Have you ever wondered about the world’s most exclusive passport, held by only a handful of individuals on the globe?
This is the passport of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), a Catholic institution that dates back to 1113, making it one of the oldest organizations in the Christian world.
This passport is not your typical travel document. The SMOM, although having diplomatic relations with over 100 countries, doesn’t govern any land. Instead, it’s dedicated to global humanitarian initiatives, offering medical aid far and wide. But here’s where it gets interesting: while the Order comprises over 13,500 knights, dames, and chaplains, plus tens of thousands of volunteers and medical staff, fewer than 500 diplomatic passports were in circulation as of 2018.
Yet, owning this rare passport doesn’t offer unfettered global access. Many countries, including powerhouses like the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, do not recognize it. Even within the Schengen Area, only 23 out of 26 members accept it.
The exclusivity extends to the types of passports issued by SMOM: diplomatic and service passports. The former is for members of the Sovereign Council and diplomats, while the latter is for those on special missions for the Order. These passports, produced in Vienna, are as unique as the assignments they are tied to, with their validity strictly limited to the mission duration.
If you’re ever fortunate enough to glimpse an SMOM passport, know that you’re looking at a unique artifact that embodies a centuries-old tradition of service and diplomacy!