Accreditation of foreign representatives: administrative policies and guidelines

Most recent date of change: July 10, 2017

1. Policy statement and objective

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) is responsible to conduct all diplomatic and consular relations on behalf of Canada and all official communication between the Government of Canada and the government of any country and the between the Government of Canada and any international organization. Within this context, DFATD’s Office of Protocol is specifically mandated to manage services and programs to the Diplomatic Corps, including accreditation services, in compliance with international and domestic laws/regulations, while ensuring liaison with other federal and provincial authorities that assist in enabling diplomatic missions and international organizations to carry out their duties.

As it is the Government of Canada’s policy to facilitate the stay in Canada of foreign representatives, this policy aims at:

  • clarifying the role, expectations and procedures of the Office of Protocol on matters of accreditation;
  • assist diplomatic missions and international organizations in the management of compliance with Canadian laws, regulations and policies; and
  • connect diplomatic missions and international organizations to other relevant resources.

2. Definition and abbreviations

For the purpose of this policy, the following expressions have the following meaning:

2.1 “Acceptance” refers to the counterfoil issued by DFATD’s Office of Protocol in the passport of a foreign representative and accredited family members as proof of accreditation.

2.2 “Foreign Representatives”, refer to persons on bilateral and multilateral postings in Canada entitled to diplomatic, consular or other official status under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act (FMIOA). It also includes home based staff of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) and Palestinian General Delegation (PGD) who are granted courtesy accreditation.

2.3 “ID Card” refers to the photo identification document (with a ‘D’, ‘C’, ‘J’ or ‘I’ prefix) issued by the DFATD’s Office of Protocol as proof of the person’s accreditation.

2.4 “MTO” refers to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.

2.5 “National Capital Region”, referring to the National Capital Act, refers to the seat of the Government of Canada and its surrounding area, composed of part of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

3. Procedures prior to arriving on posting

Foreign representatives who intend to travel to Canada to take up their diplomatic or official assignment must apply for the appropriate temporary resident visa (TRV) if they are a citizen of country that requires a visa. Nationals of countries that do not require a visa should nonetheless apply for one. This will facilitate their entry at Canadian ports of entry and ensure the right processing upon arrival, thus minimizing the risks of irritating incidents.

TRVs are the only indication to border officers in Canada that the passport holder, in Canada's view, may be entitled to diplomatic, consular or official privileges and immunities and recognized under the FMIOA.

Military/defence attachés must not apply for a visa, or otherwise enter the country, if Canada has not granted consent to the appointment. For enquiries related to the appointment of defence, military, naval and air attachés, please refer to the Guidelines on the Appointment of Military and Defence Attachés.

When a sending State wishes to create a new and incremental position, the Department may, without having to explain its decision, require that the diplomatic mission seek departmental approval prior to the effective arrival in Canada of the incumbent. Individual missions will be notified of such requirement as the case arises.

4. Duration of bilateral postings in Canada

The Department has noted that the vast majority of sending States post home-based staff in Canada for two to five years. In connection therewith, the Department will continue to grant accreditation to bilateral diplomats, members of the administrative and technical staff and members of the service staff based on the assumption that they are rotated on a regular basis and that none are posted for prolonged periods or indefinitely. In the case of foreign representatives whose posting is prolonged beyond the notional posting period of five years, and for greater clarity, the Department may seek a confirmation of continued posting by transmitting a Note directly to the sending State's ministry of foreign affairs.

5. New arrivals and new appointments

In keeping with Article 10 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Article 24 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and various headquarter agreements, new arrivals and new appointments of Missions, International Organizations and other Offices must be notified to DFATD’s Office of Protocol. This should be done by way of Note or letter and contain the following information:

  • Name and title of appointee
  • Date of initial arrival
  • Canadian port of entry
  • Method of transportation (including detailed itinerary)
  • Names of members of the family accompanying
  • Name of person being replaced or indication as to new position
  • Employees assigned on temporary duty (one year or less) should include the appointees exact length of assignment and appropriate title/designation as well as their completed registration form (3 months and up). In such circumstances, the spouse and dependents accompanying may not be considered as members of the family forming part of household for accreditation purposes.

