In October 2019, it was time to say goodbye. The old protocol cards, which had been printed on paper and laminated, had become technologically obsolete. They are being replaced by a new format that looks strikingly like the national identity cards: credit card sized, made of plastic and forgery-proof. By 2022, all foreign diplomats in Germany will have received a modern protocol card, which will serve as proof of their status in Germany. That is when the very last of the old cards will become invalid. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Nikola Eterović – the Vatican City’s representative in the Federal Republic of Germany – was issued the very first protocol card with the new format.
Who is issued these cards?
Protocol cards serve as proof of the status of diplomats and other individuals, such as members of staff of consulates or international organisations. This is because diplomatic passports do not automatically grant the bearer a special status or immunity. On principle, that does not occur until the individual has been registered on the host country’s diplomatic or consular list. The protocol card therefore serves as proof to all German authorities that the bearer holds this special status. Other countries, too, issue similar IDs to diplomats. Their design differs, depending on the country.
How the card works
In daily life, special rules often apply for diplomats. Also, not every public official or office knows what the various diplomatic passports issued by countries around the world look like. That is where protocol cards as uniform documents come in.
They document the card holder’s special status in the Federal Republic of Germany and indicate that he or she does not require a residence permit. In combination with a valid national travel document (diplomatic, service or ordinary passport or similar document), the protocol card also entitles the bearer in principle to enter all Schengen states and remain in them for up to three months.