What Is A Diplomatic Passport?

A diplomatic passport is given to some civil servants whose role involves representing and negotiating for their government in other countries. Usually, but not always, similar status is provided to the family of a diplomat, if they are accompanying the diplomat on mission.

Diplomatic Passport

In the collective mind of the public, in part fueled by spy thrillers and James Bond, it is presumed that diplomats have some sort of free reign to behave as they like. Nothing could be further from the truth. The modern diplomatic services of the world are very ordered the representatives of a government are expected to adhere to the highest standards of conduct.

Who Is Eligible For A Diplomatic Passport?

The incredible power of modern databases and travel monitoring means that it is not normally possible to simply travel on a diplomatic passport. Normally, the diplomat will be accredited with the host country and if he or she travels elsewhere – either for work or personal reasons – they will do so with their normal passport. This means that a diplomatic passport is situational and applies only when it is required to apply.

There are also equivalent documents provided by some international organisations for their highest level members of staff. For example, both the United Nations and the European Union have such documents.

How Much Does A Diplomatic Passport Cost?

It may be that these documents are available for sale in some countries, perhaps in central Africa or island nations in the South Pacific, but it is not normally possible to buy a diplomatic passport. Their issuance is tightly controlled by most governments and bribery seems to be the most likely way to purchase one. As you might imagine, it would seem to be unlikely that it is possible to buy a diplomatic passport from a country like Canada, Denmark, France or the United States.

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What Is Diplomatic Immunity?

The idea behind diplomatic passports was to enable government representatives to be able to carry out their duties in other countries. In the modern world, this seems like it ought to be obvious, but hundreds of years ago, negotiations between kings or governments were often violent affairs. Safeguarding the representatives of the ruler was important.

The reality of international relations is that every government will always have staff and representatives in other nations at all times. If the rights of one country’s diplomats are somehow violated, it lays open the diplomats of the violator to potential problems in tit-for-tat reprisals. By enacting rules, all diplomats are hopefully safe all the time.

In 1961 the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations laid down the rules that are followed to this day. Almost all countries have ratified these rules.

In 1963 the United Nations put it’s own rules in place in the form of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. A consul is not normally a diplomat, so these rules respect the rights of a slightly different group of national representatives that will be operating in another country.

Can Diplomatic Immunity Be Waived?

Yes. The goal of immunity is to ensure that representatives and their families are not pressurized by other governments or organizations. However, if a diplomat commits a serious crime, it would normally be expected that their home government would waive their immunity. Not waiving immunity could lead to an international incident which few governments wish for. This also means that it is very unlikely that diplomatic immunity would extend to civil matters.

With that stated, there are some countries that refuse to waive their diplomatic immunity as standard practice.

How To Qualify For Diplomatic Immunity?

Let’s be honest, we all would like the idea of being able to qualify for diplomatic immunity ourselves, but alas, we aren’t going to be able to. As mentioned above, unless you are related to the royal family, are a member of the ruling government or it’s civil service, or bribed someone, you won’t be getting any immunity any time soon. Sorry about that.