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Protocol Guidelines

4. Visas and accreditation

All home-based staff must be formally nominated and accepted by the Australian Government before travelling to Australia to take up their appointments. This is done through the request for and grant of visas. For diplomatic and consular officials, visas must be formally requested by the sending state's foreign ministry; for staff of international organisations, visa requests must be made by the organisation's headquarters. The Australian diplomatic mission or consulate with responsibility for the sending country or organisation can advise what details are required for the visa request to be considered by Protocol Branch. Additional information such as a full job description and CV may be required.

For defence attachés/advisers and their deputies, who must be serving military personnel, a nomination and full curriculum vitae must be provided four to six weeks before planned travel to Australia. Confirmation of acceptance must be obtained before visas are requested. Defence attachés/advisers and their deputies will be given diplomatic accreditation.

Clerical support staff/assistants to defence attachés/advisers (who may be military personnel or civilians) do not have to be nominated and approved in advance. They will be given Administrative and Technical accreditation.

Prior approval must also be obtained for career heads of consular posts. A note verbale nominating the head of post and a full curriculum vitae must be provided at least four weeks before proposed commencement in the role. Once acceptance of the appointment is confirmed by Protocol Branch, a diplomatic visa should be requested. Exequaturs are not issued to career consuls.

Transfers within Australia e.g. from a diplomatic mission in Canberra to a consular post interstate – are treated as new postings, and formal nomination by the foreign ministry is required. Once the transfer is approved by Protocol Branch, departure and arrival documentation must be submitted before the new accreditation can be finalised.

An incoming official's accreditation should match that of the person they are replacing. For a new position, a full description of the role and duties is required to enable the correct accreditation to be determined. If an official is assigned to a position that has been vacant for more than two years, this will be treated as a new position, and comprehensive information will be required.

The Australian Government does not accept the appointment of Australian citizens or permanent residents as diplomatic or consular representatives of another country unless there are exceptional circumstances. If consent is given, privileges and immunities will be strictly limited in accordance with Article 38.1 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations or Article 71 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Any person who chooses to renounce their Australian citizenship or permanent resident status to assume a diplomatic or consular role for another country would need to apply to the Department of Home Affairs on completion of their assignment to have their citizenship or permanent residency reinstated. There is no guarantee that such an application would be successful.

4.1 Dependants

The Australian Government will accept as a dependant a spouse, de facto or same sex partner provided they are formally nominated by the sending government or international organisation, and that reciprocal recognition would be given by the sending state. Unmarried children up to 21 years of age who are full time members of the official's household and formally nominated are also accepted as dependants and are eligible for diplomatic visas.

Other family members should apply to the Department of Home Affairs for an appropriate visa, such as a student visa or a visitor visa. Visitor visas may be granted for up to a twelve-month period of stay.

In exceptional circumstances, for example, where there is an established history of dependence for medical reasons, diplomatic visas may be granted to family members such as adult children or aged parents. The sending state or international organisation must explain and document the nature of the dependency. If approved, such dependants are accepted as private family members without immunities or privileges.

4.2 Visas

All foreign officials posted to Australia and their dependants must hold valid visas.

Members of the diplomatic and consular corps and the staff of some international organisations are granted diplomatic (subclass 995) visas, for an initial term of up to four years. These visas have a multiple-entry provision, allowing the holder to enter and leave Australia without limitation until the 'must not arrive after' date noted in the visa grant notice. Diplomatic visas cease to be valid when an official's posting is completed, regardless of the date shown on the visa grant notice.

See the table in section 4.6 for information on who may be eligible for diplomatic visas.

Visas are provided to foreign officials and their dependants on the understanding that staff are rotated regularly and not posted indefinitely. Requests for new visas after the initial visa's validity expires are considered on a case-by-case basis up to a maximum of ten years. Visa renewals should be requested by the mission or post four weeks before the 'must not arrive after' date.

Children born to foreign officials during their posting in Australia must obtain an Australian visa. The birth must be registered with an Australian Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages; a copy of the birth certificate and a colour copy of the personal data page in the child's passport should then be sent to Protocol Branch with a request for a visa.

Missions, posts and international organisations are required to inform Protocol Branch if an official's dependants leave the household, so that their diplomatic visas can be ceased.

No one is permitted to have more than one Australian visa, even if they have multiple passports. If foreign officials or their family members obtain other visas during their posting to Australia, these will cancel the original visas and affect their accreditation.

4.3 Accreditation

Officials of diplomatic missions are accredited in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as diplomatic, administrative and technical, or service staff.

Officials of consular posts are accredited in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations as consular officers, consular employees, service staff or honorary consuls.

