Guidelines for Honorary Consuls in Australia

16 January 2017

The Australian Government has a long tradition of accepting honorary consuls and over half of the consular posts established in Australia are headed by honorary consular officers.  Honorary consuls can make a substantial contribution to aspects of individual bilateral relationships especially if the country they represent does not maintain diplomatic representation in Australia.

Your appointment as an honorary consul is based on a formal agreement between the government of the country you represent (the sending state) and the Australian Government, as outlined in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).

Accreditation 

You should be given a commission by the sending state outlining the consular functions you are required to perform.  These will include some or all of the functions specified in Article 5 of the VCCR.

Before you exercise functions, however, you must formally be accredited by the Protocol Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). 

Your appointment is confirmed by the issue of an exequatur.  This is a document signed by the Chief of Protocol which authorises you to perform consular functions within a specified geographic jurisdiction.  If the sending state has a diplomatic mission in Canberra, we will send the exequatur to the mission for passing to you.  If there is no diplomatic mission, we will send it to you directly.

Once you are advised that your exequatur has been issued, you should complete the Notification of Commencement of Honorary Consular Officer [PDF, 34KB] form and the Acknowledgment of Honorary Consul Immunities [DOC, 43KB] (Appendices 5 and 24 of the Protocol Guidelines) and return these to Protocol Branch.  We will then issue an identity card to you, and update the details of your post on the Consular List, which is published on the DFAT website.

Your accreditation will usually be valid for five years (the end date is shown on your identity card).  It is your responsibility to ensure that your identity card remains valid.  Contact Protocol Branch six weeks before the expiry of your identity card, and we will consult with the sending state about renewing your accreditation.

Privileges and immunities

The purpose of consular privileges and immunities is not to benefit you as an individual but to ensure the efficient performance of consular business on behalf of the country you represent.  In accordance with the VCCR, your privileges and immunities are limited to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.  These do not include driving a motor vehicle, so immunity does not apply to traffic or parking offences. Your privileges and immunities do not extend to family members or support staff.

Privileges

Exemption from customs duties

Only specified articles imported for post’s official use e.g. coats of arms, flags, signs, seals and stamps, printed matter. No motor vehicles.

Duty-free purchase of alcohol

Limited amounts for consumption at official national day receptions only. For more information contact Australian Border Force at act.op.command@border.gov.au.

Indirect Tax Concession Scheme

No

Private domestic workers

No

Immunities
Arrest and detention

No, but if you are arrested, detained or prosecuted, you have a right to have this fact promptly reported to the sending state.

Prosecution

No, except in respect of acts performed while exercising consular functions.

Requirement to give evidence

No, except in relation to consular functions.

Personal search

No

Official premises search

No, although the Australian Government is obliged to protect consular premises from intrusion, damage or impairment of dignity.

Official papers

Yes, provided they are kept separately from your private or other business papers.

Residential entry and search

No

Motor vehicle search

No

Drink driving and breath testing

No

Offices and vehicles

For the benefit of both clients and the local authorities, it is useful to designate consular premises, including by display of the national flag and coat of arms of the country you represent. 

Motor vehicle registration is a matter for the authorities in the state or territory where you reside, and arrangements vary. You may be eligible to obtain consular licence plates for a vehicle registered in your name.  Check with the DFAT office in your capital city.

Car pennants should not be flown except on specific occasions such as Head of State visits, when the vehicle is being used solely for official business of the sending state, and arrangements have the prior agreement of the police.

Client access

Your hours of business will be published along with your contact details in the Consular List.   You should make contingency arrangements, for example through website and telephone messaging, to manage any emergencies and cover periods of absence.

Many honorary consuls receive administrative and technical support from persons in their office or home.  Such persons are not accredited by either the sending state or the Australian Government, are not empowered to perform substantive consular functions, and cannot act in your place if you are absent.

Getting started

Depending on the kind of consular business you expect to perform, you might find it useful to establish contacts with the police, prisons, funeral directors, courts, hospitals, immigration offices, airports and religious organisations in your jurisdiction.  The Dean and other colleagues in the Consular Corps may also have advice and tips to assist you. 

The Protocol Guidelines contain detailed information on practical matters you may need to become familiar with, such as presentation of credentials by non-resident heads of mission and airport facilitation for visiting dignitaries.

Continuing your accreditation

Please let us know promptly if your contact details change, so that we can update your entry in the Consular List. This includes changes to your physical address, phone number, email, and office hours.

Your appointment as an honorary consul is contingent on your good character and reputation and having no conflict of interest (or perception of conflict of interest) with any other roles or responsibilities.  If your circumstances change, casting doubt on any ethical considerations, you must advise us promptly.

Finishing your accreditation

You must advise DFAT and remove all official signage from your home and office when your appointment as honorary consul ends.

Contacting Protocol Branch and state offices

Protocol Branch and the DFAT offices in capital cities are available to assist with enquiries about your status and operations. For routine matters, email Protocol.Branch@dfat.gov.au.  In an after-hours emergency, you may call the Duty Officer on 0418 167 127.

Contact details for state offices

New South Wales
Phone: (02) 9356 6262
dfat.nsw@dfat.gov.au

Northern Territory
Phone: (08) 8982 4199
dfat.darwin@dfat.gov.au

Queensland
Phone: (07) 3405 4762
Brisbane@dfat.gov.au

South Australia
Phone: (08) 8403 4899
adelaide.sa@dfat.gov.au

Tasmania
Phone: (03) 6238 4099
dfat.tasmania@dfat.gov.au

Victoria
Phone: (03) 9221 5444
vso@dfat.gov.au

Western Australia
Phone: (08) 9231 4499
dfat.wa@dfat.gov.au

Last Updated: 11 April 2014