Only three people in the world travel passport-free

Originally published at: Only three people in the world travel passport-free | Boing Boing


That sounds like travelling with a particularly eccentric diplomatic passport. Even the language around the secretary of state requesting that whoever it may concern please pass without delay or hinderance and provide relevant aid and protection is very passport-y.


The fact that there are plenty royal houses that don’t deem this necessary shows how arrogant this behaviour is. Or jingoistic is maybe the better term, since arrogance by a head of state towards other countries is rooted in jingoism.


In the late 80s, I was living in Tokyo and ran into Garry Davis of the World Service Authority. He travelled on a sort of homemade passport and somehow managed to be admitted to a bunch of countries. This was right after the Tienanmen massacre, and he said he was issuing a lot of “world passports” to Chinese students living in Japan.


How would that even work, though?

I mean, it’s not like the UK can simply decree that Charles doesn’t need a passport and any other country needs to honor that in any way shape or form.

“Our King doesn’t need a passport to enter your little country!”
“Yes he does or piss off.”

Right? The details about how they have their private secretaries contacting other countries and notifying and arranging travel makes it sound like it’s actually just international travel with extra steps. Instead of them needing to sully their dainty little royal hands with some paperwork, their underlings do it for them. I’d assume lots of heads of state do that, right?

It’s not like Justin Trudeau would have to delay international travel because he’s looking for his passport, right?


That you need a passport internationally is of course not universally the case. In some cases, an ID card will be just fine. I, as a German, can travel to Ireland with my ID card, for example. Between the countries of the Schengen agreement (which does not apply to Ireland), you can (usually) travel without any border controls (although I think technically you need to have your ID card – or if you don’t have one, your passport – in your possession when you cross borders).


When a head of state travels abroad they generally travel under the protective blanket of diplomatic immunity, meaning that the host country is exempting that person from local laws as a gesture of international goodwill under the assumption that the person with that immunity won’t abuse the privilege. For example, if Biden travels to Saudi Arabia they aren’t likely to arrest him for having wine aboard Air Force One.

So in practice it’s less about what the UK does or does not decree than about whether the countries the King travels to decide to indulge his government (as most do).


How many heads of state travel internationally without prior co-ordination with the government of the destination country? Not having a passport might be arrogant, but I don’t see how it would have any practical consequences.


Interesting fellow!

See also the NSK State, whose passports have apparently saved lives by facilitating border crossings during several crises.


When most people are asked for identification and flash some paper currency it could be interpreted as a bribe. When the King does it he’s just showing his photo ID.


So you’re telling me the Pope has a passport :smiley:


It’s actually (!) four people.

But you ain’t seen me, right?


Though they do have to travel inside a diplomatic pouch.


He’s a regular guy


I have a diplomatic pooch…

Would that do?


You probably underestimate how many countries Charles is king of - he is still head of state of more of the world than anyone else - refusing him would be cutting your foot off to spite your toe.

Before the ‘it’s in name only’ - yeah all the laws and ‘norms’ were the same in the US until Trump - it only takes one King to act like a King and unless you rebel or have a civil war nothing on paper will matter.

The 56 countries in the British Commonwealth are Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Dominica, Eswatini, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, The Bahamas, The Gambia, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Zambia.


For the UK, I figured that the (late) Queen Elizabeth didn’t need a drivers license or passport since these documents were issued to others “…under her name and authority of the crown” and having “issued one to herself” would have been a pointless exercise.


high quality GIF

The British monarch isn’t an absolute monarch, and anyone of the commonwealth countries can drop out if they like. Barbados just did that, in fact.


It’s kind of funny that this amounts to: “Our country’s rules say this particular person doesn’t need this particular piece of paper when traveling to your country,” and every other country saying, “Well, okay.” (Except, in reality, given the levels of inter-national cooperation necessary for any sort of visit, other countries have plenty of room to say, “Nah, we’re not having them,” in cases where the countries aren’t feeling friendly.) In effect, I suppose it’s not really any different from the President of the United States (or any other leader who requires a lot of coordination between governments) going somewhere.

It’s really just an impediment for these particular royals - they can’t go anywhere without officials from their country and the country they’re visiting having a lengthy logistical conversation (which means, if the other country wants, it’s pretty easy to keep them out or delay their visit, etc., even in situations when regular citizens have free movement between the two countries). The queen of England couldn’t go anywhere without the governments of two countries hashing out the details in advance, whereas the queen of Sweden could just grab her passport and go to another country on a whim, on the other hand. To look at it another way: everyone else can travel with just a passport, but these particular royals require high-level officials of their governments to personally vouch for them and make negotiations every time they want to go anywhere.

(I suspect it’s not a coincidence that the two countries concerned are islands, where travel was traditionally difficult. The king of, say, The Netherlands would be unreasonably hemmed in by these sorts of rules, so doesn’t have them.)

The three people covered by this rule: Tom Thumb, Thumbelina and Issun-bōshi.

Huh, popes are dual-citizens and I suspect when he travels, it’s just like other heads of state. He may have gone through the regular processes to get a new ID, but I rather think he never actually travels “as a regular Argentine” because that would be impossible given the level of coordination required between states every time he goes somewhere. (Also, I don’t think he needs a B1/B2 visa when the comes to the US, for example…)


Doesn’t that apply to every head of state? In theory a head of state with a regular or diplomatic passport can travel independently, but in practice they don’t go anyway without extensive advance planning, especially with regard to security.