What Is a Consulate?

A consulate is a type of diplomatic mission — a representation of a country based in another sovereign state. It is similar to an embassy, but performs fewer functions and is not home to the ambassador.

Consulates are usually buildings where the staff represent the foreign nation and offer consular services to their citizens living or traveling in the host country.

Individuals who plan to visit the country to which the consulate belongs can usually obtain assistance and information by visiting the mission.

Consulate Definition

Consulates are a secondary diplomatic mission to another country. It represents its nation to the population of its host country.

Considered less important than an embassy, a consulate performs a number of functions and services to its citizens abroad in the host country, as well as to foreign nationals.

For example, consulates might be able to process visa applications for people who plan to visit the country to which it belongs.

They also provide information and guidance for visiting their country or moving there.

Consulates provide general assistance to nationals of their own country.

While embassies are almost always located in capital cities, such as Washington D.C, London, Madrid, Paris, or Tokyo, consulates are usually found in other major cities, such as Los Angeles, Manchester, Barcelona, Marseille, or Osaka.

What a Consulate Can Do for You

Services offered by consulates vary depending on the country and, in some cases, the size of the mission.

If you are traveling abroad and require assistance, contact the nearest consulate or embassy belonging to your country of nationality.

Consulates may be able to help in the following ways:

  • Help travelers contact home
  • Replace a lost passport (or assist in applying for a new one)
  • Provide information on medical services in the host nation
  • Provide legal advice about the host nation
  • Assist the traveler in finding a lawyer
  • Provide assistance in the event of a disaster or emergency

Consular services for travelers from other countries

Travelers planning to visit another country may be able to find the following services at a consulate belonging to the destination state:

  • Travel and tourism information
  • Guidance on immigration procedures
  • Visa applications (in some cases)

Consular visa services are being phased out by many countries in favor of quicker and more convenient online visa services.

In many cases, travelers can now obtain a visa online for short-term visits for tourism and/or business purposes.

However, it may be necessary to apply for a visa at a consulate or embassy for the following reasons:

  • The traveler is not eligible for an online visa
  • The type of visa is not available online (often the case with work visas)