Diplomatic mission

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A diplomatic mission is a group of people from one state or an international inter-governmental organisation (such as the United Nations) present in another state to represent the sending state/organisation in the receiving state. In practice, a diplomatic mission usually denotes the permanent mission, namely the office of a country's diplomatic representatives in the capital city of another country.



A permanent diplomatic mission is typically known as an embassy, and the person in charge of the mission is known as an ambassador. The term "embassy" is often used to refer to the building or compound housing an ambassador's offices and staff. Technically, however, "embassy" refers to the diplomatic delegation itself, while the office building in which they work is known as a chancery.

Ambassadors can reside within or outside of the chancery; for example, American diplomatic missions maintain separate housing for their ambassadors apart from their embassies. Ambassadorial residences enjoy the same rights as missions.

All missions to the United Nations are known simply as permanent missions, while EU Member States' missions to the European Union are known as permanent representations and the head of such a mission is typically both a permanent representative and an ambassador. European Union missions abroad are known as EU delegations. Some countries have more particular naming for their missions and staff: a Vatican mission is headed by a nuncio (Latin "envoy") and consequently known as an apostolic nunciature. Libya's missions also use the name people's bureau and the head of the mission is a secretary.

In the past a diplomatic mission headed by a lower-ranking official (an envoy or minister resident) was known as a legation. Since the ranks of envoy and minister resident are effectively obsolete, the designation of legation is no longer used today. (See diplomatic rank.)

Missions between Commonwealth countries are known as high commissions and their heads are high commissioners. This is due to the fact that ambassadors are exchanged between foreign countries, but since the beginning of the Commonwealth, member countries have nominally maintained that they are not foreign to one another (the same reason as the naming of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office).

A consulate is similar to (but not the same as) a diplomatic office, but with focus on dealing with individual persons and businesses, as defined by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. A consulate or consulate general is generally a representative of the embassy in locales outside of the capital city. For instance, the United Kingdom has its Embassy of the United Kingdom in Washington, D.C., but also maintains seven consulates-general and four consulates elsewhere in the US. The person in charge of a consulate or consulate-general is known as a consul or consul-general, respectively. Similar services may also be provided at the embassy (to serve the region of the capital) in what is sometimes called a consular section.

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