This entry of the Diversity Dictionary explains what a consulate is and their purpose alongside embassies.
‘Consulates’ and ’embassies’ are regularly used in the same discussions. Therefore it’s easy to get confused about the differences between them. Not sure what an embassy is? Find out in another Diversity Dictionary entry: what is an embassy?
Consulates are essentially the ‘branch offices’ for an embassy. They function as extensions to the country’s diplomatic headquarters. Consulates, also known as consuls, assist in administration duties and handle travel and immigration issues. Consulates issue passports and visas and as such are the go-to for expats and tourists. Therefore consulates are often located in transport hubs (such as train stations or airports) and popular tourist locations.
Poland’s consul in Jerusalem. Photo credit to Hovev.
Whats the difference between a consulate and an embassy?
Don’t worry if they sound identical! Embassies and consulates largely overlap in duties and purpose. A key difference is that while an embassy informs their home government about important political and social events, consulates focus on citizen matters. Similarly, unlike embassies, a government can have more than one consulate in any given country. As such consulate buildings are generally smaller and more widespread throughout cities. However this doesn’t mean they are any less grand as proven by this list of the most valuable foreign consulate buildings in New York.
Have you discovered a consulate or embassy on your travels?
We’d love to see it! Take a photo and share it on twitter with #diversitytravel!