Dreams of A Diplomat: The Diplomatic Passport

by Juan Thomas
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“The bearer is abroad on a diplomatic assignment for the United States Government”

Today I got a chance to check a big-ticket item off my list of “Things I Need to Get Done Before I Leave for Bogotá”. Today, I made the trip to the Special Issuance Agency to pick up diplomatic passports for my family and I. Although we’re not leaving for Colombia until some point in the summer, I figured I would go ahead and get the process out of the way early…especially given the current COVID-19 pandemic situation. Initially, I went to my local post office to turn in the applications since SIA did present that as an option in these extraordinary times. But after a disastrous—and perhaps contentious—experience in which the “passport expert” postal worker literally didn’t know what the hell she was doing, I made an appointment for a personal appearance at SIA. Unlike the experience at the post office, which was an hour of wasted time, the experience at SIA was quick and easy. All of the paperwork was solid, the photos were good, and all of the identity verification was golden. Everything processed cleanly and the passports were actually ready 2 weeks ago, which was 2 weeks after the family and I made the personal appearance.

As U.S. Department of State Foreign Service diplomats, we—and our accompanying dependents—are issued diplomatic passports for official travel abroad…and in a lot of cases, for residency purposes. It’s the type of thing that’s so obvious, so mundane, so unassuming that if you’re in this game long enough you might take it for granted. But not me…at least no time soon. When I feasted my eyes upon the smooth black cover with the words DIPLOMATIC PASSPORT in gold, a feeling of excitement, accomplishment, and exclusivity came over me. I felt really excited for my son because it’s his first passport of any kind. I had myself a moment looking at him react to having his first official travel document.

Unless the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations sends me abroad into an immersion program, which though unlikely is nonetheless a good idea for entry-level Facility Managers, my first use of what is now the 2nd most important document I possess will be this summer at El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá.

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