For enquiries related to the designations for the staff, please refer to Circular Note of XDC-1760 of October 30, 1997, Titles / Designations.

For questions relating to the appointment and accredition of non-resident foreign representatives, please refer to Circular Note XDC-0708 of August 1, 2008.

6. Requirements for obtaining Acceptances and Identity Cards after initial arrival

In order to obtain an Acceptance and ID card, the following procedures apply:

  • For each foreign representative, spouse and eligible dependent who hold a passport, two (2) copies of Form EXT-231 (PDF Version, 1 MB)Footnote * (Registration Form) must be completed and duly signed by both the applicant (children are required to sign) and the Head of Mission or a diplomatic agent with signing authority, i.e. officially designated by the Head of Mission by way of Note addressed to the Department;
  • Children whose name appear on the parents passport can be inscribed on the parents registration form;
  • Private servants and members of the service staff must be introduced by separate Note;
  • Mandatory copy of the page of the passport containing the legal name and the passport number for each holder of the travel document;
  • Two (2) passport size photographs (Photos Specifications) must be submitted for each adult, for each dependent and for each private servant;
  • One signature card (Signature Specimen Specifications) containing a signature sample must be submitted for each adult, for each dependent over 16 and for each private servant;
  • A curriculum vitae (including dates of work history and education) must be provided for each diplomatic agent, consular officer, member of the administrative and technical staff and consular employee;
  • If required, and for purposes of obtaining an Ontario drivers licence, personnel residing on the Ontario side of the National Capital Region should submit a photocopy of valid foreign drivers licence (international drivers licences are not accepted by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario) and a photocopy of an official translation (on Embassy letterhead), if the drivers licence is in a language other than English or French. The original drivers licence, original official translation (on Embassy letterhead) and photocopy of valid drivers licence should be presented in person to authorities of the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.
  • Concerning issuance of diplomatic licence plates, a request of entitlement must be submitted to the Office of Protocol, by way of a note, including vehicle specifications i.e. make, model, vehicle registration number (VIN), for those in the National Capital Region and who have Ontario residential status. For enquiries relate to vehicle licence, please refer to the Guidelines on the Issuance of Licence Plates.

Documentation will be returned to the mission if incomplete.

For enquiries related to the accreditation of eligible family members, refer to Circular Note XDC-3196 of November 12, 2004, Accreditation of Spouses and Unmarried Partners and Circular Note of XDC-0643, April 25, 2005, Accreditation: Accreditation of immediate members of the family of foreign representatives.

For enquiries related to the employment of Private Servants, refer to Circular Note of XDC-2494, December 29, 2009, Private Servants: Policy, Procedures and Employment Contract Application.

For enquiries related to the accreditation of Service Staff, refer to Circular Note of XDC-0531, April 27, 2005, Service Staff: Accreditation of “members of the service staff.

7. Recognition of status and authorities of foreign representatives

Specific obligations and objectives accrue to the Government of Canada by virtue of the FMIOA.

While the Department relies on provincial collaboration, most notably in the area of tax-relief, education and vehicle licensing privileges, it would like to indicate that notifications of appointment to provincial protocol offices do not infer that privileges and immunities have been previously and effectively secured under the FMIOA.

For greater certainty as to the securing of privileges and immunities, the Department strongly advises that accreditation requests for newly arrived foreign representatives be submitted immediately upon arrival. The Department believes that this will enhance its ability to fulfill its international obligations. It will also accelerate the Departments ability to ensure appropriate linkage with provincial protocol offices and provide appropriate titles and level of immunities.

