Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- See also: consulate (disambiguation).
A consulate (or consular office) is a form of diplomatic mission in charge of issues related to individual people and businesses, in other words issues outside inter-governmental diplomacy. The head of a consulate is known as a consul.
A consulate general is headed by a senior consul known as a consul general, who typically has several consuls and vice consuls working under him/her. A country may open multiple consulates (and consulates general) in major economic centers to support their economic interests.
Activities of a consulate include issuing passports and offering legal assistance to citizens of the sending country; and issuing visas to foreigners. They may also have a role in assisting individual companies to invest and to import and export goods and services. Although it is never admitted publically, consulates are also responsible for gathering intelligence information from the assigned country. This is especially important if the consulate is located in a port city.
In many countries the embassy and consulate general are combined in one office or structure; however, an embassy implies official diplomatic relations between two countries while a consulate general does not. Between countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, both activities may be undertaken by a High Commission. The larger Commonwealth nations generally have consulates and consulates general between one another as is the case elsewhere, however, the senior envoys in these missions are known as Commissioners instead of consuls (general).
The consulates general need not be in the capital city, but instead in the most appropriate cities: for example many countries base their US consul general in New York City.
Consulate staff do not enjoy full diplomatic immunity at all times. Their immunity is limited to times when they are actively carrying out their duties.
Some consuls are not diplomats; in smaller cities, or in cities that are very distant from full-time diplomatic missions, a foreign government may decide that some form of representation is nevertheless desirable, and may appoint a person who has not hitherto been part of their diplomatic service to fulfill this role. This person may well combine the job with their own (often commercial) private activities, in which case they are usually given the title of honorary consul. Many members of the public are not aware that honorary consuls are not full-time diplomats. Graham Greene used this position as the title of his 1973 novel The Honorary Consul .
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