On Monday, one-time Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was arrested and charged with a plethora of offenses including conspiracy against the United States. But that isn’t even the craziest part of the story, as according to court filings Manafort not only possesses three separate U.S. passports, but he has also filed for 10 passport applications in as many years.
This move may be the nail in the coffin for Manafort’s ability to be released on bail as it shows he’s likely a significant flight risk, but is it even illegal to own more than one passport?
According to the National Passport Information Center, it’s actually perfectly legal for a U.S. citizen to own and obtain two U.S. passports — within certain guidelines.
An official from the State Department told CNN that "no person shall bear or be in possession of more than one valid or potentially valid passport of the same type (regular, official, diplomatic, no-fee regular, or passport card) at any time, unless authorized by the Department of State."
So when would someone qualify for, or need, a second U.S. passport?
If You Travel a Lot (and We Mean a Lot)
According to the State Department, a person who travels frequently for business may be approved for a secondary passport, especially if the stamps collected in his or her first passport will prohibit them from entering some countries.
As an example Valentina Meehan, owner of New York-based passport and visa expediting service Passport Plus, told CNN that if a passport contains stamps to Israel, countries like Lebanon and Libya may deny entry, thus the State Department may approve a secondary passport for frequent travelers to the Middle East.
If Your Passport Is Held Up in Processing
Another reason a person may obtain a secondary passport is because their first passport was held up in visa processing and they need to travel immediately.
"Sometimes your passport can be stuck with a consulate or embassy for weeks for a visa," Meehan told CNN. "Suppose you suddenly have to travel to Canada or Europe while you are waiting to get your passport back. Then you can apply for a second passport."
If You’re a Dual Citizen
The only other way to have multiple passports (and we're not talking just U.S. here) is if you happen to also be a citizen of multiple countries.
“Savvy travelers and business travelers want to make sure they have two passports based on nationality because there are certain advantages,” Jan Dvorak, president of Travisa, a passport services company in Washington, told the The New York Times.
As the Times pointed out, millions of Americans could qualify for a second passport from another country through ethnic heritage, religion, country of birth, or where their spouse was born. However, “The fact is people don’t think about it until it is pointed out to them,” Dvorak added, noting that some Americans “don’t realize that they actually have dual nationality.”
But there are downfalls to the multiple passport game. As Dvorak noted, anyone thinking of obtaining one from another country should first think through the unintended consequences, such as taxation and mandatory military service for passport holders in other nations.