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Out of curiosity, can I, as a US citizen, enter a US embassy without a serious reason? For example, if I was traveling to Tokyo and I want to see what it looks like inside can I just walk in? If not, would it be assumed that it is by per embassy basis and I would need to contact them with my intentions for why I would like to visit?

I don't plan to go to an embassy to hang out or do something inappropriate. I'm genuinely curious about the interiors of the embassy.

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    This is a very interesting question. The question seems to be in the nature of the "right" to consular access - is this a right that is actually enforceable against your own embassy that may want to stop you from simply wandering the halls trying to pick up hot secretaries (or telling political jokes, or playing loud music, or whatever), or is one's "right" to access the embassy something enforceable only against the host country (i.e. the host country can't stop you from going to your embassy, but your embassy can refuse you access or kick you out)? – Robert Columbia Jan 29 at 22:11
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    Some embassies have tours occasionally. I was able to visit the Canadian High Commission in London, UK in 2015 this way. – Jim MacKenzie Jan 29 at 22:17
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    @HonoraryWorldCitizen I didn't know that and that that is why I'm asking this question. I also don't see a reason why a USC can't get a tour. – LampPost Jan 29 at 22:41
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    Consider that embassies and consulates are just like any government office building. Other than the parts that are actually there to provide services to the public, which are only a very small part, and which may in many cases only be accessible with an appointment, you usually can't just wander around the offices and other facilities, especially in this day and age of heightened security measures (and before that, because they may have confidential material, and... because they actually have work to do!). – jcaron Jan 29 at 23:09
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    OTOH you can basically go and hang out at the Australian embassy in Washington, DC. It has an art gallery and the entrance requirements are simply having photo ID - you don't even have to be Australian. Of course you still need to go through security to enter the building and I'm sure security will watch you very closely to ensure you don't stray from that gallery. And yes, I have been there and seen the this exhibit – Peter M Jan 29 at 23:16
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It's possible that the answer will vary depending on the specific embassy/consulate, but to use the US Consulates in Australia as an example...

No, you can not. Even as a US citizen you are required to make an appointment to visit the consulate for non-emergency services.

As stated on the US Consulates Australian webpage :

To be allowed entry into the U.S. Consulates for routine (non-emergency) services, you must make an appointment online.

There is seemingly an exception here for emergency services, however I doubt they would classify "I just wanna have a look around!" as an "emergency".

The appointment system requires you to enter the purpose of your visit, and once again "just lookin'" isn't on the list.

The equivalent page for Japan has different text, but still states that you must "schedule an appointment"

It's worth keeping in mind that US consulates have an extremely high level of security, and the answer for other countries consulates/embassy will probably be different. For example, to access a US Consulate in Australia you need to have an appointment, have your bags X-rays, go through a metal detector, and leave all electronics at the security checkpoint. By contrast, to access an Australia consulate in the US you need to ring the doorbell (or at least, that's been my experience at the Australian Consulate in San Francisco!)

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    +1 Additionally it’s worth noting that outside a tour, even with an appointment you’re only going to see about three rooms (of a 50+ room complex) where appointments are held. So that’s not exactly getting to look around. – user 56513 Jan 29 at 22:44
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    I didn't read your last sentence until after I posted my comment above, but the Australian embassy in DC has an art gallery that anyone can come in and see. – Peter M Jan 29 at 23:26
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    Totally right, I don't think there are any US consulates anywhere that don't enforce an insane level of security. To renew my passport in Southern France required a very formal appointment, a metal detector, leaving everything behind... When a few of us were invited by the consul to a meeting on local matters, we had a not-so-funny situation where we couldn't set a meeting time because everyone's cell phone had been held up front. So after that we just arranged to meet the consul at a cafe :-). – user61942 Jan 30 at 2:31
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    @Harper I did actually laugh out loud at your joke but, damnit, embassies remain the territory of the host country; they merely agree not to enforce their laws there. – David Richerby Jan 30 at 14:59
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    @sharur No, really. Embassies and consulates are all part of the host territory. I'm not sure I can give you an authoritative source but note that Article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that the premises of a diplomatic mission (embassy, consulate, etc.) must not be entered by the host country without permission. If the embassy was not the territory of the host country, that statement would be redundant: obviously, one country cannot enter the territory of another without permission. – David Richerby Jan 30 at 19:47
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@Doc provided a very good overall answer. I'll add my own experience in the US embassy in London, UK. I have entered the US embassy a number of times as a US citizen for non-emergency situations and I did have to make appointments every time, stating the intended purpose. Security is high, however it felt that it's not as bad as is sometimes implied. For example, last time I visited about mid-2018, I could get my mobile phone inside and my laptop - no problem. Yes, they x-rayed my bag and I had to go through the metal detector, but the overall experience seemed less thorough than in an airport. Interestingly, once inside, I was directed to the lift and told to go to floor X for whatever my purpose was. Nothing and nobody was there to prevent me from going to any other floor. Probably, if I just started wondering around, I would be asked what I was doing there.

