Sort of a follow-up question to one of my previous questions.

The idea is that the UK does not recognize the Islamic State as a country, therefore they cannot just revoke Shamina Begum's citizenship by saying she's a citizen of IS. From the UK's perspective, IS isn't a country, it isn't legally allowed to any territory, any legal documents it issues are worthless, and IS "citizens" have no right to travel to the UK.

If this is the case, then presumably what applies to IS ought to also apply to Taiwan. Since the UK does not recognize Taiwan, how is it still possible for Taiwanese people to travel to the UK? The same question goes for any of several non-recognized countries in the world, such as Kosovo.

There is some detail on this question on the Wikipedia page on Taiwan passport and Kosovan passport, but it doesn't answer the question. For example it says it is possible to travel to e.g. China on a Kosovan passport even though China does not recognize Kosovo, but it doesn't explain how that is possible. How come these travelers aren't stopped at the border?

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    Although the reasoning behind these kinds of decisions is definitely politics (and comes down to a duality between passports as identification of a person versus identification of a state/nationality), the details of mechanisms involved might be more suited for the Travel stack exchange site. In the case of the UK, most of the necessary information can be found here: gov.uk/government/publications/…
    – origimbo
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 5:12
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    Outside of a vague and unhelpful answer like "realpolitik" I suspect that the actual legal basis for this is going to vary a lot from country to country. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 6:35
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    You are trying for a false equivalency where real equivalency doesnt exist - the UK does not have to be consistent in its recognition of travel documents, it can merrily accept Taiwanese passports while denying passports issued by other entities it does not recognise.
    – user16741
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 6:58
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    @moo please extend that to an answer rather than a comment.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 8:06
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    The UK government claims that she is a Bangladeshi citizen (though this is disputed); her status as an IS "citizen" is irrelevant. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 8:10

2 Answers 2


It is up to any sovereign state to decide who it allows to admit and with what documentation (*). So it is free to accept Taiwanese travel documents but not IS documents. It is free to grant free movement over the Irish border without any form of documentation but require that Indian citizens have a visa, even for air-side transit.

There is no requirement for the government to be logical, reasonable or consistent. Indeed, individual border staff have wide remit to deny entry or cancel a visa (though they are expected to be reasonable, there is very little that you can do if they deny entry).

The admission of an individual does not imply recognition of the entity that issued the travel documents. It just means that that the UK (represented by border staff) believe that the person entering will comply with the conditions of entry.

So, how is it possible for people from Taiwan to travel to the UK? They use RoC issued passports which the UK government chooses to accept

In the case of Ms Begum, the UK government is claiming that she has Bangladeshi citizenship, and it is on these grounds that they have removed her UK citizenship. This is disputed.

(*) Of course I'm writing about the admission of foreign nationals. International law (ie multilateral agreements between countries) has a couple of requirements: that countries admit (and don't deport) their own citizens, and that people are not returned to danger, even if they entered without permission (ie refugees). The UK government doesn't want Begum to return, which is why they have claimed to have stripped her of UK citizenship. The "legality" of this is disputed, it is argued that the UK is in breach of various human rights treaties in depriving Begum of her UK citizenship. But this case is not simple, and I don't make any specific comment on the legality, as I'm not an international lawyer.

  • "It is up to any sovereign state to decide who it allows to admit and with what documentation." Yes, within reason. But it is not allowed for a state to deport citizens and then revoke their citizenship to prevent them from reentering their home country. States must repatriate their own nationals. So the question is whether Begum is a Bangladeshi or British national. If it is the latter, the British government is violating international law. Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 21:44
  • That is true, and I shall clarify, though the question is not actually about Begum, she's only raised as an example of a particular issue.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 22:55

Taiwan is quite a special case. It is not exactly "a country".

Both Taipei and Beijing support the idea of "single China" - they just somewhat differ at the point who is the legitimate government of this single China.

Most other countries are OK-ish with their dispute as long as Beijing and Taipei don't export it too vigorously. To please them both (at least to some extent), most countries recognize the "single China" idea and don't officially mess in their "internal" affairs.

They treat (officially) both kinds of passports as if they are issued by different provinces of a single country.

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    "They treat (officially) both kinds of passports as if they are issued by different provinces of a single country." Is that really an accurate summary? Citizens of Taiwan can visit the UK - and even study where the course is less than 6 months - without a visa. Citizens of (PR) China need a visa even to make an airside transit (i.e. remaining in the airport, never passing immigration) in the UK. I find it hard to reconcile that with the idea they're treated as just different provinces of the same country.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 6:44
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    @ChrisH I don't (necessarily) agree with the assertion about UK treating ROC passport as from a province of a single country. However, your example doesn't necessarily follow. There's no serious dispute that Hong Kong and Macau are both legally territory of and effectively administered by the PRC despite a high degree of autonomy. Nonetheless holders of Hong Kong and Macau passports (issued under PRC authority) are treated differently than mainland passport holders.
    – xngtng
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 11:05
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    @zhantongz that's certainly a fair point with the Macau/HK passports.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 12:45
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    @zhantongz There is no dispute that PRC claims Hong Kong and Taiwan and Tibet and the South China Sea and Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia and piles of territory and engages in Genocide and other violence to attack people who dispute those claims. PRC has repeatedly violated the terms of its deal with the UK in the return of HK. Taiwan has functioned as an independent state for decades, and its people have no desire to be part of the PRC as it currently exists. Under the principle of Self-Determination, huge chunks of "China" are not legitimately part of it. It is just imperialism, PRC style.
    – Yakk
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 14:34
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    @Yakk I don't think that's really relevant to the present discussion. Disputes about the human rights situation in PRC-controlled areas, so far, don't affect the international recognition of PRC government or its effective territories. There is no serious dispute that PRC is the effective government in HK and there is no serious political bodies, including UK, disputing that HK is under PRC sovereignty; no other alternative govt even pretends to exist. The situation is very different for Taiwan/ROC where a govt with effective control and certain degree of intl recognition exists.
    – xngtng
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 14:51

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