L/UNA Files

Memorandum by Mr. Richard J. Kerry, Administrative Attorney, Division of International Administration, to Mr. Paul B. Taylor of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs


Subject: Representatives of UN Non-Members Participating in the General Assembly: Privileges and Immunities, Visas

Privileges and Immunities

Representatives of various non-member governments acting as observers and in similar capacities at the UN have been considered entitled to the privileges and immunities which P. L. 291, 80th Congress,1 makes available to “persons designated by foreign governments as their representatives in or to international organizations.” It may therefore be considered settled that representatives of non-member governments invited by the General Assembly to participate in its proceedings in any manner contemplated in your draft position paper,2 dated May 14, 1951, would be similarly entitled, provided they represent a government recognized by the U.S. It must be noted, however, that a difference of opinion exists within the Department as to whether representatives of a government not recognized by the U.S. would be thus entitled.

Sec. 7(a) of P. L. 291 provides:

“Persons designated by foreign governments to serve as their representatives in or to international organizations and the officers and [Page 54] employees of such organizations, and members of the immediate families of such representatives, officers, and employees residing with them, other than nationals of the United States, shall, insofar as concerns laws regulating entry into and departure from the United States, alien registration and fingerprinting, and the registration of foreign agents, be entitled to the same privileges, exemptions, and immunities as are accorded under similar circumstances to officers and employees, respectively, of foreign governments, and members of their families.”

This provision has been construed to give to representatives of foreign governments, with respect to the subjects covered by Sec. 7(a), the same privileges and immunities as representatives of foreign governments accredited to the U.S.

It should be noted, however, that the subjects covered by Sec. 7(a) are only: entry, departure, alien registration, finger-printing and registration of foreign agents.

In addition to the foregoing privileges: Sec. 7(b) grants immunity from suits and legal process with respect to acts performed by representatives in their official capacities and Sec. 4 exempts salaries of representatives of foreign governments from U.S. income tax.

Diplomatic privileges and immunities are granted pursuant to Section 15 of the Headquarters Agreement and can be extended only to resident representatives of Members and certain resident members of their staffs. Among privileges and immunities of representatives of Members which would not be available to representatives of non-members would be general immunity from legal process and immunity from arrest, exemption from personal property taxes, exemption from fees for driver licenses and automobile license plates, exemption from federal excise taxes and exemption from the New York city sales tax and the New York state fuel tax.

The representatives of non-members would be exempt from custom duties only on things brought with them at the time of original entry. They would therefore not have a continuing right to receive liquor and other items free of U.S. taxes.

I am informed that the exemption from the New York city hotel tax applies to all officials of all governments.

The foregoing does not attempt to deal in any respect with questions of rank and precedence and similar matters of Protocol.

Visas 3(7)

Sec. 7(c) of P.L. 291 amends Section 3 of the Immigration Act, approved May 26, 1924,3 by providing for the entry into the U.S. of representatives of foreign governments in or to international organizations [Page 55] covered by P.L. 291.4 Representatives of non-member governments, which the U.S. recognizes, would be entitled to entry under that provision and, consequently, would not be excludable by Section 2(2) of the Immigration Act of Oct. 16, 1918,5 as amended. In the opinion of VD representatives of governments not recognized by the U.S. would not be entitled to 3(7) visas. If this opinion were to prevail, the obligation to admit such representatives would have to be found in Sec. 11(5) of the Headquarters Agreement and they would have to make their entry under Sec. 3(3) of the 1924 Act. As such, they could, if excludable under Sec. 2(2) of the 1918 Act, be admitted only under the Ninth Proviso. As a practical matter, it would therefore follow that the representative of any non-member, which the U.S. does not recognize as a government, would not be admitted as promptly as other representatives of non-members.

  1. The International Organizations Immunities Act, enacted December 29, 1945 (59 Stat. 669).
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. 43 Stat. 153.
  4. Section 3 of the 1924 Act undertook to define the term “immigrant”. It also listed six categories of exceptions, that is, aliens who because of a certain status, occupation, etc., would not be defined as an immigrant within the meaning of the Act. The Act of 1945, in Section 7, as noted here, provided for another excepted category, representatives of foreign governments concerned with the activities of international organizations; persons in this group were issued what came to be known as 3(7) visas.
  5. 40 Stat. 1012. This statute was captioned “An Act to exclude and expel from the United States aliens who are members of the anarchistic and similar classes.”