What is a No-Fee Passport?
A no-fee passport is a specialized passport which is issued to someone who is traveling on official state business. No fee is charged for the document because the passport is required for international travel, rather than being obtained by choice. These passports come in several different styles, and they are limited to use on official business only, which means that many people with no-fee passports also have regular passports, known as tourist or fee passports.
A common type of no-fee passport is the diplomatic passport, which is issued to people who are assigned overseas on diplomatic missions. Official passports, used for official business overseas, are also no-fee. Some governments extend no-fee privileges to people obtaining regular passports for overseas service in organizations like the Peace Corps, thanks to cooperative agreements between service organizations and governments.
In order to apply for this type of passport, someone must fill out a special form and include the supporting materials needed for a regular passport, including a copy of a birth certificate, photographs, and proof of citizenship and identification. In addition, applicants must provide proof that they are entitled to a no-fee passport. Many governments issue these passports through agencies which are separate from the regular issuing agency, and people may be required to submit applications to special locations or mail applications to the national capital.
Once the passport is issued, someone can use it whenever he or she travels overseas on official state business. The passport must be endorsed with the appropriate travel visas, and travelers do not get special privileges when they use a no-fee passport. For example, they must be able to provide proof of immunizations and satisfy other entry requirements, and they are not entitled to diplomatic immunity. People who are uncertain about visa requirements should contact the embassy of the nation they intend to visit with a no-fee passport.
Some people carry both types of passport, in which case the tourist passport should usually be endorsed with visas at every location where the no-fee passport is stamped. People can also use the tourist passport alone, as for example when a Peace Corps member uses the no-fee passport to enter Ghana for service, and then travels to Zambia as a tourist, using the tourist passport for entry and exit visas in Zambia.
Is a no fee passport like an emergency passport? I would think that people who use them might be sent out of the country on short notice, and need to get their passports fast -- does the procedure work the same?
Just a warning to those traveling with second passports -- you will definitely have to allow extra time to go through customs.
Also, if you're carrying a second passport, there are special rules about declaring it. For instance, you can't just show them the one you're using for that particular trip, you have to declare that you have a second passport, and show it to the official.
A lot of people get in trouble because they just stuff the other passport in their checked baggage, but that is not correct, and can get you in a lot of trouble.
If you have any doubts, just ask about it whenever you get a new passport -- the official should be able to tell you what situations you have to show both of them in, and how to travel legally and properly with two passports.
How does the passport renewal process work with no-fee passports?
For instance, if someone needs to renew their official passport while they're out of the country, do they have to go through that same mountain of paperwork, or do no-fee passports have a different renewal process?
I know that sometimes in the states you can actually renew your passport online, but can you do that with a no-fee passport too?
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