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Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

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Establishment of Diplomatic Missions and Consular Posts in Canada

Foreign states wishing to establish diplomatic or consular premises in Canada must obtain written approval from the Government of Canada. This section contains information on the requirements and procedures involved in opening an embassy, high commission or consular post.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), which conducts Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations and is responsible for official communication between the Government of Canada and the government of any other country, delegates to the Office of Protocol responsibility for processing, first of all, requests from foreign states to open diplomatic or consular premises.

First step

A foreign state wishing to open a new diplomatic mission or consular post must send a request to the Office of Protocol by way of Note.

In the case of an embassy or high commission, the request may be issued by the Foreign Affairs ministry of the sending state, from its Permanent Mission to the United Nations, or from its embassy in Washington, D.C.

In the case of a consular post headed by a career consular officer, the request must in principle be issued by the diplomatic mission accredited to Canada and must contain the following information:

  • classification of the position and proposed consular district
  • detailed justification of the need and importance of establishing such a post
  • In the case of a consular post headed by an honorary consular officer, please consult the guidelines in this regard.

The Office of Protocol will relay the Canadian government’s decision by way of Note, normally within four to six weeks.

Subsequent steps

Once a foreign state has received permission to open a diplomatic mission or consular post and has identified its location, that is, the real property to be used as its premises, that state must obtain written approval to purchase the property.

This topic is examined in detail in section 3 of the Guidelines on Property: Acquisition, Disposition and Development of Real Property in Canada by a Foreign State.

Legal aspects

In international law, establishing a diplomatic mission, like establishing diplomatic relations themselves, “takes place by mutual consent,” in accordance with Article 2 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

In the case of consular posts, Article 4 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations states the following:

  • A consular post may be established in the territory of the receiving State only with that State’s consent.
  • The seat of the consular post, its classification and the consular district shall be established by the sending State and shall be subject to the approval of the receiving State.
  • Subsequent changes in the seat of the consular post, its classification or the consular district may be made by the sending State only with the consent of the receiving State.
  • The consent of the receiving State shall also be required if a consulate-general or a consulate desires to open a vice-consulate or a consular agency in a locality other than that in which it is itself established.
  • The prior express consent of the receiving State shall also be required for the opening of an office forming part of an existing consular post elsewhere than at the seat thereof.

The Canadian government has no obligations in terms of protection and security or taxation matters as regards a diplomatic mission or consular post that has not been established in accordance with Article 2 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, or Article 4 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, as the case may be.

Before a move—even a temporary one—to new diplomatic or consular premises, approval must be obtained from the Government of Canada. In the event that a foreign state establishes or relocates a diplomatic mission or consular post without written approval from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, such premises are not considered inviolable.

Did you know?

  • A foreign state may establish the premises of an embassy or high commission of Canada only in the City of Ottawa. However, heads of diplomatic mission and other accredited members of the diplomatic mission can establish their official and personal residences in the National Capital Region, that is, the seat of Government of Canada and the surrounding area, and more specifically, the area that is part of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
  • A foreign state may establish the premises of a consular post in the National Capital Region only if that state does not have a diplomatic mission.
  • A foreign state may establish only one consular post per city.
  • Everyone who represents any premises in Canada as a diplomatic mission or a consular post, or as an office of a political subdivision of a foreign state, where those premises do not constitute: (a) a diplomatic mission established in accordance with Article 2 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations; (b) a consular post established in accordance with paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, as the case may be, commits an offence under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. To find out more, see Part IV of this Act on the Justice Canada website.

Other government offices and opening of offices of diplomatic missions and consular posts

Canada does not grant special status or immunity to trade, cultural, tourism or information offices of foreign governments, or to members of their staff. However, a foreign state may request approval to open a trade, cultural, tourism or information section of an existing diplomatic mission or consular post, provided that such a section is established at the same location as the diplomatic mission or consular post. Other conditions may apply.

Other sources of information

To view the list of diplomatic missions and consular posts accredited to Canada, see the publication entitled Diplomatic, Consular and other Representatives in Canada posted on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website under the heading Office of Protocol.

Speak to a resource person concerning the establishment of diplomatic missions and consular posts

The Office of Protocol’s Privileges and Immunities Unit answers your questions regarding the opening and moving of diplomatic missions and consular posts. Services are normally available between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. You can also send an email and will usually receive a reply within 48 hours.

Telephone: 613-944-1159 | 613-944-0096
Fax: 613-943-1075
Email address: xdc@international.gc.ca

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Date Modified:
2012-10-22