Persons assigned to provide domestic support to a diplomatic mission or consular post must be employed by the sending government in order to be eligible for accreditation as service staff. To establish their status, a CV and detailed job description may be requested, along with proof of their employment such as a notice of engagement or the issue of a diplomatic, official or service passport.

Accreditation of staff of international organisations varies according to the legal basis of the office's establishment.

For home-based officials, the mission/post/office must notify Protocol Branch (protocol.branch@dfat.gov.au) promptly of new arrivals, and provide completed Arrival Notification – Accredited Official [PDF] and Arrival Notification – Official's Dependants [PDF] forms, a colour copy of the passport personal data page and one colour passport photo for the official and spouse  These forms are required even should the dependant (s) arrive separately at a later date.

Honorary consuls must complete an Honorary Consul – Commencement form [PDF] and return it with a colour passport photo to Protocol Branch (protocol.branch@dfat.gov.au). They must provide telephone numbers and confirm (by ticking the relevant section on the form) that these numbers, and home address if used at the consulate office, may be published in the publicly available Consular List.

Protocol Branch will then formally accredit the official. Identity cards (see section 4.4) are issued to all officials and to the spouses of diplomats, administrative and technical staff and consular officers. Identity cards are not issued to the spouses of consular employees, service staff or honorary consuls, or to children.

Hand-over periods should be avoided to the extent possible and strictly limited when necessary. Protocol Branch should be consulted when seeking hand-over periods in excess of two weeks so that potential issues, including reciprocity matters, arising when two officers are accredited in the same position can be considered.

The names and designations of diplomats, consular officers and senior representatives of international organisations and their partners are published in the Diplomatic List and the Consular List on the department's website.

If an official's rank or accreditation changes during their posting, Protocol Branch (protocol.branch@dfat.gov.au) should be advised:

  • about a promotion, for example from Second Secretary to First Secretary, by the mission/post
  • about a change of functions, for example from consular employee to consular officer, by the foreign ministry
  • about a transfer, for example from an embassy in Canberra to a consular post in another city, by the foreign ministry.

4.4 Identity cards

Protocol Branch issues identity cards to demonstrate official recognition of the status granted under the Vienna Conventions (or other arrangements, for international organisations). The cards (which are colour coded according to the category of accreditation) carry a brief statement of the immunities to which the holder is entitled.

For a home-based official, identity cards have an expiry date that matches the official's visa. A new card should be requested if the official's visa needs to be renewed.

For honorary consuls, identity cards are usually issued for five years. Requests for new cards should be made six weeks before the expiry date to allow time for Protocol Branch to consult with the sending government about renewal.

Lost identity cards should be reported to the police and a copy of the police report should be provided to Protocol Branch with a request for a replacement.

4.5 Notification of departures

When home-based officials complete their posting, the mission/post/office must notify Protocol Branch, provide a completed Departure Notification – Accredited Officials and Dependants form [PDF], and return identity cards issued to the official and spouse. All visas will be ceased within several working days of posting completion, rendering them invalid for future travel to Australia.

Protocol Branch will not issue identity card/s to a newly arrived official until the predecessor's card/s have been returned.

When an honorary consul's term concludes, the sponsoring mission should complete an Honorary Consul – Departure form [PDF] and return it to Protocol Branch.

4.6 Who is eligible for a diplomatic visa?

Foreign government employees assigned to diplomatic missions and consular posts in Australia
Yes. Heads of diplomatic missions and consular posts and Defence Attachés/Advisors and their deputies must obtain approval for their appointments before requesting visas.
Dependants of foreign government employees accredited to diplomatic missions and consular posts in Australia
A formally nominated spouse, de facto or same sex partner is eligible, and unmarried children up to 21 years old, if they are full-time members of the household. Parents are not eligible.
Representatives of international organisations
Generally, yes, but this will depend on the relevant headquarters agreement. Others may be granted temporary work – international relations (subclass 403) visas.
Diplomatic couriers
Yes, if coming to Australia on official business.
Home-based officials on short-term missions including temporary relief duties for accredited staff
These will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Foreign government officials attending a conference or official meetings in Australia
No, they must apply to the Department of Home Affairs for an appropriate visa.
Domestic workers employed privately by eligible members of the diplomatic or consular corps
No – see chapter 9.2 of these guidelines.
Representatives of international trade promotion offices, cultural institutions or tourism offices
No – they must apply to the Department of Home Affairs.
Foreign language teachers, religious instructors and community welfare workers
No – they must apply to the Department of Home Affairs.
Foreign Nationals engaged under contract by diplomatic missions and consular posts in Australia
No.

 

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