8. Transfers

The Department recognizes that if consular officers need to be promoted either temporarily or permanently to a diplomatic mission position during their assignment, the Mission will be required to request the transfer of the individual's acceptance from consular (C) to diplomatic (D) as stated by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Conversely, and keeping in mind the Department’s Circular Note XDC-0650 of April 11, 2003, the names of diplomatic agents having been transferred to consular posts and no longer residing in the seat of the National Capital should be forwarded to the Departments prompt attention, in order that proper amendments be made to the acceptance and level of immunities.

9. The Appointment of accredited bilateral representatives as representatives of Member States to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal

Refer to Canada's revised guidelines on Diplomatic Agents and Consular Officers as Representatives to ICAO of Febuary 9, 2015.

10. Period of validity of Acceptances and Identity Cards

The Department will normally issue acceptances/identity cards for a three (3) year period, while ensuring that such period does not exceed the expiry date of the passport. Diplomatic Missions who have advance knowledge that an individual is appointed for a period less than three (3) years are encouraged to specify this, so that the period of validity can be adjusted accordingly.

In the case of dependent children aged 19 to 25, the acceptance will be issued in accordance with the Department's Circular Note XDC-1262 of July 13, 2010.

11. Acceptable use of Identity Cards

Refer to Circular Note XDC-0625 of April 3, 2009, Use of Office of Protocol Identity Card.

12. Service commitment

Newly arrived foreign representatives and those whose acceptance/identity card have otherwise expired have come to anticipate a quick turnaround time in respect to accreditation requests. While the Department recognizes this, it has established that twenty (20) working days are usually required to process these. Such performance indicators reflect the flow of requests but also ensure that these are properly vetted and managed in an equitable manner.

The Department can provide an expedited service if circumstances warrant and if written justification (by way of Note or letter) is provided by the mission (signed by head of mission) and international organization. Justification generally includes professional-related travel, family emergencies and other official engagements deemed essential. It does not include personal holidays.

Further, given that a foreign driver's licence can be used for up to sixty days (60) after arrival in Canada, the Department will not consider as an emergency the issuance of a certificate of entitlement for newly arrived foreign representatives.

Children whose name appear on the parents’ passport :

The department requests that all foreign representatives verify the accuracy of the personal information contained on the acceptance (counterfoil) and the photo identification once documents are returned to the mission. Also, when a child appear on one of the parents’ passport, it is important to ensure that a corresponding number is indicated on the acceptance in the upper right-hand corner which refers to « Dependant(s) ». In case of any errors, please quickly notify the Office of Protocol as soon as possible in order to make all necessary corrections. This is particularly important in the event of an imminent travel.

13. Extensions of acceptances

Requests for extension or renewal should be submitted no later than four (4) weeks prior to the expiration date by way of a Note or letter to the DFATD’s Office of Protocol, accompanied by the identification card, recent photograph (as per directives set out in Circular Note XDC-2258 of October 24, 2006), attestation of full-time studies for accredited children over the age of 19 and valid passport for each applicant. All eligible, accredited family members are required to submit the request for extensions along with that of the employees.

Under the policy on Births in Canada of Children of Foreign Representatives, the request for extension submitted by the Embassy must include the mandatory declaration of any birth during the period of accreditation. By ensuring compliance with both the spirit and the letter of the policy throughout the assignment cycle, the sending State helps to mitigate the risk of fraudulent acquisition of Canadian passports. 

A passport's expiry date will be the prime consideration in determining the period of validity printed on an acceptance. As such, the Department will not issue acceptances beyond the expiry date of the passport and, in such circumstances; a request for extension will be required, following the renewal of a passport.

The Department is not in a position to expedite the renewal or extension of acceptances or identity cards that have already expired. In such circumstances, the Department may ask that the person whose acceptance or identity card have already expired be officially presented to the Office of Protocol following the same procedures upon arrival to Canada.

For further enquiries, please refer to Circular Note XDC-0462 of March 12, 2010, on the matter of expired Diplomatic and official acceptances (counterfoil in passport) and matching identity cards.

