Embassies and Sovereign Governments

  • Holland & Knight's Embassy and Sovereign Government Practice is the go-to resource for representation of sovereign governments and their embassies. We help sovereign nations get an inside view of how Washington works, and assist them in navigating the complex policy, regulatory and legal landscape in the United States.
  • Our multidisciplinary team can assist embassy staff in serving constituent home country businesses by providing them with a wealth of experience in all aspects of establishing and running business enterprises in the U.S.
  • We also advise embassy staff and foreign citizens on U.S. law, including immigration, employment, civil disputes and criminal matters.

The Holland & Knight Embassy and Sovereign Government Practice provides comprehensive legal services to embassies and consulates, as well as foreign citizens and businesses on U.S. soil. With offices in Washington, D.C., the heart of the diplomatic community in the U.S., Holland & Knight is uniquely positioned to serve the needs of embassy staff, as well as foreign citizens and businesses that seek the assistance of their embassies and consulates. The practice also includes a wealth of legal, regulatory and advocacy experience in all areas of need. Our team draws on the resources of Holland & Knight's corporate, government and real estate practices, and more than 1,200 attorneys and professionals in over 150 areas of practice, to advise on every aspect of living, working or operating a business in the U.S. We are a one-stop resource for sovereign governments and embassies, as well as their citizens and businesses who seek assistance in navigating U.S. laws and regulations.

Sovereign Government and Embassy Support

Embassies and consulates in Washington, D.C., and across the U.S. can rely on our counsel in construction, land use and environmental regulation, employment law and other areas where U.S. practices may differ significantly from those abroad. We also have extensive experience in the direct representation of foreign governments and businesses in trade matters, including multilateral and bilateral trade agreements.

Bilateral Relations: Navigating Washington Politics

We regularly represent foreign governments before all federal government agencies with responsibilities for the development of U.S. international trade policy, with particularly strong contacts at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of Treasury, State Department and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Our Embassy and Sovereign Government Practice represents the interests of foreign governments and foreign industries before the agencies of the U.S. government, the U.S. Congress and multilateral financial institutions. We partner with our clients to determine the desired trade policy outcomes, create a detailed plan to implement those outcomes, and then strive to effectively provide detailed trade policy advice and governmental affairs support to advocate before the relevant governmental and international entities to achieve the desired result. With the increasing concerns over cybersecurity risks, our team understands and can advise on the global focus by the U.S. and other nations in the G7, G20, APEC and other groups on creating international cybersecurity reforms. This also includes the ability to help each embassy understand how to handle cybersecurity risks for their own companies and what a global regulatory regime looks like for cybersecurity.

Representations have included, among others, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the governments of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Gibraltar, El Salvador, all five Central American countries, Turkey, Senegal, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as a broad range of foreign commercial interests. We also have considerable experience with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), World Trade Organization (WTO), Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements. Our Embassy and Sovereign Government Practice has advised and provided counseling in trade negotiations regarding market access for goods and services in unilateral (GSP, CBI), bilateral, and multilateral (GATT, WTO, NAFTA) trade agreements and in bilateral services and investment issues.

Real Estate and Land Use

We have represented more than 60 sovereign governments on the federal and local approval processes necessary for the location, replacement and expansion of their chancery facilities in Washington, as well as related disciplines including purchase and sale of real estate, construction, leasing and environmental matters. With more than 240 attorneys and professionals, we have one of the largest real estate and land use practices in the U.S. Our lawyers are well-versed in a wide range of matters related to the public and private ownership of property in Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities. This includes the purchase and sale of property, environmental mitigation, zoning, land use, permits, construction contracts, management and leasing agreements, financing and the resolution of contractual disputes.

Doing Business in the U.S.

We know that embassy staff is often approached by home-country business interests to assist in creating or expanding U.S. commercial activities. While there is considerable benefit to a country in promoting its businesses in the U.S., we also understand that embassy personnel often are not trained U.S. lawyers and can be stretched thin by other demands. Holland & Knight's Embassy and Sovereign Governments Practice can provide a level of experienced service that will help clear embassy staff time for diplomatic activities while providing real value to home-country businesses. Whether a foreign business is establishing or expanding a presence in the U.S. or building a trade relationship, we draw on a diverse set of corporate practices that can provide help every step of the way in transactions, regulatory compliance and litigation. Holland & Knight has experience in all major industries and can advise on employment law, mergers and acquisitions, securities, government contracts, environmental compliance, banking and finance, tax strategies and virtually any aspect of business law. In addition, our litigation team has broad experience in representing foreign business clients in U.S. courts.

