AFSA has seen an increasing number of Foreign Service employees under investigation for possible misuse of their Diplomatic Passports (DPs). To ensure that our members understand the relevant rules for DPs, AFSA issues the following guidance.
DPs carry the same message from the Secretary of State as do any other passports, i.e. that their bearers be permitted “to pass without delay or hindrance” and be given “all lawful aid and protection.” However, they also announce that their bearers are abroad on diplomatic assignment with the U.S. government. While traveling abroad with such passports, DP holders not only have a special obligation to respect the laws of the country in which they are present, but they must abide by U.S. government and agency-specific standards of conduct.
In addition to reviewing the guidance below, we suggest all DP holders review the following material:
- 8 FAM 503.2, Travel with Special Issuance Passports (updated 6/27/2018)
- 18 STATE 6032, Proper Use of Special Issuance Passports (1/19/2018)
- 12 STATE 12866, Official and Diplomatic Passports – Notice to Bearers (2/11/2012)
- DPs may only be used while their holders are in positions which require such documents, i.e. during official business travel.
- A DP attests that the bearer is traveling on diplomatic/official business for the U.S. government or is an accompanying family member of such a person.
- DPs are authorized for any travel on government orders. For example, DPs may be used for R&R or medevac travel.
- TDY travel should be conducted with DPs and any required visas. DP holders are advised to check with the post in question regarding requirements for entry.
- DP holders should practice carrying both regular and diplomatic passports while on travel.
- DPs must be used when entering and exiting the holder’s country of assignment abroad and returning to the U.S. from the country of assignment. Regular (tourist) passports must be used for all personal travel.
- For all travel, we strongly advise carrying both diplomatic and regular passports and complying with instructions of local immigration authorities, even if those instructions are not necessarily in compliance with this guidance. If this or any other unusual situation occurs involving the use of diplomatic passports, please document the event for your records.
- U.S. diplomat assigned to Country A is taking a personal trip (tourist trip) with his/her family to Country B. The U.S. diplomat, and accompanying family members, must use the DPs for entering/exiting Country A. However, they must use their personal passports (“blue book”) for entering/exiting Country B. Whichever type of passport is used to enter a country must be used to exit that country.
- U.S. diplomat has completed his/her tour in Country A and is returning to the U.S. with his/her family. The U.S. diplomat and accompanying family members will use their DPs for leaving Country A and entering the U.S.
- U.S. diplomat assigned to Country A has an official meeting in Country B and then will travel to Country C for tourism. The U.S. diplomat must use the DP to exit Country A and enter and exit Country B. However, the diplomat must use his/her personal passport to enter and exit Country C. The DP will be used to re-enter Country A.
DPs Do Not:
- Confer diplomatic immunity.
- Exempt the bearer from foreign laws.
- Allow the bearer to carry classified or sensitive material across borders.
- Allow the bearer to avoid questions from foreign immigration or bypass security.
- Protect their holders from arrest, hazards of war, criminal violence, or terrorism.
- DPs may subject their bearers to increased scrutiny by foreign governments and other entities.
- Misuse of DPs may be investigated and prosecuted as a violation per 18 U.S.C. 1544.
- Employees who are found to have misused DPs may also be subject to disciplinary action.
- Many countries have visa requirements for DPs which exceed those for regular passports. Guidance can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/special-issuance-agency-home/en/spec-issuance-agency.html
- Taiwan: All travel to Taiwan by executive branch personnel must be with a regular passport. In addition, executive branch personnel who plan to travel to Taiwan for official purposes must have prior concurrence from the Office of Taiwan Coordination: (202) 647-7711.
More information can be found at the Special Issuance Agency page here.
We understand that the Department of State will issue its own guidance on this topic shortly.