International Law Consular Relations
John Quigley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 November 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0014


Rights and duties of states as they send and receive consular representatives is the subject matter of the field of consular relations. The law relating to consular relations governs the process for accreditation of consular representatives, the obligations of the receiving state to facilitate consular functions, immunities enjoyed by the sending state for the premises it uses and the functions in which it engages, and immunities enjoyed by consular representatives. This body of law also relates to individual nationals of sending states because consuls perform functions relating to the activities of their nationals in the territory of the receiving state; for example, marriage, the administration of estates, and criminal arrest and prosecution. The law on consular relations is found in customary international law, based on practice extending back a number of centuries. To a large extent, that customary law has been codified in a multilateral treaty that enjoys wide adherence, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963). In addition, many states conclude treaties bilaterally with other states to provide for the specifics of the consular relations they desire. In Europe the states of the European Union (EU) have consolidated their consular efforts to a certain degree. Consular law is given mention in many general treatises on international law. While much helpful information can be found in such general treatises, they are too numerous for inclusion here.

Reference Works

There is no bibliography on consular relations, nor is there any encyclopedic work on the topic. However, several publications are helpful in finding current materials or in providing a guide to terminology. Maresca 1991 gives guidance on the basic terminology of consular relations; the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law gives a basic account of the major subissues in consular relations, whereas Public International Law: A Current Bibliography of Books and Articles keeps one up to date on new literature in the field.

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