Safety. Security. Service. Our highest priority is to protect the lives and interests of U.S. citizens overseas. We do this through routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens at our embassies and consulates around the world. We serve our fellow citizens during their most important moments – births, deaths, disasters, arrests, and medical emergencies. The Bureau of Consular Affairs formulates and implements policy relating to immigration and consular services and ensures responsive and efficient provision of consular services overseas.
Consular Affairs (CA) is the public face of the Department of State for millions of people around the world. CA is responsible for the welfare and protection of U.S. citizens abroad, for the issuance of passports and other documentation to citizens and nationals, and for the protection of U.S. border security and the facilitation of legitimate travel to the United States. CA also has a significant domestic presence, most notably the 29 U.S. Passport agencies and centers, 26 of which deal directly with the U.S. public. Responsibility for these functions is vested within the Department of State in the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs and for their implementation abroad in consular officers assigned to embassies and consulates abroad. CA is also the Department’s largest bureau in terms of domestic personnel and is almost entirely funded through revenue generated by consular fees.
The consular corps of the United States dates back to the late 1700s, predating even the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Having served as Minister to France for five years, then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was acutely aware of the need to protect the interests of American seamen in overseas ports. In 1792, Congress passed a law describing the powers and duties of a consul. This law, as amended, still serves as the basic charter for our consular work today. Over the years, the consular service expanded from postings in a handful of countries to representation around the world. In 1924, landmark legislation merged the consular and diplomatic services into the unified Foreign Service that exists today. The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) was established in 1979.