Difference between Consulate and Embassy

Updated on February 24, 2018

Diplomatic relationships between countries are important not only because of foreign relations, but also because of safety issues of travelling citizens and cultural or other connections.

Without diplomatic missions, such as consulates and embassies, there would have been hardly any productive relationships between the countries in the world today.

While most people know the role of an embassy and ambassadors, fewer people know the role of a consulate and how it differs from the former. We will explore the differences between the two types of diplomatic mission in the following article.


U.S. Embassy in Prague
U.S. Embassy in Prague

An embassy is a permanent diplomatic mission which is located in a capital of a given country. For example the United States Embassy in the Russian Federation is located in Moscow. Capital cities like Washington, Paris, or Berlin each host more than 200 embassies.

If a given country recognizes another as being sovereign, an embassy is immediately established to keep foreign relations in order and to provide support for citizens arriving in the country.

The embassy represents its home country and is responsible for solving major issues, such as protecting the rights of citizens of the country it belongs to. The head of the embassy is the ambassador and he is the main official who can speak on behalf of the home country’s Government.

Ambassadors are usually appointed by the highest officials, for example, in the United States, by the President (candidates have to be approved by the Senate later.)

There are several countries where there is no possibility of establishing an embassy due to political complications. For the United States, for example, these include North Korea, Bhutan, Cuba, and Iran. The United States government maintains contact with these countries via diplomatic missions situated in nearby countries. Recently there have been moves on the part of the USA to regularize foreign relations with both Iran and Cuba, which may result in new embassies being opened. Also at times of crisis, embassies often close, or withdraw their diplomats back to their home countries.

The Consulate of Kazakhstan in Omsk, Russia

Consulates are situated in main cities in foreign countries and they are led by a council general. They have many departments that work together to perform and carry out the consulate’s mission.

A consulate general is responsible for representing the government of a country in a consulate district.

He is usually engaged in a variety of activities that include giving speeches to various audiences, communicating with the local media, working with non-governmental organizations, and other groups. The consulate general is also responsible for sorting out a consulate’s internal management issues.

Consulate vs Embassy

What is the difference between Consulate and Embassy?

  • An embassy is larger than a consulate and is more important. Healthy diplomatic relationships can exist without consulates, but cannot be maintained without an embassy. If there is no embassy of the country you are the citizen of, this is a telltale sign that something is not quite right with international relationships between the two countries.
  • While there is only one embassy, which is usually located in the capital city of a given country, there are usually several consulates across the country that are located in larger tourist cities. Tourist support is one of the main businesses consulates are created for in the first place. For example, in Germany there is the United States embassy in Berlin, while the consulates are in Munich, Hamburg, and Frankfurt.
  • A consulate usually deals with smaller issues, such as immigrant and non-immigrant visa processing, cultural support and promotion or organization of events (such as forums, cinema events, concerts.) An embassy, on the other hand, deals with important issues. The ambassador is usually endowed with the right to speak on behalf of the Government of his/ her country.

Comparison chart

A consulateAn embassy
Is smallerIs larger
Usually located in larger tourist citiesUsually located in the capital of the country
Deals with smaller issues, such as visasDeals with diplomatic issues
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