As with other types of diplomats, honorary consuls are appointed by their country of citizenship to represent the sending country's citizens and ambitions while living in a foreign country. Unlike career consuls, honorary consuls are not directly compensated by the sending country and are not considered civil servants. Instead, they operate on a ceremonial level while also working to improve commercial, cultural and scientific relations between nations. In most cases, honorary consuls are already expatriates to a certain country or have established long-term residency there. Honorary consul usage has risen in recent years as they perform many of the same functions as career consuls but are much less costly to the sending country.
There is some overlap between formal consuls and honorary consuls. Consuls are not ambassadors, who primarily act as representatives of their respective head-of-state; consuls occupy themselves more with the citizenry of their home-country living abroad in the host country. They may be called to attend the well-being of fellow citizens when they are in trouble (i.e., arrested) or if these citizens need advice regarding local laws and customs.
Honorary consuls are responsible for protecting the sending-country's interests in the host country. Honorary consuls work with local leaders to keep diplomatic relations open between countries. The honorary consul would steer the host country toward continuation of programs or policies already in place between the two nations.
Honorary consuls must also promote continued, mutually beneficial relations between nations. Since honorary consuls typically already have private interests within the host country, they look to foster sharing of scientific, economic or cultural advancements to improve both country's infrastructure. The goal is to keep both countries engaged with each other and in constant dialogue about new ideas to help everyone involved.