Embassy, Consulate, Honorary Consulate: What’s the Difference?

Have you ever found yourself puzzled by these official names without a clue where you should actually go? Telephone lines are always busy and nobody is answering your emails. To help you with this problem, today’s article is written in an effort to help you distinguish between these terms.


Let’s start with the most familiar one and that would be the embassy. Embassies are called high commissions between the Commonwealth countries. The legal definition of an embassy is “a permanent diplomatic mission”. It actually means that the embassy is representing a foreign country’s government and taking care of its international relations. Embassy’s highest official is an ambassador and each country only has one, since the ambassador is representing the country.


Consulate has the same function as the embassy, although it has a lower ranking and it’s more of an office. There are no ambassadors here; the main official is called a consul. There can be as many consuls as they are representing the foreign government. If there are consulates and an embassy in a country, consulates need to answer to the embassy since it has a higher ranking. Consulates are working with people, issuing passports, visas and other documents.




There are also honorary consulates. The name is a bit misleading since these consulates are actually just a single office. Honorary consuls are the only staff and they are not professional diplomats. These consuls don’t need to be from the country they are representing. They usually have another job and are doing the duties of an honorary consulate voluntary or for a paycheck. More than often, honorary consuls are businessmen who have ties with the country they are representing.


When it comes to the needs of a regular traveller, it depends on the number of the foreign country’s embassies and consulates in a particular country. In case there are only consulates, they are equipped and ready to help with any visa or passport-related matter. If there are local consulates and an embassy, chances are that you will have to apply at your local consulate, but the actual processing of your application will be done by the embassy. In the case of honorary consulates, they cannot issue visas. However, in some particular cases, they can issue passports. They can also offer help in case of an arrest or if a citizen of the country in question got their passport stolen or lost.