Protocol Guidelines

3. The Consular Corps

3.1 Consular functions

The establishment of a consular post in Australia requires the Australian Government's prior consent and its approval of the seat, classification and consular district, in accordance with Article 4 of the VCCR. New post proposals should be addressed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. If the proposing country has a Diplomatic Mission in Australia, the mission may initiate the request by Note Verbale to Protocol Branch. A consular post headed by a career consular officer may also seek consent for a new consular post to be established in this way. If, however, the proposing country does not have diplomatic representation in Australia, or is represented by honorary consular officers only, the request should come direct from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the sending State's capital through the nearest, most convenient Australian mission.

While it is not necessary to complete the questionnaire for a new consular post to be headed by a career consular officer, the request to establish a post should address the projected scope and volume of the workload of the new post.

Where a country maintains diplomatic representation in Australia, members of the mission may perform whatever consular functions are required in accordance with Article 70 of the VCCR and Article 3(2) of the VCDR. Members of diplomatic missions (ie based in Canberra) may perform such functions throughout Australia, regardless of the existence of any consular post or its approved consular district.

3.2 Classifications of consular posts

Most consular posts in Australia are classified as Consulates-General or Consulates. Generally speaking, the former title applies to posts that are deemed to be more substantial by virtue of their size, jurisdiction or status of the Head of Post. As a rule of thumb, if a country has several consular posts in Australia, there should be a mixture of Consulates-General and Consulates.

The Australian Government expects that the title of the head of a consular post will reflect the approved classification of the post, regardless of the head's personal rank or seniority.

3.3 Heads of Post - admission to functions

In order to admit the career head of a consular post to official functions, Protocol Branch requires a Note Verbale conveying the officer's full name, category and class, the consular district and the seat of the consular post, as specified in the VCCR, Article 11 (it is not necessary to provide the officer's consular commission per se).

To streamline procedures, consular posts should furnish the notification described above at the same time as the completed arrival form for the Head of Post.

It is not normal Australian Government practice to issue exequaturs to diplomatic or career consular officers. The Chief of Protocol will, however, issue exequaturs for honorary consular officers who are Heads of Post.

The Australian Government favours accreditation of either career officers or honorary officers, but not both, to individual consular posts. In accordance with the provisions of the VCCR a consular post, headed by an honorary consul and also staffed by career officers, will receive more limited privileges and immunities than would be accorded to a "career" consular post. Similarly, the appointment of career and honorary consular officers to the same post creates anomalies in terms of status.

3.3.1 Honorary Consuls

The Australian Government will accept the appointment of honorary consuls if it is confident there is a need for the services to be provided by such officers. It will not agree to the appointment of honorary consular officers to meet the political or honorific imperatives of the sending government. Accordingly, when a country proposes to establish a new post headed by an honorary consul, or seeks to replace a long serving honorary consul, the Department will ask that the proposal be supported by an explanation of the scope and volume of consular services to be provided by the post. The questionnaire contained in Appendix 10 [ PDF ] should also be completed. The Department expects that issue and facilitation of passports and visas would be a key function.

A nominee for appointment as an honorary consular officer in Australia will normally be an Australian citizen or permanent resident who has some substantial connection with the sending State. The nominee must be of sound character and should enjoy a good reputation in the local community. He or she should have the capacity to communicate and maintain good relations with the local authorities in the consular district. The Australian Government, in consultation with the relevant State authorities, will consider the personal qualities of each nominee and may reject a nomination where it has doubts about the nominee's suitability. The nominee's full curriculum vitae, current home and business address, telephone, fax and e-mail contact details should be provided with the nomination. The nominee must reside in a major city within the consular jurisdiction. Unless there are special circumstances, establishment of consular posts outside State capital cities will not be approved.

Should an honorary consul's position become vacant, the Department will allow up to two years for another person to be nominated and installed. If the position concerned is for a Head of Post, and it remains vacant for more than two years, the Department will deem the post to have closed.

For more information see the Guidelines for Honorary Consuls in Australia.