The missions can be called Germany's eyes, ears and voice abroad. On instructions from the Federal Foreign Office, they represent our country, defend its interests and protect its citizens in the host country. They negotiate with the government of the host country and promote political relations as well as economic, cultural and scientific cooperation.
The essential tasks of the missions include:
- collecting information,
- reporting on issues which are of relevance to the various authorities of the Federation and the Länder,
- helping German citizens in emergencies, carrying out crisis protection measures, and assisting Germans living abroad with regard to certificates and legal documents,
- issuing visas for travel to Germany,
- assisting German companies with their activities in the host country and generally enhancing mutual trade,
- promoting cultural exchange,
- educating the host country's public about our foreign policy and also about Germany, its society and culture in general,
- preparing and escorting high-level visits from Germany.
The 226 German missions abroad are divided into
- 152 embassies,
- 53 consulates-general,
- 7 consulates,
- 12 permanent missions,
- 1 Representative Office,
- 1 German Institute.
Furthermore there are
- 327 unpaid honorary consuls. Honorary consuls are appointed where the establishment of a career consular post would seem too great an effort, but where the size of the consular district of the responsible mission and the number of resident or visiting Germans nevertheless make it sensible to have a local contact point. They are volunteers who do not have to be German citizens, in fact they are often citizens of the host country. Given their long years of working experience in the host state, they are well connected and have an intimate knowledge of conditions on the ground and are thus in a position to provide valuable assistance to Germans in emergency situations.
Honorary consuls are not entitled to perform all official consular acts, nor are they obliged to be permanently present.