The Consular Corps

18.03.2016. 14:58

Consular functions

The establishment of a consular post in the Republic of Latvia requires the Latvian Government’s prior consent and its approval of the seat, classification and consular district, in accordance with Article 4 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs. New post proposals should be addressed to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia. If the proposing country has a diplomatic mission in Latvia, the mission may initiate the request by a Verbal Note to the Ministry. A consular post headed by a career consular officer may also seek consent for a new consular post to be established in this way. If, however, the proposing country does not have diplomatic representation in Latvia, or is represented by honorary consular officers only, the request should come direct from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the sending state’s capital through the nearest, most convenient Latvian mission.

When a country proposes to establish a new consular post headed by a career consular officer, the request to establish a post should address the projected scope and volume of the workload of the new post.

Where a country maintains diplomatic representation in Latvia, members of the mission may perform whatever consular functions are required in accordance with Article 70 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs and Article 3(2) of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Members of diplomatic missions (i.e. based in Riga) may perform such functions throughout Latvia, regardless of the existence of any consular post or it’s approved consular district.

Consular districts

The number of consular districts corresponds to the number of representations the relevant foreign state has been granted permission to open.

The consular district of the Embassy includes also consular districts of other consular representations.

Overlapping of consular districts is not allowed.

Classification of consular posts

Consular posts in Latvia are classified as Consulates-General and Consulates.

Career Heads of Consular Post - admission to functions

The Head of a Consular Post shall be provided by the sending state with a document, in the form of a commission or similar instrument, made out for each appointment, certifying his capacity and showing, as a general rule, his full name, his category and class, the consular district and the seat of the consular post. The sending state shall transmit the commission or similar instrument through the diplomatic or other appropriate channel to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs as specified in the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs, Article 11.

In due time the Latvian Government will issue an authorisation termed also an Exequatur admitting the head of a consular post to the exercise of his functions (Article 12).

Pending delivering of the Exequatur the head of a consular post is admitted on a provisional basis to the exercise of their functions (Article 13).

As soon as the Head of a Consular Post is admitted even provisionally to the exercise of his functions, the Latvian Government shall immediately notify the competent authorities of the consular district. It shall also ensure that the necessary measures are taken to enable the Head of a Consular Post to carry out the duties of his office and to have the benefit of the provisions of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs.

Notification of arrival and departure

Career consular officers who have been approved remain subject to the provisions of Section "Arrivals and Departures of Members of Diplomatic Missions".

Courtesy visits at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Ministry advises that career Heads of the Consular posts should pay their courtesy visits to the State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or in his absence, the Undersecretary of State for Legal and Consular Issues, as well as to the Director of the Consular Department.

If a consular post is temporarily headed by the Deputy Head of the Consular post the latter should pay a courtesy visit to the Undersecretary of State for Legal and Consular Issues, or in his/her absence - to the Director of the Consular Department.

Immunity and inviolability

Immunity

Under the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, consular officers and consular employees enjoy immunity from jurisdiction in respect of acts performed in the exercise of their consular duties. Career officers also enjoy immunity from arrest or pre-trial detention, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision given by the competent judicial authority. However, consular officers may also be arrested or subjected to restrictions on their personal freedom in execution of a final and irrevocable court judgment.

Inviolability

Under the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the following are inviolable:

  • the consular premises
  • the consular archives
  • the official correspondence of the post
  • the consular courier
  • consular officers, to a limited extent

Consular officers who are nationals of or permanently resident in the receiving state only enjoy immunity from jurisdiction and personal inviolability in respect of official acts performed in the exercise of their duties.

Based on reciprocity, career consular officers are normally equated with the diplomatic staff of missions. In accordance with the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs, a diplomatic mission may also exercise consular functions, in which case the status of the staff will continue to be governed by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Identity cards

As with the diplomatic corps, career consular officers and their family members are registered at the State Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are issued an identity card.

Consular Posts headed by Honorary Consuls

Latvia’s practice related to the establishment of honorary consulates and the admission of honorary consuls is based on the provisions of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs.

Establishment of Consular Posts headed by Honorary Consuls

The Latvian practice related to the establishment of consulates headed by honorary consuls and the admission of honorary consuls is based on the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

The establishment of a consular post in Latvia requires prior consent of the Latvian Government and its approval of the seat, its classification and the consular district (Articles 4 and 68).

New post proposals should be addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If the sending country has a diplomatic mission in Latvia, the mission may initiate the request with a Verbal Note to the Ministry. If the sending country does not have diplomatic representation in Latvia, the request to establish a consular post must come directly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the sending state.

Any proposal to establish a consular post headed by an Honorary Consul should be supported by an explanation of the scope and the volume of consular services to be provided by the post.

Appointment of Honorary Consuls

The appointment of an Honorary Consul reflects a formal agreement between a sending government and a receiving government, as outlined in the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

A nominee for appointment as an Honorary Consul in the Republic of Latvia will normally be a Latvian citizen or permanent resident who has some substantial connection with the sending state. The nominee must be of sound character and should enjoy a good reputation in the local community. He or she should have the capacity to communicate and maintain good relations with the local authorities in the consular district. The Latvian Government, in consultation with the relevant State authorities, will consider the personal qualities of each nominee and may reject a nomination where it has doubts about the nominee’s suitability. The nominee’s full curriculum vitae, current home and business address, telephone, fax and e-mail contact details should be provided with the nomination.

Admission to functions

Provided that the sending state’s proposal is acceptable, the MFA shall request the sending state to provide the Ministry a commission or similar instrument for the purpose of issuing an Exequatur.

Honorary Consuls will normally be given a commission by the sending government, outlining the consular functions they are empowered to perform. Before they exercise functions, however, Honorary Consuls must be formally accepted by the Latvian Government. Such confirmation is constituted by the Exequatur issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and conveyed to the post when the nomination is approved.

Accreditation

Honorary Consuls along with other members of the Consular Corps are formally recognised by the State Protocol. The State Protocol will provide Honorary Consuls with an ID card as evidence of the Honorary Consul’s status. Identity cards are usually issued for a term of three years at a time. Honorary Consuls should ensure that ID cards remain valid. Please note that ID cards are not issued to the family members of Honorary Consuls.

Immunities and privileges

The 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (Chapter III) lays down provisions on the facilities, privileges and immunities applying to honorary consuls and consular posts headed by them.

In accordance with the provisions of the Vienna Convention, Honorary Consul’s privileges and immunities are limited.

Honorary consuls in Latvia enjoy immunity from jurisdiction in respect of official acts and from giving testimony concerning matters connected with the exercise of those official functions. It is important to note that honorary consuls are not immune from arrest or detention.

A consulate headed by an honorary consul enjoys exemption from customs duties only on the following articles, provided that they are for the official use of the consulate: coats-of-arms, flags, signboards, seals and stamps, books, official printed matter, office furniture, office equipment and similar articles supplied by or at the insistence of the sending state.

The purpose of the privileges mentioned above is obviously not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of missions and consular posts.

In Latvia, consular posts headed by honorary consuls are not allowed to designate diplomatic or consular couriers, or to use diplomatic or consular bags.

Flags

Consular posts headed by honorary consuls may display the national flag and coat of arms of the country they represent. This practice is useful in designating the consular premises for the purposes of both clients and the local authorities. Car pennants, however, should not be flown except on specific occasions when the vehicle is being used solely for official business of the sending state.

Motor vehicles

The official motor vehicle of the Honorary Consul may be registered with a special CH number plate.

The procedure for the registration or cancellation is described in sub-section 7.4.-Registration and cancellation of Motor Vehicles.