functioning like any locally-born Scot or Brit! The ease of this transition is based on the fact that I already had the ‘right of abode’ within the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
- Keeping up with international friends/family/other connections
I often had a week or two to spare between gigs in different places – jobs or education courses or other movements – so I frequently took the opportunity to visit connections like family, friends, host families, fellow/former students or co-workers. Because of my dual-citizenship, I could suddenly pick up and go somewhere new, or re-visit a place I have been before, without needing to do any paperwork or declare my status at the airport as other Canadians must.
So, as you can see, travel has been a big part of my life in my late teens and early twenties. I don’t know what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t had these opportunities… and I likely would have struggled to experience the same travel freedom within Europe without my British-Canadian Dual Citizenship. It opened so many doors to me.
Do you hold more than one passport, and thus citizenship to more than one country? Do you think that has made a big difference in your life and your travel? Drop me a comment and tell me about it!
Did you enjoy this second “Somewhere” and tenth total post about Dual Citizenship and travel? You may like my first “Somewhere” and third ever post “Somewhere: Wanderlust and Long-Distance Love”, about travelling and being in a committed long-term long-distance relationship.
Thanks for dropping by!