LOCAL PROTOCOL

National precedence lists and most books on diplomatic protocol are written primarily for use in the country’s capital. They offer little guidance to the precedence of local officials. Local precedence must be established by local authorities, with due regard to national and international practices, and to the importance – and the sensitivities – of the officials involved (the whole point of protocol). Using the national Order of Precedence as a guide, State and municipal officials should draw parallels appropriate to the local situation. One source of help for local officials is the book Practical Protocol for Floridians, formerly available from the Florida House of Representatives in Talahassee.

CONSULAR PROTOCOL

As can be seen in the precedence list on the reverse, consular officers rank well below diplomats. Although consular officers may sometimes be assigned quasi-diplomatic tasks, their primary functions are those shown here and they retain their consular status.

Consular Heads of Post are usually the highest ranking foreign dignitaries officially representing their countries outside Washington and New York. Precedence follows the position, not the individual. A diplomat assigned to a consular post carries the rank of the consular position, even though the diplomat may hold a higher rank within his or her own foreign service (eg. Ambassador). A country’s Trade Commissioners, Information Officers, Science & Technology Attaches, and Cultural Attaches are also often given the rank of Consul to give them immunities and official status.

Within the same rank (Consul General, Consul, Vice Consul, etc.) consuls are ranked by their date of exequatur (the date on which they were officially recognized by the receiving country).

HEADS OF POST

As the senior representatives of their governments in each territory, Consular Heads of Post are accorded a special position by the Vienna Convention, regardless of their rank or career status. (The position is analogous to the captain of a ship or aircraft). Article 16 (6) of the Vienna Convention gives all Heads of Post precedence over all consular officers not having that status. This special status is reflected in local protocol.

For example a non-career Vice Consul, Head of Post, has precedence over a career Consul, not Head of Post. However the non-career Vice Consul would rank after a career Vice Consul, Head of Post.

CONSULAR TITLES

Under the Vienna Convention the Heads of Consular Posts are of four ranks, whether they be career or non-career officials:

  • Consul General
  • Consul
  • Vice Consul
  • Consular Agent*

* Consular agents are part-time consular officials appointed primarily by Italy, France, and the United States. The United States chooses to use paid consular agents rather than to appoint non-career consuls to supplement the consular work of its own Foreign Service officers overseas.

The Convention does not restrict the right of any nation to create other titles “Counselor”, “Chancellor”, “Deputy Consul General” “Consular Attache”, etc. -so long as they are not used to refer to Heads of Consular Posts.

For normal business correspondence the phrase “the Honorable” is usually omitted. “Consul John Doe” or “Consul General Jane Doe” are quite sufficient (and quite important in the case of non-career consuls who, unlike career officials, have legally separate private identities).

Consul General Jane Doe

Consulate General of Roxania

Address

or

Ms/Miss/Mrs Jane Doe
Consul General of Roxania
(Often seen in the U.S.)

If more formal usage is required for social or official occasions, the accepted form is:

The Honorable John Doe
Consul of Roxania
Address

or

The Honorable John Doe
Consul for Roxania
(Sometimes used to indicate Heads of Post)

Following time-honored European custom, the word used in the Vienna Convention to designate non-career consular officers is “honorary”. The word has antique but precise legal meaning under the Convention, but is not part of a consul’s title under the VCCR. Nor does it correspond to the popular usage of the word, “in name only” or “without power or authority”, as both career and non-career officers are accorded equal powers under the Vienna Convention. An equivalent to this is the military where no distinction is made between the titles of regular and reserve officers. (A US Army Reserve colonel’s title is “Colonel”.)