Diplomatic mission

Spanish embassy to the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome
Multiple embassies in one location: The embassies of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden in a joint compound in Berlin, Germany.

A diplomatic mission or foreign mission[1] is a group of people from one state or an organisation present in another state to represent the sending state/organisation officially in the receiving state. In practice, the phrase diplomatic mission usually denotes the resident mission, namely the embassy, which is the main office of a country's diplomatic representatives to another country; this is usually, but not necessarily, in the receiving state's capital city. Consulates, on the other hand, are smaller diplomatic missions which are normally located in major cities of the receiving state (but can be located in the capital, usually 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, it may also be a non-resident permanent mission to one or more other countries. There are thus resident and non-resident embassies.[2][3][4][5]

Terminology

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

An embassy is a diplomatic mission generally located in the capital city of another country which offers a full range of services, including consular services.

A high commission is an embassy of a Commonwealth country located in another Commonwealth country.

A permanent mission is a diplomatic mission to a major international organization.

A consulate general is a diplomatic mission located in a major city, usually other than the capital city, which provides a full range of consular services.

A consulate is a diplomatic mission that is similar to a consulate general, but may not provide a full range of services.

A consulate headed by an Honorary Consul is a diplomatic mission headed by an Honorary Consul which provides only a limited range of services.[6]

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.[7]

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 naming 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.[8] 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.[9][10]

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 used today. (See diplomatic rank.)

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.[8] For instance, the Philippines has its Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, D.C., but also maintains seven consulates-general and four consulates elsewhere in the US. 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.