Obtaining a diplomatic passport generally requires an application, passport photos, and orders or a statement outlining the need for such documentation. In most countries, these documents are issued to government employees and their authorized dependents who are traveling or assigned abroad on official state business. The sponsoring organization or government agency typically requests and receives an individual’s passport. These are no-fee passports, and can be used only when traveling overseas as part of the holder’s official duties.
The application process for a diplomatic passport can vary from country to country. Candidates generally are employed by their governments or are immediate family members or authorized attendants of such an employee. Diplomatic passports are issued to government employees who have to travel abroad to discharge their official duties. As a result, the application process will often include an interview with the secretary of state or issuing agency.
Candidates often begin the application process by completing a passport application. Passport photographs as well as proof of citizenship and other identification may also be requested. Holders rarely apply for and receive their passports as individuals. The request is usually submitted on behalf of the applicant by the sponsoring government agency, such as the military. In the United States, requests may also be made through the applicant’s federal congressional representative.
Holding a diplomatic passport does not grant or ensure diplomatic immunity or visa-free travel. Diplomatic immunity or freedom from prosecution under the host nation’s laws is not granted by the holder’s home country but rather by the host country. This privilege is granted with the understanding that immunity will be afforded to the host country’s diplomats reciprocally. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides the legal framework for diplomatic relations and has been ratified by 187 nations as of 2011. Some nations have yet to ratify the treaty, while others recognize only some provisions.
Individuals carrying a diplomatic passport as well as their authorized dependents usually have to obtain diplomatic visas if they are traveling on official government business. Those traveling as tourists, for example, do not need diplomatic visas. Diplomatic visas are typically reserved for those representing their national governments rather than state, province, or local entities.
In most cases, diplomatic visas must be obtained prior to travel and require an interview with a consular officer. Any authorized dependents, attendants, or employees who will be traveling with the government representative are often interviewed as well. Military personnel may also qualify for diplomatic visas under certain circumstances, such as undergoing military training.
There are online companies that claim to be able to secure diplomatic passports and diplomatic appointments for a large fee. They generally offer positions and passports from African and Oceanic nations. Some promise to secure ambassadorships or other positions like minister, consul, or attache.
These services are usually fraudulent because diplomatic documentation and passport agency appointments require no fee for qualified individuals. Unless the holder is an official government employee who requires documentation for travel in discharge of his or her duties, individuals do not need and should not be issued diplomatic passports or visas. Traveling with fraudulently obtained diplomatic credentials can incur severe legal penalties.