Diplomatic mission

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Spanish embassy to the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome Ambasciata di Spagna Presso Santa Sede - panoramio.jpg
Spanish embassy to the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome
Embassy of the United States in Helsinki, Finland Yhdysvaltain Helsingin-suurlahetysto.jpg
Embassy of the United States in Helsinki, Finland
Multiple embassies in one location: The embassies of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden in a joint compound of Nordic Embassies in Berlin, Germany. Nordic embassies Berlin (July 2008) 4.jpg
Multiple embassies in one location: The embassies of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden in a joint compound of Nordic Embassies in Berlin, Germany.
House of Sweden featuring Swedish as well as Icelandic and Liechtenstein diplomatic missions to the United States. House of Sweden - Washington, D.C.jpg
House of Sweden featuring Swedish as well as Icelandic and Liechtenstein diplomatic missions to the United States.

A diplomatic mission or foreign mission is a group of people from a state or organization present in another state to represent the sending state or organization officially in the receiving or host state. [1] In practice, the phrase usually denotes an embassy or high commission, which is the main office of a country's diplomatic representatives to another country; it is usually, but not necessarily, based in the receiving state's capital city. [2] Consulates, on the other hand, are smaller diplomatic missions that are normally located in major cities of the receiving state (but can be located in the capital, typically when the sending country has no embassy in the receiving state). As well as being a diplomatic mission to the country in which it is situated, an embassy may also be a nonresident permanent mission to one or more other countries. [3] [4] [5] [6]


The term embassy is sometimes used interchangeably with chancery, the physical office or site of a diplomatic mission. [7] Consequently, the terms "embassy residence" and "embassy office" are used to distinguish between the ambassador's residence and the chancery.


A country may have several different types of diplomatic missions in another country.

Diplomatic mission generally located in the capital city of another country which offers a full range of services, including consular services.
High commission
Embassy of a Commonwealth country located in another Commonwealth country.
Permanent mission
Diplomatic mission to a major international organization.
Diplomatic mission located in a major city, usually other than the capital city, which provides a full range of consular services.
Diplomatic mission that is similar to a consulate general but may not provide a full range of services.
Diplomatic representative office of lower rank than an embassy. Where an embassy was headed by an ambassador, a legation was headed by a minister. Ambassadors outranked ministers and had precedence at official events. Legations were originally the most common form of diplomatic mission, but they fell out of favor after World War II and were upgraded to embassies.
Honorary Consul
The head of a consular mission which provides only a limited range of services. [8]

The head of an embassy is known as an ambassador or high commissioner. The term embassy is commonly used also as a section of a building in which the work of the diplomatic mission is carried out, but strictly speaking, it is the diplomatic delegation itself that is the embassy, while the office space and the diplomatic work done is called the chancery . Therefore, the embassy operates in the chancery.

The members of a diplomatic mission can reside within or outside the building that holds the mission's chancery, and their private residences enjoy the same rights as the premises of the mission as regards inviolability and protection. [9]

All missions to the United Nations are known simply as permanent missions, while EU member states' missions to the European Union are known as permanent representations, and the head of such a mission is typically both a permanent representative and an ambassador. European Union missions abroad are known as EU delegations. Some countries have more particular nomenclature for their missions and staff: a Vatican mission is headed by a nuncio (Latin for "envoy") and consequently known as an apostolic nunciature . Under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's missions used the name people's bureau, headed by a secretary.

Missions between Commonwealth countries are known as high commissions, and their heads are high commissioners. [10] Generally speaking, ambassadors and high commissioners are regarded as equivalent in status and function, and embassies and high commissions are both deemed to be diplomatic missions. [11] [12]

In the past, a diplomatic mission headed by a lower-ranking official (an envoy or minister resident) was known as a legation . Since the ranks of envoy and minister resident are effectively obsolete, the designation of legation is no longer among the diplomatic ranks used in diplomacy and international relations.

