FCO consular staff around the world offer practical advice, assistance and support to an ever-increasing number of British nationals who travel or live overseas. Typical consular duties performed by Posts include issuing passports and emergency passports; registering births and deaths; handling cases of child abduction and forced marriages; and assisting Britons detained or imprisoned, who have fallen ill or been the victim of a crime. In addition, consular staff use their local knowledge to assess objectively the risks to British nationals, which range from terrorism to natural disasters. This information is distilled by the London Travel Advice Unit into the FCO country advice notices, which is relied on by thousands of travellers, tour operators and travel agents.
There are nearly 1,400 people directly involved in entry clearance work at 178 visa-issuing Posts worldwide. Around a quarter of staff are UK-based FCO and Home Office staff, the others are engaged locally. In 2001, Posts handled nearly 1.8 million applications for visas, 90% of which were successful.
Some 1,500 FCO staff are employed in commercial and investment work overseas. Roughly a fifth are UK-based and the rest locally engaged. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) provides trade development and inward investment services. UKTI is represented in over 200 Posts and its staff provide support to UK firms wishing to trade and export in overseas markets. Meanwhile, Posts in 29 locations employ a further 85 staff who work solely on inward investment. These Posts spearhead the marketing and promotion work of UKTI, generating new inward investment opportunities and maintaining existing investments.
Political / Press & Public Affairs Section
The FCO is the eyes and ears of the British Government abroad. Posts are linked directly into Departments across Whitehall, providing vital information on developments abroad, and on the effects of decisions abroad in the UK, and vice-versa. To be in a position to exert influence, Posts maintain extensive networks of contacts among decision-makers and have targeted programmes of public diplomacy which aim to promote the UK's strengths of integrity, creativity, and openness and thereby increase trade, inward investment, tourism and the influence of UK foreign policy.
The good management of our diplomatic missions is essential to the success of their work. Management officers are not only responsible for their missions' budgets and the day-to-day running of the offices, but also for staff housing and other facilities which contribute to the smooth operation of the Diplomatic Service.