consular service, organized body of public officers maintained by a government in the important ports and trade centers of foreign countries to protect the persons and interests of its nationals and to aid them in every possible way. Consuls are officially recognized by a foreign state through the issuance of an authorization known as an exequatur, which may be revoked by the admitting state at any time. The many duties of U.S. consuls in foreign states include promoting and protecting American commercial interests; issuing passports and verifying citizenship; certifying the sanitary conditions of the cargo, crew, and passengers of vessels leaving for U.S. ports; and mediating with local officials in cases of legal matters involving American citizens. The consular service was once strictly distinguished from the diplomatic service, but because of the interrelated duties of the two branches, the Rogers Act of 1924 consolidated both into the Foreign Service of the Department of State. The Department of Commerce and the Department of the Treasury may place commercial attachés at a consulate office to aid in gathering statistics and promoting trade. The persons of consuls enjoy immunity and extraterritoriality in all matters pertaining to their official functions, and the premises of consulates are likewise privileged. Such privileges are granted either by courtesy or through special consular treaties.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.