What Is a Diplomatic Passport?
October 20, 2023
2 min. read
American passports are not all the same. Their cover and purpose differ. The diplomatic passport is not an exception to this rule. Its issuance is regulated and specified by the government.
Let’s learn all about a diplomatic passport, its meaning, benefits, and how to get it.
A diplomatic passport is an official identification document issued to a government official. This passport shaped like a book (not a card) is usually a document for traveling abroad on official government business and for foreign affairs used by diplomats, ambassadors, and other high-rank officials. It’s also commonly used by government officials stationed abroad.
Such a passport holder is responsible to follow their homeland government guidelines. When the holder is not required to travel any longer, such a passport must be returned to the sponsoring agency.
What do diplomatic passports look like?
The passport for diplomats can be easily traced by its dark shade which is very different from the regular passport or any other U.S. passport.
In other countries, diplomatic passports of course vary in tones and shades. Thus, an official passport issued in India is white, while their diplomatic passport is red. You can normally identify such a passport by its cover as it’s likely to say Diplomatic Passport.
With all the differences described, diplomatic passport and regular passport applications in the U.S. require a compliant photo. To manage the passport application process quickly, you can always get a passport photo at FedEx, a pharmacy, a store, or online with expert validation.
Diplomatic passports are approved and given strictly to officials with a diplomatic status for foreign affairs, which is an official function of interacting directly with the host country and obtaining the highest level of immunity. The positions that are usually entailed to apply for a diplomatic passport are members of Parliament, Constitutional Court and Supreme Court, religious affairs heads, generals and admirals, active or former presidents and prime ministers, etc.
Diplomatic passports for family members
It usually depends on the regulations and laws of a certain country whether the family members of a foreign diplomat are eligible for such a passport. However, commonly, once an official is granted a diplomatic passport, the immediate family qualifies for the document and benefits of a diplomatic passport.
There are quite a few benefits given to diplomatic passport holders. These are from bypassing basic travel regulations while crossing international borders, to diplomatic immunity, which regular passport holders do not have.
Typically, the advantages the officials might have depend on the immigration regulations of a foreign country they are traveling to or reside in. Either way, a diplomatic passport holder affords a lot of privileges. Some of them we mention below.
Immunity for diplomats
Legal immunity from regulations and prosecution is granted to diplomatic passport holders. The holder is released from the law at the discretion of the host country.
Identification as a foreign government representative
Host country authorities must be able to identify government officials from another country which is easily done with a diplomatic black passport.
No-visa entry to certain countries
Some countries allow diplomatic officials to enter the country visa-free thus speeding up immigration checks. However, it’s likely to happen in territories where diplomats have been granted diplomatic status.
Diplomatic airport channels
That is another privileged feature when a diplomat is exempt from following the airport protocol. It’s not withdrawn altogether, but bag search and identity proof will not delay their stay at the airport.
Moreover, other countries must provide entry to the diplomatic official to travel between the foreign mission and the home country under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR).
Diplomatic vehicle license plates
Diplomatic vehicle license plates are another privilege for diplomats. This way, the government official transport is easily identified.
Tax-free travel internationally
When traveling internationally by air or land, diplomatic passport holders are exempt from paying any tax.
Just like active or former presidents, royal families do need an official travel document. However, reigning monarchs can be exempt from that obligation. It’s a well-known fact that Queen Elizabeth II didn’t have a passport. The UK royal family official website explains “as a British passport is issued in the name of Her Majesty, it is unnecessary for The Queen to possess one.”
At the same time, in Vatican City, the Pope is entitled to a unique Holy See passport. However, Pope Francis renewed his official identification document in 2014 after being elected and continued to be identified as an average citizen.