Definitions

State visit

State visit

"Official visit" redirects here. For the Yes Minister episode, see "The Official Visit".

A state visit is a formal visit by one head of state to another country, at the invitation of the other country's head of state. State visits are the highest form of diplomatic contact between two states, and are marked by major ceremonial and diplomatic formality. In parliamentary democracies, though the heads of state may formally issue and accept the invitation to visit, they do so on the instruction of their governments, who usually agree together on when the invitation is to be issued in advance.

State visits usually involve:

  • State dinners hosted by each head of state, with the other head of state being the guest of honour;
  • a visit to the legislature, often with a formal address being delivered to the legislative body;
  • high profile visits to famous national landmarks;
  • formal cultural events celebrating both countries, which are held in conjunction with the state visit.

The visiting head of state is usually accompanied by a senior government minister, usually by the foreign minister. Behind the diplomatic formalities, delegations made up from trade organisations also travel with the head of state, with the head of state's visit offering a chance to network and develop economic, cultural and social links. In practice most state visits lead to inter-state investment and a growth in jobs, often in the tourist sector of the country being visited, as its tourist sites and famous locations are visited in the glare of media publicity by the visiting head of state. At the end of the visit, the visiting head of state usually then issues an invitation to the host head of state to pay a state visit to his or her state in return.

The costs of the visit are usually borne by the treasury of the host country.

Most countries host fewer than 10 state visits per year, with some as few as two.

Most visiting heads of state usually stay either in the host head of state's official residence or in a special state guest house, though some stay in their country's embassy.

State visits by well-known leaders, like Queen Elizabeth II and American presidents, draw a lot of attention. Their visits draw huge crowds.

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