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Summary and insights

Language: English

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Main Report

Language: Dutch

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Language: English

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Research Questions

  1. How have the eight countries organised their consular services for citizens residing or traveling abroad?
  2. Which insights can be identified from other countries that can be considered for improving the provision of consular services to citizens abroad?

This report explores the ways in which seven countries have organised their consular services for citizens residing or traveling abroad. The study, commissioned by the Netherlands House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer), identifies insights about how other countries have organised and implemented their consular services, and uses this as an opportunity to outline ways in which the Dutch can consider in improving the provision of these services to their citizens abroad. The insights relate to: policy and legal frameworks; the organisation of the consular network; travel advice and travel documents; and support to distressed citizens, such as those in crisis situations, those requiring acute medical support or repatriation, or those in detention. Taking into account the national contexts and policy frameworks of different countries that shape their engagement with citizens abroad, insights and possibilities in this context are understood as practices, experiences and ideas from other countries that could potentially be used in a meaningful exchange of views between the House of Representatives and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Even though the study does not seek to draw specific conclusions or make policy recommendations, its findings can contribute to a further improvement of consular services.

Key Findings

Domestic legislation around consular services

  • In some countries consular responsibilities have been codified and consolidated in legislation, while in others they arise from multiple laws.
  • Where consular services are not determined by law they are provided upon discretion, with policy frameworks used to define the services and allow authorities more flexibility to respond to the needs of citizens.

Organisation of consular networks

  • Some countries offer standardised "core" training to all consular staff in order to achieve consistent service.
  • Headquarters can be used as a hub for information-sharing and the flexible allocation of resources. The centralisation of customer services in call centres can help improve availability.
  • Several countries request a financial contribution for notarial services, while others maintain a specific emergency fund to finance crisis operations in emergency situations.

Travel advice and documents

  • Some countries use targeted communication activities to reach different target groups and communities that they believe are more at risk when traveling abroad or settling, such as the LGBTQ community, women, and student travellers.
  • Several countries have attempted to make procedures related to the issuance of travel documents easier, for example by offering citizens abroad the ability to apply for a new passport online, which can shorten the application processing time.

Support to distressed citizens

  • Collaboration with NGOs around the repatriation of distressed citizens can also help assist those that are vulnerable.
  • Crisis response plans can help improve the preparedness of individual missions.
  • Several countries provide financial assistance for repatriation (in the form of loans).
  • Some countries entered into bilateral agreements with other countries to improve conditions of citizens in detention abroad.

Other services

  • Online voting allows citizens abroad to vote from a location and at a time that suits them. Citizens from countries where elections are constituency-based can also sometimes elect representatives who represent the interests of citizens abroad.
  • In some countries, organising cultural events is an essential part of consular work.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Dutch House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal) and conducted by RAND Europe.

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