FOLLOWING THE ROW ABOUT MAMA KANDEH’S ALLEGED REJECTED DIPLOMATIC PASSPORT APPLICATION; LET US TALK GAMBIAN DIPLOMATIC PASSPORTS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE.
By Pa Louis Sambou, Democracy Watch Gambia (D.W.G.)
- What is a diplomatic passport?
A diplomatic passport is a special type of passport and it is issued to individuals who travel or work overseas in official government capacity. The process of acquiring a diplomatic passport varies from country to country however it is complex and a number of individual circumstances are reviewed before the decision to issue is made.
- What are the benefits of a diplomatic passport?
There are enormous benefits associated with being in possession of a diplomatic passport such as:
Ø Easy passage at borders;
Ø Waiving of visa fees where such is required;
Ø Eased visa restrictions;
Ø Diplomatic immunity when in a foreign jurisdiction;
Ø Exemption from baggage searches;
Ø No foreign tax liability on various income sources;
Ø Door opener in political and business environments;
Ø 20% – 40% discount on BMW and Volvo diplomatic cars.
Occasionally, diplomatic passports are used to protect the safety and privacy of certain individuals travelling to trouble or conflict zones where travelling with a normal passport could give away information which may put them in harm’s way.
- Who are diplomatic passports issued to?
Diplomatic passports are generally issued through a country’s foreign ministry; they are normally issued on application by the sponsoring government department to public office holders who may be required to regularly perform official travels in line with their roles and responsibilities. Occasionally, the same privilege is accorded the spouse of holders and their dependents where such is necessary.
- Does a diplomatic passport holder travel visa free?
The notion that diplomatic passport holders do not require visas to travel around the world is a myth. All diplomatic passport holders including heads of states will require a visa to travel to countries which require them to be in possession of one prior to travelling. However, in most cases visa fees and certain visa application restrictions are waived for diplomatic passport holders.
Currently, Germany’s diplomatic passport is the most powerful in the world – holders can travel to 191 (one hundred and ninety-one) countries visa free. That of Afghanistan and Somalia are the least powerful with visa free destinations of just 43; The diplomatic passport of The Gambia avails visa free travel to 84 destinations worldwide and is ranked 69th alongside Saudi Arabia and Botswana.
- Which destinations can a Gambia diplomatic passport holder travel to visa free or visa on arrival?
Anguilla, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Cook Islands, Ivory Coast,, Djibouti, Dominica, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Macau, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Palau, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia.
- Destinations which Gambia diplomatic passport holders can travel to visa free but with advanced electronic authorisation?
Gabon, Georgia, India, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe.
Gambian diplomatic passport holders including the President will require visas to travel to all other destinations including United States, United Kingdom, European Union countries, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and a whole host of other countries totalling 139 (one hundred and thirty nine).
- What type of passport do other high profile public office holders who are not in possession of a diplomatic passport hold?
There are generally three types of passports: Diplomatic; Official / Service and ordinary passports. With that said, most other high profile public officials not in possession of a diplomatic passport may be issued official / service passports. A service passport may not avail the same benefits as a diplomatic one but it also certainly eases visa and travel restrictions and holders may enjoy diplomatic immunity when in foreign jurisdictions.
Currently, The Gambian service passport is ranked 70th and holders can travel visa free to 81 countries.
- How many countries can an ordinary Gambian passport holder travel to visa free?
An ordinary Gambian passport is ranked 71st worldwide and holders can travel to the following 71 countries visa free:
Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Comoros, Cook Island, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Dominica, Ecuador, Fiji, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Montserrat, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Palau, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Swaziland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu.
Sources: http://www.diplomaticconsulting.com, http://www.mysecondpassport.com/4857/obtain-diplomatic-passport/, https://www.facebook.com/ImmigrationKenya/posts/352313264951948, http://www.peacefmonline.com/pages/local/news/201411/223695.php, http://www.visasouthafrica.org/blog/diplomatic-passports/, http://atlanta.consulfrance.org/spip.php?article2746, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=1019&top=16, https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/diplomat-foreign-government-official.html, https://www.quora.com/Do-high-ranking-leaders-and-diplomats-have-to-deal-with-immigration-and-customs-bureaucracy-when-travelling-internationally, https://travelfreedom.io/diplomatic_passport/gambia/