Corporate Services

Our services start with setting up a business in the U.S. and extend to everything a business requires to grow. This includes compliance with regulatory agencies that oversee environmental risks, banking, securities, consumer rights and mergers. We also advise on financing, domestic and international intellectual property protection, cybersecurity and privacy issues, and we guide foreign businesses in entering into complex, contractual relationships with U.S. companies, as well as state and local governments. In addition, we advise on U.S. ownership and control restrictions as well as in-bound investment within the U.S., which may also include national security reviews under the Committee for Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS).

Immigration

Immigration laws are complex and subject to constant regulatory changes. Our immigration team represents individuals as well as multinational corporations, and we can assist in every aspect of immigration and its adjudication process. This includes visas for business visitors, treaty traders and investors, temporary workers, visas under NAFTA and blanket intracompany transferee visas. We also assist with obtaining permanent residency (green cards) and naturalization, as well as national security and law enforcement issues associated with visa denials that sometimes result from immigration reviews.

Labor and Employment

Our labor and employment team helps businesses understand and comply with the intricacies of U.S. labor laws, including laws that penalize employers for discrimination on the basis of disability, religion, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Employers rely on us for legal advice in matters that come before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and state workers' compensation agencies. 

International Trade Regulation

We represent the interests of foreign businesses before U.S. government agencies, including the Departments of Commerce, Treasury and Homeland Security. Our team advances the interests of foreign clients on tariffs, customs and other regulation of cross-border trade.

Resources for Foreign Citizens

Holland & Knight's Embassy and Sovereign Governments Practice assists and supports embassy staff in responding to home-country citizen issues and in resolving challenges related to living in the U.S. This includes immigration and naturalization, housing issues, security clearances, civil disputes and arrests. Our lawyers are experienced in contacting government agencies for individuals, and can outline legal options that lead to efficient resolution of problems and disputes.

Housing

We can help negotiate housing leases and resolve landlord-tenant disputes for diplomats, embassy employees and their families.

Immigration

Foreign citizens who want to work in the U.S. may need help securing the proper visa or other immigration benefits. Our lawyers have deep experience in immigration actions, including green card and work visa petitions, as well as immigration enforcement proceedings.

Criminal Defense

We represent foreign nationals, including diplomats, embassy staff and family dependents, in all matters involving allegations of violations of U.S. laws. We represent these individuals in everything from national security investigations to traffic-related incidents. The extensive network of our offices and affiliate firms allows us to respond quickly anywhere in the U.S.

International Tax Planning

Foreign citizens and their families can depend on Holland & Knight for international estate planning, business tax planning and adjudication of tax controversies. We can guide individuals, families and business owners with strategies that maximize cross-border wealth preservation.

Representative Engagements

  • Counseled the Kingdom of Bahrain on the successfully negotiated United States-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement
  • Assisted the Republic of Korea regarding analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement
  • Counseled the UK Ministry of Defence regarding U.S. defense trade control policy
  • Represented Gibraltar regarding sovereignty and self-determination issues
  • Advised the Government of Turkey on a possible free trade agreement with the U.S. and analysis of its compatibility with Turkey's Associate Membership in the European Union
  • Represented a coalition of all five Central American countries regarding passage of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA)
  • Represented El Salvador regarding bilateral trade and disaster relief matters
  • Coordinated with the Saudi Embassy regarding immigration issues for Saudi students in the U.S.
  • Counseled the UK Ministry of Defence personnel regarding landlord-tenant issues
  • Represented numerous foreign governments in the federal and local approval processes for the location, replacement and expansion of their chancery facilities in Washington, D.C.
  • Provided zoning and land use assistance for proposed construction of diplomatic staff residences for the Embassy of China
  • Represented numerous foreign governments in real estate transactions relating to acquisition or disposition of land, and expansion of embassies and other facilities in Washington, D.C.