Anecdotally, from a friend of mine who spent some time in some rather dangerous countries in Africa and Middle East (Afganistan, Sudan and a few others), he was telling that in most cases simply showing an American passport would get you inside the embassy straight away. After that they'd ask you the purpose and so on. He did indicate that in some of the smaller African countries the Embassy staff was more than happy to entertain him as a guest due to lack of any other contact with fellow Americans other than the embassy staff themselves.

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    Presumably, when a US citizen shows up unannounced at their embassy in a dangerous country, they're given the benefit of the doubt that it might be an emergency at least long enough to get them inside the building. – David Richerby Jan 30 at 15:02
  • @DavidRicherby That's my guess, too. – Aleks G Jan 30 at 15:08
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    @DavidRicherby I doubt London would classify as a dangerous country for Americans :) Otherwise, of course. – jwenting Jan 31 at 5:39
  • Aleks, are you sure you could go to other floors? Quite likely either the floors themselves or the elevator lobbies on them would be locked with keycard access. Not been in embassies, but that's common practice in government office buildings I have been to, as well as of course corporate offices where sensitive data is handled. – jwenting Jan 31 at 5:40
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    Are you sure about this? I went to the US embassy in London a few months ago and while I did have an appointment, I don't think anyone asked about it at the door. First I was allowed in by showing my passport, without giving any reason for my visit, and then I was asked when I went up to the consular area. But entering the embassy itself did not require a reason. – terdon Jan 31 at 17:13
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This was in 1991, but the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka encouraged American ex-pats to go there and register with them. So that's technically, "a serious reason", but it also seems like a reasonable excuse for just visiting.

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    I have seen that same happen with an Australian in the UK, (back in the 1990's.) – Willeke Jan 30 at 16:47
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    The US now has an online service to do this. At more secure posts, you might not be let in the door without an appointment or an actual emergency. – Zach Lipton Jan 30 at 22:49
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Security at the US Embassy in Tokyo is pretty buff. You must have an appointment to visit. You have to make the appointment online. You can only take a single cellphone, and no other electronics (no, not even a tablet, and not even in substitution for a phone), and no large bags.

https://jp.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/tokyo/

If you are going to the Embassy, Japanese police surrounding the place will be very helpful directing you toward the security screening. If you are not going to the Embassy, they will be very helpful with getting you on your way somewhere else.

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If you are really curious, you can schedule an appointment for anything. For example, you want to ask an official if some of your papers are valid or not.

For example, saying that your passport was hurted and you want to ask them if it is still valid.

Probably they will check it, read it, and examine if some biomarker readers are still okay in it. After that, you will leave.

Meanwhile, you also get what you wanted. :-)

(P.s. the US embassy is living from your tax, so doing it once is not an ethical breach. Their hard rules are in the fear of some terrorist attacks and not against their own citizens)

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Mind what the embassy is: The embassy is your govenment's office of representative to the other countries government. The, historic, primary job of the ambassador is to serve communication between the governments and telling about the mood. That mood extended to intelligence. Also often embassies do serve cultural relationships or similar.

Especially the part about gathering intelligence obviously isn't public. Around the cultural side there sometimes might be events.

Aside from that are consulates. They are often integrated with an embassy and aimed at general public. Like granting visas and renewing passports. Visiting that is simpler. But as boring as any government office.

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To offer some information about other embassies, in my case as an Spaniard National I have visited embassies of Spain in other countries just to meet the personnel.

In countries where the diplomatic mission is very small and the national community they represent is small, the embassy personnel is very open and welcome meeting new visitors.

Particularly, the ones I visited had the consulate section and the embassy within the same building. I could freely step into the consulate part not the embassy part.

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