Diplomatic passports and other travel documents that open doors

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(CNN) — Chances are you only have one passport – maybe two if you have dual nationality.

But if you find yourself in a particular position – diplomatic, investigative or even presidential – you risk getting your hands on documents completely inaccessible to the common people.

Here are some of the non-standard passports and passes.

Diplomatic passport

What is that? Diplomatic passports are issued to diplomats and government consuls posted abroad.

Thus, for example, the US Chargé d’Affaires in France, Brian Aggeler, will hold a diplomatic passport, as will the French Ambassador to the United States, Philippe Étienne.

What are the benefits? The visa requirement is often waived to ensure a smooth passage. British diplomatic passport holders, for example, get visa-free entry to China.
Diplomats also often appreciate diplomatic immunity (Note: this does not give free rein to commit any crime you like abroad). Family members of diplomats can sometimes also acquire a diplomatic passport.

What else? In the UK, there is a very special type of diplomatic passport, stamped with the Queen’s Messenger Service (QMS).

This is an elite group of couriers, who have been delivering classified diplomatic material for a few 800 years.
Meanwhile, there was controversy over Canadian diplomatic passports in 2017 when it was revealed the country may be handing out too many of them.

Presidential and Prime Minister passports

Job Benefits: US President Joe Biden doesn’t have to pay for his passport.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

What is that? To possess the noblest form of passport, you will need to work your way up to the position of President or Prime Minister. This is a unique variant of the diplomatic passport; the American president even has his profession emblazoned through it.

What are the benefits? Again, it’s hard to be specific.

When we asked the UK Home Office what Boris Johnson’s passport benefits might entail, they told us: “We don’t comment on individual cases.”

However, the VIP bearer probably does not need to have his passport with him; they also don’t need to queue at customs – other officials will deal with it. Another added benefit: Presidents and Prime Ministers do not pay for their own passports.
Nothing else? In 2015 an absolute snafu accidentally saw an Australian immigration officer send personal data by e-mail – including passport numbers – from Obama, Merkel, Putin and others to the organizers of the Asian Cup soccer tournament.

At least the culprit had his own protected identity; a press release from the Australian Department of Immigration read: “[Redacted] could not verify that Microsoft Outlook’s autofill function entered the correct person’s details in the ‘To’ field of the email.” Oops.

Official/special passport

What is that? Official passports (as they are called in the US and UK) or special passports (as they are called in Canada) are issued to senators, legislators, military officials, and various other government employees who are not strictly diplomats, but are required to travel to a foreign post or on official business.

What are the benefits? On paper, these passports do not offer any particular advantage. As the Government of Canada explains: “The official passport is not designed to give advantages to the bearer.

But while the official offices we spoke to were tight-lipped about the benefits, it seems some official passports give you star treatment; if you are in possession of one of the United States, for example, you are exempt from payment of visa fees.
Nothing else? Just as they can be issued, official passports can be revoked. In August 2021, 14 official passports belonging to Turkish Cypriot officials were would have resumed of them following a spat over the reopening of the former tourist hotspot, Varosha.

Interpol travel document

The Interpol passport was unveiled during the opening of the 79th session of Interpol's General Assembly in Doha on November 8, 2010.

The Interpol passport was unveiled during the opening of the 79th session of Interpol’s General Assembly in Doha on November 8, 2010.

Karim Jafar/AFP/Getty Images

What is that? Issued exclusively to Interpol employees, Interpol travel documents available in two formats: an electronic passport booklet and an electronic identity card (e-Identification Card).

Both are equipped with high-tech integrated circuits containing personal information such as fingerprints and a photo identical to that printed on the document itself.

What are the benefits? Travel documents came into being after Interpol’s 79th General Assembly in 2010. Pursuing criminals around the world is no easy task, and the Interpol Travel Document was designed to reduce bureaucracy by removing various visa requirements and accelerating the fate of the pursuer. .

Nothing else? Although we know that Interpol has approximately 1,000 employees, it is not clear how many have an Interpol travel document at hand.

Articles from recent years have myths dispelled about Interpol agents galloping around the world, kicking down doors and arresting bad guys. Much of the work is based on administration. As for this famous red notice: it is not really an arrest warrant.

United Nations laissez-passer (UNLP)

UN blue

The blue UN “Laissez-Passer” travel document.

Ralf Hirschberger/picture alliance/Getty Images

What is that? Members of the United Nations (UN), International Labor Organization, World Health Organization and various other organizations can get their hands on this document, which was first launched in 1946 and is became electronic in 2012.

There are two types of UNLP: blue pass and red pass (for higher rank members).

What are the benefits? The UN says holders of the red UNLP may well be “granted diplomatic privileges and immunities and diplomatic facilities when traveling on United Nations business”.

In some countries, this includes a visa waiver. Unlike many other passports on this list, the UNLP does not officially replace a national passport, but supplements it. Orders the UN: “The two documents must always be… carried together on official travel.”

Nothing else? The expression “pass” translates in the sense of “to let pass”. The term may have been used shortly after the Safe Conducts Act 1414, in which Henry V made it high treason for an international counterpart to break a promise to allow someone free travel through his country.

Documents called pass were also used during World War I to provide safe passage for refugees from war-torn areas.

When you are not required to have a passport at all

No passport required if you're Queen Elizabeth ll, seen here arriving in Fiji on her Silver Jubilee tour of the South Pacific in 1977.

No passport required if you’re Queen Elizabeth ll, seen here arriving in Fiji on her Silver Jubilee tour of the South Pacific in 1977.

Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Although most members of royal families still need a passport to travel, reigning monarchs may be exempt.

We know for certain that Queen Elizabeth II does not have a passport, because, as the official website of the British Royal Family states: “As a British passport is issued in Her Majesty’s name, it is not necessary for the Queen to have one.”

And the Pope?

As ruler of Vatican City, the Pope has a special passport from the Holy See.

But in 2014, shortly after his election, Pope Francis took the unusual step of renewing his identity card and passport, continuing to identify as an average Argentinian, not enjoying any particular privileges.

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