A consulate is similar to, but not the same as a diplomatic office, but with focus on dealing with individual persons and businesses, as defined by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. A consulate or consulate general is generally a representative of the embassy in locales outside of the capital city. [10] For instance, the Philippines has its embassy to the United States in the latter's capital, Washington, D.C., but also maintains seven consulates-general in major US cities. The person in charge of a consulate or consulate-general is known as a consul or consul-general, respectively. Similar services may also be provided at the embassy (to serve the region of the capital) in what is normally called a consular section.

In cases of dispute, it is common for a country to recall its head of mission as a sign of its displeasure. This is less drastic than cutting diplomatic relations completely, and the mission will still continue operating more or less normally, but it will now be headed by a chargé d'affaires (usually the deputy chief of mission) who may have limited powers. A chargé d'affaires ad interim also heads the mission during the interim between the end of one chief of mission's term and the beginning of another.


Seal of a diplomatic corps Diplomatic Corps seal - Corps Diplomatique emblem logo.png
Seal of a diplomatic corps

Contrary to popular belief, diplomatic missions sometimes do not enjoy full extraterritorial status and are generally not sovereign territory of the represented state. The sending state can give embassies sovereign status but this only happens with a minority of countries. [13] Rather, the premises of an embassy remain under the jurisdiction of the host state while being afforded special privileges (such as immunity from most local laws) by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Diplomats themselves still retain full diplomatic immunity, and (as an adherent to the Vienna Convention) the authorities of the host country may not enter the premises of the mission (which means the head of mission's residence) without permission of the represented country, even to put out a fire. International rules designate an attack on an embassy as an attack on the country it represents. [14] The term 'extraterritoriality' is often applied to diplomatic missions, but normally only in this broader sense.

As the host country's authorities may not enter the representing country's embassy without permission, embassies are sometimes used by refugees escaping from either the host country or a third country. For example, North Korean nationals, who would be arrested and deported from China upon discovery, have sought sanctuary at various third-country embassies in China. Once inside the embassy, diplomatic channels can be used to solve the issue and send the refugees to another country. See the list of people who took refuge in a diplomatic mission for a list of some notable cases.

Notable violations of embassy extraterritoriality include repeated invasions of the British Embassy in Beijing (1967), [15] the hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran, Iran (1979–1981), and the hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru (1996–1997).


Embassy of Argentina, Beijing, China Embajada de Argentina en la Republica Popular China.jpg
Embassy of Argentina, Beijing, China
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Helsinki functioning as a polling station Korean polling station Helsinki.jpg
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Helsinki functioning as a polling station

The basic role of a diplomatic mission is to represent and safeguard the interests of the home country and its citizens in the host country. [16] According to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which establishes the framework of diplomacy among sovereign states:

The functions of a diplomatic mission consist, inter alia, in representing the sending State in the receiving State; protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, within the limits permitted by international law; negotiating with the Government of the receiving State; ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving State, and reporting thereon to the Government of the sending State; promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the receiving State, and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations. [17]

Diplomatic missions between members of the Commonwealth of Nations are not called embassies, but high commissions, for Commonwealth nations share a special diplomatic relationship. It is generally expected that an embassy of a Commonwealth country in a non-Commonwealth country will do its best to provide diplomatic services to citizens from other Commonwealth countries if the citizen's country does not have an embassy in that country. Canadian and Australian nationals enjoy even greater cooperation between their respective consular services, as outlined in the Canada-Australia Consular Services Sharing Agreement. The same kind of procedure is also followed multilaterally by the member states of the European Union (EU). European citizens in need of consular help in a country without diplomatic or consular representation of their own country may turn to any consular or diplomatic mission of another EU member state (art. 23 TFEU). [18]

Multiple missions in a city

Some cities may host more than one mission from the same country.

In Rome, many states maintain separate missions to both Italy and the Holy See. It is not customary for these missions to share premises nor personnel. At present, only the Iraqi and United States embassies to Italy and the Holy See share premises; however, separate ambassadors are appointed, one to each country. In the case of the UN's Food Agencies, the sending country's ambassador to the Italian Republic is usually accredited as permanent representative. The United States maintains a separate mission to the UN agencies, led by its own ambassador, but is located in the compound that houses its embassies to Italy and the Holy See.

