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According to this Guardian quiz, the British monarch is not required to have a passport. The question asks "Which of these things does the Queen not need to have?" and gives the options: "A driver's licence", "A licence plate on vehicles", and "A passport". The correct answer is:

All of the above That's £75.50 saved every few years not having to renew a passport for a start. The Queen learnt to drive in the military in the 1940s but is not formally required to have a licence, and is able to drive in unmarked vehicles

image of the relevant Q&A from the quiz

I can understand the first two since both a driver's licence and vehicle licence plates are internal state matters and a state can decide to do whatever it wants with them. However, a passport, while also issued by a state, is a document that is required by other states to let you travel.

The official site of the British Royal Family states that:

As a British passport is issued in the name of Her Majesty, it is unnecessary for The Queen to possess one. All other members of the Royal Family, including The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales, have passports.

That's all well and good, but I don't understand how the UK can waive the requirement here. Surely it is up to the country the monarch is traveling to to decide whether or not they have the required documents to be allowed entry. So is this actually true, does the Queen of the UK not require a passport and, if so, what's the legal basis for it? Can't another country refuse her entry for lack of a passport or is there some sort of global law/regulation that allows any head of state to travel without the proper documentation?

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    Whenever the Queen travels anywhere, that is an official visit. She cannot simply travel in her private capacity. Such things are individually arranged between governments.
    – o.m.
    Jun 1, 2022 at 19:26
  • o.m. You mean she can’t just go to Disneyland if she feels like it? (Not that I think anyone would stop her, but still).
    – gnasher729
    Jun 2, 2022 at 14:08
  • I dont know for certain but I think calling the queen of england the head of state is a bit dubious. The only real power she has is to be able to dissolve parliament but she only gets that power in certain circumstances.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 2, 2022 at 17:23
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    @NeilMeyer yes, many head of state (which is not the same as the head of government) positions are ceremonial. Nevertheless, the UK monarch is the head of state.
    – terdon
    Jun 2, 2022 at 22:10
  • @NeilMeyer She still has lots of power, even if she is rarely seen using it. She has "secret" veto power over laws and is the only person in the world who has the sole authority to launch a thermonuclear strike.
    – User65535
    Jun 3, 2022 at 14:04

3 Answers 3

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I recognize that this is asking for specific laws, but from a practical perspective, consider that:

  1. The Queen— or these days, the King— is unlikely to show up in another country unannounced. There will have been days and weeks (and possibly months) of preparations for the visit, ensuring that security details are available and transportation, and all of these things.

  2. These preparations will include working with the receiving country to ensure that they are ready to receive His Majesty. While His Majesty is in transit, aides will be coordinating with officials at the port of entry so that there will be little question of the exact moment of his arrival. This means that there will be little question of the King's identity at the border.

  3. To say that participating in all the to-do of coordinating the visit only to deny entry to the King upon his arrival would be a major diplomatic incident would be an understatement. Such a refusal would surely be seen as an open insult to the entire Commonwealth.

So, practically speaking, it is almost inconceivable that the British monarch would get turned away at the border for lack of a passport. The receiving country will find some way to do without.

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My understanding is that officially a passport is document issued by the origin state extending the protection of that state to the individual the holds it. Originally it would only be given to official representatives of the state.

The queen IS the state. She has ultimate authority over the armed services, and it is her protection that is being extended by a passport. She does not require any further protection to be extended to her, as she is the source of the protection.

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  • The factual answer is probably that everybody knows her face and that she wouldn't be traveling to another country in a whim. But strictly legally speaking, why wouldn't she be required to present a passport document, even if it's signed and issued by herself ? Jun 3, 2022 at 13:55
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    @Gouvernathor I guess that will be a question for the individual countries being visited. From the other answer it seems the US does not require it.
    – User65535
    Jun 3, 2022 at 14:06
  • This explains why, from the UK/Commonwealth's point of view, the king/queen doesn't need a passport. But it doesn't address why other countries would agree, particularly given statutory entry requirements. There are hundreds of countries in the world; are you really saying that every one of them has a "except monarchs" provision in their laws?
    – Sneftel
    Apr 25 at 8:59
  • Preventing the King from entering your country is likely a "career limiting" move. The guys at the border will try to get around this somehow. There doesn't have to be anything in their laws. For example, in Germany you would expect a series of phone calls eventually reaching the foreign minister or the minister of interior, and they would say "let him in".
    – gnasher729
    Apr 25 at 16:21
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To take the case of the US, 8 USC 1185(a) says that

Unless otherwise ordered by the President, it shall be unlawful— (1) for any alien to depart from or enter or attempt to depart from or enter the United States except under such reasonable rules, regulations, and orders, and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may prescribe

The law does not specify that a passport is required for entry, and until recently Canadians could enter with only a driver's license. The requirement for a passport comes from the regulations set by the president. One regulation allows for an individual waiver, and 22 CFR 21.2-3 has a more extensive set of exceptions listed where a passport is not required, which includes individual-case waivers. The primary requirement for alien entry is a visa, not a passport. This does not mean that the US could not deny the Queen of England entry if it chose to, but that would be a political decision. The matter gets slightly more complex if the Queen or other head of state is traveling in an official capacity to the UN, since the US does have special obligations under Article 105 (2) of the United Nations Charter to admit representatives of member states, also under Art. IV, Section 11(d) of 1946 General Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN, representatives are exempt from immigration restrictions.

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