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An ambassador is the highest-ranking diplomatic officer, designated by the government as its resident representative in a foreign state or before an international organization. The primary duties of ambassadors are to maintain diplomatic relations with the receiving state and promote foreign policy strategies through international organizations. Among other responsibilities, ambassadors ensure the security of their state citizens living in the receiving country, seek to build and maintain strong diplomatic and economic ties with foreign nations, and administer all the affairs of the embassy. States commonly have ambassadors in most countries with which they have diplomatic relations, and the embassy is usually located in the host country's capital.

Ambassadors have diplomatic immunity. Therefore, they are protected against prosecution in the receiving country for the entire period in which they hold their diplomatic post. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 provides that “A diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State. He shall also enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction except in the case of: 

  • A real action relating to private immovable property situated in the territory of the receiving State, unless he holds it on behalf of the sending State for the purposes of the mission;
  • An action relating to succession in which the diplomatic agent is involved as executor,
  • administrator, heir or legatee as a private person and not on behalf of the sending State;
  • An action relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent in the receiving State outside his official functions.”

[Last updated in October of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]