Several cities host both embassies/consulates and permanent representatives to international organizations, such as New York City (United Nations), Washington, D.C. (Organization of American States), Jakarta (ASEAN) and Brussels (European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

In some cases, an embassy or consulate is divided between multiple locations in the same city. For example, the Bangladeshi Deputy High Commission in Kolkata, has two locations: one at Park Circus and another, opened later, at Mirza Ghalib Street, to reduce overcrowding.

Non-diplomatic offices

Governments of states not recognized by the receiving state and of territories that make no claim to be sovereign states may set up offices abroad that do not have official diplomatic status as defined by the Vienna Convention. Examples are the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Offices that represent the government of the Republic of China; Somaliland's Representative Offices in London, Addis Ababa, Rome, Taipei, and Washington, D.C.; the Hong Kong and Macau economic and trade offices that represent the governments of those two territories. Such offices assume some of the non-diplomatic functions of diplomatic posts, such as promoting trade interests and providing assistance to its citizens and residents. They are nevertheless not diplomatic missions, their personnel are not diplomats and do not have diplomatic visas, although there may be legislation providing for personal immunities and tax privileges, as in the case of the Hong Kong offices in London and Toronto or the Macau office in Lisbon, for example.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations</span> 1961 international treaty

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 is an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries. Its aim is to facilitate "the development of friendly relations" among governments through a uniform set of practices and principles; most notably, it codifies the longstanding custom of diplomatic immunity, in which diplomatic missions are granted privileges that enable diplomats to perform their functions without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country. The Vienna Convention is a cornerstone of modern international relations and international law and is almost universally ratified and observed; it is considered one of the most successful legal instruments drafted under the United Nations.

<i>Chargé daffaires</i> Head of diplomatic mission when no higher official exists

A chargé d'affaires, plural chargés d'affaires, often shortened to chargé (French) and sometimes in colloquial English to charge-D, is a diplomat who serves as an embassy's chief of mission in the absence of the ambassador. The term is French for "charged with business", meaning they are responsible for the duties of an ambassador. Chargé is masculine in gender; the feminine form is chargée d'affaires.

Diplomatic rank is a system of professional and social rank used in the world of diplomacy and international relations. A diplomat's rank determines many ceremonial details, such as the order of precedence at official processions, table seatings at state dinners, the person to whom diplomatic credentials should be presented, and the title by which the diplomat should be addressed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Embassy of Brazil, Washington, D.C.</span>

The Embassy of Brazil in Washington, D.C. is the diplomatic mission of the Federative Republic of Brazil to the United States of America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vienna Convention on Consular Relations</span> 1963 international treaty

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations is an international treaty that defines a framework for consular relations between sovereign states. It codifies many consular practices that originated from state custom and various bilateral agreements between states.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Consul (representative)</span> Diplomatic rank

A consul is an official representative of a government who resides in a foreign country to assist and protect citizens of the consul's country, and to promote and facilitate commercial and diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Diplomatic law is that area of international law that governs permanent and temporary diplomatic missions. A fundamental concept of diplomatic law is that of diplomatic immunity, which derives from state immunity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Embassy of the United States, Prague</span> U.S. Embassy for the Czech Republic

The Embassy of the United States of America in Prague is the diplomatic mission of the United States of America in the Czech Republic. The chancery is located on Vlašská street in Malá Strana, Prague, where it occupies the historic Schönborn Palace and possesses an extensive garden.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Consulate</span> Official office of one country in another country

A consulate is the office of a consul. A type of diplomatic mission, it is usually subordinate to the state's main representation in the capital of that foreign country, usually an embassy. The term "consulate" may refer not only to the office of a consul, but also to the building occupied by the consul and the consul's staff. The consulate may share premises with the embassy itself.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Protecting power</span> Country that represents a second country to a third country

