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Terms to Know

Appointed Ambassador
An individual appointed by a head of state to be his personal representative and represent his country to another.
Ambassador Designate
Is the title of an appointed ambassador until he has been approved by the receiving head of state and has taken his oath of office.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
The formal title of a personal representative of a head of state that has been recognized by the head of the receiving state. Before his accreditation, the correct description is Ambassador Extraordinary.
Chargé d’Affaires
Generally, an individual who is in charge of a mission in the absence of the accredited chief of mission.
Chief of Mission
An individual who is the ranking official at a mission.
Consul (also known as a career consul)
A member of a country’s foreign or consular service. This person is appointed by their government to reside in a foreign city and officially represent that government’s political and commercial interests and assist its citizens there. Additional duties may include developing commercial, economic, cultural, and scientific ties, as well as promoting friendly relations. In the United States, a foreign consular representative’s commission must be approved by the United States Department of State before he is considered official; prior to that he is a designated consular officer. (See Exequatur)
Consul General
The highest position possible in a consulate, a consular officer of the highest rank (see Rank), and the head of post of a consulate general.
The premises/office occupied by a consul. Most consulates are low-profile commercial and cultural agencies. They help channel investment dollars into a community, enhance community prestige, bring jobs and business opportunities.
Consulate General
The term describing a consular office when the head of post holds the rank of consul general.
Counselor (also Minister-Counselor)
A ranking staff member at a mission. Minister-counselors precede counselors, who precede attachés and first and second secretaries. Functional titles may be added- i.e., Economics Minister. These titles are generally not found on the consular staff level, and care should be taken to avoid confusing a cabinet minister with the diplomatic corps rank of minister.
Diplomatic Corps
The collective group of foreign diplomatic personnel resident in a capital city.
Diplomatic Immunity
Freedom from prosecution under local law accorded to accredited diplomats. This freedom is generally a limited one and is closely regulated. Additionally, it is a well-established principle of international law that it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect local laws and regulations. Consular officers generally enjoy a limited form of immunity, called official acts immunity. They are thus accorded immunity only in relation to the performance of their official duties. All diplomats should be accorded their respective privileges, rights and immunities as directed by international and domestic law. For more information see the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Articles 41, 43 and 71. (See also Reciprocity)
The assignment of an ambassador to a foreign government. Often used to refer to the offices of an ambassador, though Chancery is the most appropriate term.
The formal act which grants the consular head of post the right to perform his consular duties in the United States.
Head of Post
The official in charge of a consulate.
Honorary Consul (also known as a Non-career Consul)
Can be either a citizen of the United States or a permanent resident who represents a foreign government and performs some consular services. These individuals are not members of the foreign service of the country represented nor do they receive salaries, but may be compensated for some expenses, and like career consuls charge for visas and other services.
A general term for an embassy, delegation, diplomatic office or legation. For a sub-office or consulate, Post is the correct designation.
Diplomatic etiquette or formalities (official ceremonies, precedence, immunities, privileges, courtesies, etc.); the forms of ceremony and etiquette used by diplomats and government officials.
An order of rank observed on formal occasions and extended as a courtesy on other occasions. Failure to recognize the proper rank and precedence of an official can be construed as an insult to the official and country represented. Precedence is always used in determining seating arrangements of official functions. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna standardized guidelines of precedence for diplomatic officials based on rank and the date the official’s credentials are recognized by the host government. Within a rank, precedence is established by the length of time at a post. Precedence and rank are personal- they cannot be transferred to another on any occasion. For example, an official who substitutes for another at an event is given precedence according to his own rank, and not that of the person for whom he is substituting.
Official grade or position. For diplomatic corps members, the most common ranks are ambassador, minister, chargé d’affaires, counselor, attaché, and secretary. Categories of consular officials by rank include consul general, consul, vice consul, and consular agent. Honorary titles follow the same general ranking as career titles. All career consular heads of post precede all honorary ones. Spouses of diplomatic officials assume the rank of that official, unless they hold a higher the rank in their own right. A couple thus assumes the higher ranking of either of two individuals.
The mutual exchange between nations of privileges and rights, and occasionally their withdrawal. It is a long-standing international principle that all diplomats exchanged between two countries will enjoy roughly equivalent privileges and rights.

U.S. relations with official representatives of other governments are based on reciprocity or “Do unto them as they do unto us.” This means that if U.S. representatives in another country are restricted to travel 23 miles from their post their counterparts in the U.S. will also be so restricted. The privileges of a consul representing one country may vary from the privileges of another representing a second country due to “reciprocity”. The U.S. may have an agreement with one sending state, which it does not have with another. The purpose of granting privileges and immunities to consuls is not to give personal benefits but to ensure the “proper and efficient discharge of consular duties” to benefit a foreign government rather than an individual.


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