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DIPPRIV2400 - Diplomatic bags: diplomatic couriers

Diplomatic bags are often accompanied by an official courier. It is the responsibility of the courier to present the diplomatic bag to UK Border Force Officers prior to removal from the place of importation. If a courier attempts to remove a diplomatic bag prior to presentation you should draw their attention to the FCO guidance reproduced at DIPPRIV9100 and report the matter to the VAT International Team for notification to the FCO.

Couriers are entitled to personal inviolability and must not be searched, arrested or detained. However, they do not have any personal customs privileges and must declare all dutiable goods and conform to the regulations for prohibitions and restrictions in the normal manner.

All official couriers must carry:

  • an official document of identification or a special couriers passport
  • an official document from the sending state or mission stating the number of packages making up the diplomatic bag

Under normal circumstances the personal baggage of a courier should be cleared after declaration without examination. However, where a strong reason exists to suspect abuse of their status, authority to examine should be sought from the Protocol Directorate at the FCO in the first instance or the VAT International Team.

Diplomatic bags in the custody of an aircraft captain

Although captains of normal commercial aircraft may be entrusted with a diplomatic bag they do not receive the same status as an official courier. A diplomatic bag in the custody of an aircraft captain must be accompanied by an official document indicating the number of packages constituting the diplomatic bag for presentation to UK Border Force Officers.

Accompanied diplomatic bags will not normally appear on the flight manifest and can be released without a formal customs entry document.

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Diplomatic bags and couriers in transit through the UK

All diplomatic bags and couriers in transit through the UK have the same degree of inviolability as those destined for the UK.