A protecting power is a country that represents another sovereign state in a country where it lacks its own diplomatic representation. It is common for protecting powers to be appointed when two countries break off diplomatic relations with each other. The protecting power is responsible for looking after the protected power's diplomatic property and citizens in the hosting state. If diplomatic relations were broken by the outbreak of war, the protecting power will also inquire into the welfare of prisoners of war and look after the interests of civilians in enemy-occupied territory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Turkey)</span> Government ministry of Turkey

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the governmental body responsible for conducting foreign relations of the Republic of Turkey. The Ministry is responsible for Turkey's diplomatic missions abroad and for the promotion of Turkish culture, as well as for implementing the country's foreign policy in accordance with its national interests. Established on 2 May 1920, its primary duties are administering diplomatic missions, negotiating international treaties and agreements, and representing the Republic of Turkey at the United Nations. The ministry is headquartered in the Turkish capital of Ankara and counts on more than 200 missions as embassies, permanent representation offices and consulates general, abroad. As of 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains 235 diplomatic posts worldwide. The current Minister of Foreign Affairs is Hakan Fidan, who has held the position since 3 June 2023.

An envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, usually known as a minister, was a diplomatic head of mission who was ranked below ambassador. A diplomatic mission headed by an envoy was known as a legation rather than an embassy. Under the system of diplomatic ranks established by the Congress of Vienna (1815), an envoy was a diplomat of the second class who had plenipotentiary powers, i.e., full authority to represent the government. However, envoys did not serve as the personal representative of their country's head of state. Until the first decades of the 20th century, most diplomatic missions were legations headed by diplomats of the envoy rank. Ambassadors were only exchanged between great powers, close allies, and related monarchies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Embassy of Australia, Moscow</span>

The Embassy of Australia in Moscow is the diplomatic mission of Australia to the Russian Federation. The current head of post and Ambassador of Australia to the Russian Federation is John Geering. The embassy serves as the diplomatic mission for Australia to the Russian Federation, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The chancery is located at 10A/2 Podkolokolny Lane in the Tagansky District of Moscow.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chancery (diplomacy)</span> Building which houses a diplomatic mission or embassy

A chancery is the principal office that houses a diplomatic mission or an embassy. This often includes the associated building and the site. The building can house one or several different nations' missions. The term derives from chancery or chancellery, the office of a chancellor. Some nations title the head of foreign affairs a chancellor, and 'chancery' eventually became a common referent to the main building of an embassy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Embassy of South Korea, Washington, D.C.</span> Diplomatic mission of South Korea to the United States

The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Washington, D.C. is the diplomatic mission of South Korea to the United States. Its main chancery is located at 2450 Massachusetts Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C., in the Embassy Row neighborhood. The current ambassador is Cho Hyun-dong.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Embassy of the United States, Copenhagen</span> Diplomatic mission

The Embassy of the United States to the Kingdom of Denmark is the diplomatic mission of the United States in Denmark. The building is located on Dag Hammarskjölds Allé, in Indre Østerbro, Copenhagen, and it was opened in May 1954. The embassy also oversees American interests in Greenland. On 10 June 2020, the United States reopened its consulate in Nuuk, Greenland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Embassy of the Philippines, Madrid</span> Diplomatic mission of the Philippines in Spain

The Embassy of the Philippines in Madrid is the diplomatic mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the Kingdom of Spain. Opened in 1951, it is located at the corner of Calle Eresma and Calle Guadalquivir in the barrio (neighborhood) of El Viso, part of the district of Chamartín in northern Madrid, where it has been since 1998.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Embassy of the Philippines, Kuala Lumpur</span> Diplomatic mission of the Philippines in Malaysia

The Embassy of the Philippines in Kuala Lumpur is the diplomatic mission of the Republic of the Philippines to Malaysia. It is at 1 Jalan Changkat Kia Peng in central Kuala Lumpur, near significant city landmarks like the Kuala Lumpur City Centre and Bukit Bintang.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Embassy of the Philippines, Berlin</span> Diplomatic mission of the Philippines in Germany

The Embassy of the Philippines in Berlin is the diplomatic mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the Federal Republic of Germany. First opened in 1955 as the mission to West Germany, it is currently located in the Mitte locality of central Berlin, just beyond the periphery of the Reichstag complex and near the Charité.


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