14. Long-term leaves, end of assignments and final departures

Heads of missions, of international organizations and of other special representative offices have a special duty to monitor the continued presence in Canada of all members of their accredited staff and their family members, including domestic workers, and to promptly notify of any change of status such as long-term leaves, end of functions and final departures.

Specific requirements:

1. About long-term leave outside of the country

When notifying the Department of long-term leaves (i.e. three months or more) outside of the country, it is mandatory to provide the following information by way of a Note or letter addressed to Office of Protocol:

  • Name and title
  • Exact duration of the leave, including the date of return
  • Type or reason of the leave
  • Names of members of the family or domestic workers accompanying

If the acceptance and the ID card lapse during the extended leave, the sending State or the international organization or the special representative office must apply for the appropriate temporary resident visa (TRV) on behalf of the affected persons so that they can re-enter Canada.

2. About the end of functions and final departures

When notifying the Department of end of functions and departures, it is mandatory to provide the following information by way of a Note or letter addressed to the Office of Protocol, and surrender the ID Card(s):

  • Name and title
  • Exact date of departure
  • Port of departure
  • Method of transportation, including detailed itinerary for each person
  • Names of members of the family accompanying and domestic worker on their departure
  • Names of members of the family remaining in Canada with specifying their new statuses
  • Name of successor (if available)

Prior to the imminent departure, all passports with an acceptance valid of at least three months beyond the date of end of functions must also be returned for cancellation. In those cases, the ID cards can be sent following the effective departures.

Accreditation documents (i.e. Acceptances and ID Cards) must never be used to remain in, or re-enter, Canada when functions have effectively ended.

If the mission, international organization and other special representative office fails in retrieving an ID Card from a staff member or formerly-accredited family member at the moment of the leave, a notification of departure must still be submitted along with a justification and explanation of the steps taken to have the ID Cards returned.

3. About remaining in Canada in anticipation of the end of an assignment

Further, if a foreign representative and his accredited family members have obtained a new status under Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the mission, international organization and other special representative office must inform immediately the Office of Protocol. This also includes accredited family members who are no longer qualified as "member of the family forming part of the household" ( including domestic worker) or have obtained new statuses with IRCC.

The following information must be sent by way of a Note or letter addressed to the Office of Protocol, along with the ID Card(s).

  • Name and title;
  • Type of new status;
  • Exact date the new status was granted;
  • Names of members of the family accompanying specifying the new status.

The passport containing the Acceptance must also be returned for cancellation purposes.

4. Surrendering documents

Identity cards

It is imperative that all missions, international organizations and other special representative offices ensure the return of all ID cards issued by the Department following a departure or any changes of status.

If the Department identifies cases of non-compliance, it may suspend or cease the issuance of new ID cards until the matter is resolved.

Licence Plates issued by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario

For the province of Ontario, CD, CC, XT and XO Licence Plates must be returned directly to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.

Failure to respect the above within the required period may result in an abuse of privileges and immunities by persons who are no longer entitled to them.

15. Other considerations

The Department is responsible to inform the provincial protocol offices of new consular appointments and provide a list of consular personnel who have completed their assignments and have departed Canada. This is normally done on a monthly basis.

16. Photos specifications

Please refer to Circular Note XDC-2258 of October 24, 2006, new requirements regarding the submission of photographs for new appointments and extensions (renewals) of acceptances.

17. Signature card and signature specimen specifications

Please refer to Circular Note XDC-2456 of October 24, 2006, new guidelines relating to signature specimens for the new identity card.

18. Reciprocity and more favourable treatment

Nothing in this policy shall be construed as preventing Canada from applying the provisions of this policy restrictively on a basis of reciprocity or to accord a treatment greater than that which is covered herein on the basis of existing and future bilateral arrangements.

19. Enquiries

For interpretation and application of this directive, diplomatic missions, international organizations and other offices established in Canada should contact the following individuals at DFATD’s Office of Protocol:

Manager, Accreditation and Registrar

Deputy Director, Privileges, Immunities and Accreditation


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