Many wrongly assume diplomatic passports given to important government officials automatically come with diplomatic immunity. This is simply NOT true.  This is because of the limited understanding on the diplomatic rules and engagement.

One must clearly understand that diplomatic passports do not offer automatic diplomatic immunity. Only certain class of diplomats receive this benefit.

Infact diplomatic passports are more weak compared to ordinary passports.

What is a Diplomatic passport?

Diplomatic passport are special type of passports issued to diplomats of a country and their accompanying dependents for official international travel and residence on government duty.

The rules concerning issue of diplomatic passports, is governed by 1961 Vienna Convention.  It specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country.

Article 8 of Vienna convention explicitly mentions who can be appointed as diplomats

  • Members of the diplomatic staff of the mission should in principle be of the nationality of the sending State.
  • Members of the diplomatic staff of the mission may not be appointed from among persons having the nationality of the receiving State, except with the consent of that State which may be withdrawn at any time.
  • The receiving State may reserve the same right with regard to nationals of a third State who are not also nationals of the sending State.

Diplomatic Rights

  • The Diplomatic immunity given to members of diplomatic missions and diplomatic couriers from arrest and prosecution for any criminal offence.
  • The premises and diplomatic bags of the mission are inviolable and cannot be entered unless privilege is waived. Search or seizure of bags of diplomats in airports is forbidden under vienna convention.
  • Diplomats also live tax free, but there are exceptions.
  • Separate diplomatic entrance gates at airports.

Diplomatic Restrictions

.We will clarify the restrictions that apply for diplomats and passport holders

  • Diplomatic passports is only given to citizens. Non-citizens and foreigners do not qualify
  • Diplomatic passports can ONLY be used for travel to country where they are assigned and only for government duty.  Prior notification of arrival and final departure on appointment of diplomats must be notified before through diplomatic channels.
  • Diplomatic passports cannot be used for personal travel. If a diplomatic agent passes through or is in the territory of a third State, which has granted him a passport visa if such visa was necessary, while proceeding to take up or to return to his post, or when returning to his own country, the third State shall accord him inviolability and such other immunities as may be required to ensure his transit or return.
  • Diplomats cannot claim immunity outside the country where there are assigned. That is if you are assigned for official work in Singapore, you cannot claim immunity when in Canada.
  • Diplomatic immunity cannot be used as a shield for engaging in corruption and criminal activities. The immunity of diplomats can be waived  or revoked by the sending state. If a person with immunity is alleged to have committed a crime or faces a civil lawsuit, the state asks the home country to waive immunity of the alleged offender so that the complaint can be moved to the courts
  • A diplomatic agent shall be exempt from all dues and taxes, personal or real, national, regional or municipal, except taxes on private income from commercial investment, taxes on private property, court fees etc
  • A diplomatic agent shall not in the receiving State practise for personal profit any professional or commercial activity.

Ordinary Passports

  • Only citizens are given ordinary passports
  • No permission required to travel or leave the country
  • Travel anywhere unrestricted through any country for holidays, business, tourism etc.. Most countries require atleast 6 months validity before passport expiry
  • Embassy or consulate available for assistance incase passport is lost.
  • Passport validity is usually 5 or 10 years.

Keeping in mind with all these restrictions, ordinary passports issued to foreigners through naturalization or citizenship by investment schemes are so much better when it comes to travel freedom. They can travel anywhere where there are visa waiver agreements

Sometimes being an ordinary citizen is so much better than somebody who is important person.