You are here:
Like their counterparts the standard consuls and consuls general (often referred to as “career consuls”), the honorary consul is an official of the sending country. Unlike regular consuls however, the honorary consul is not a government employee of the sending state, and therefore does not change posts based on changes of administration in the sending country.
Honorary consuls are generally dignitaries or persons of position in business and society in the receiving state, while having some connection to the sending state. Honorary consuls are not necessarily citizens of the sending states; rather, they are recognized by the sending states as persons of influence, capable of furthering the objectives of the sending state in the receiving state.
Honorary consuls may represent large and densely populated countries, or, as is often the case, small countries in the developing world which seek to promote business diplomacy. As big business often seeks to establish itself in the developing world, honorary consuls are often chosen for their acumen in such environs.
Most honorary consuls are people of means or independent wealth who do not receive monetary compensation for their service as consul. They may have other business interests. Many hold the title for life. Such long term establishment of official representation is invaluable to the sending state. Honorary consuls are often called upon to provide back channel information or communications, diplomatic advance team logistics, local reputation perceptions and government relations. Many come from previous careers in trade, business or elected office.
Honorary consuls are unique in that they are officials of both the sending state and the host state. Honorary consuls in Canada are confirmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Most honorary consuls are appointed by the president of their sending state, rather than the minister of foreign relations as is the case with standard consuls. Effective standard consuls will often call upon honorary consuls to familiarize and introduce the standard consul within an area where the honorary consul resides.
Some honorary consuls have the same capabilities as standard consuls regarding identification and document legalization. This capability is referred to in the honorary consular community as “powers”. Those with powers legalize documents and provide identification (passport) assistance to the citizens of the sending countries. Honorary consuls without powers will often refer such needs to the nearest consul general of their sending state.
In cases when a developing or small country does not have the budget to maintain an embassy in a given country, they may establish an honorary consul instead. In such cases, the honorary consul fulfills the duties otherwise assigned to ambassadors or consuls general. Such individuals usually hold the title of Honorary Consul General.