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International Travel

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Emergencies

Arrest or Detention of a U.S. Citizen Abroad

One of the highest priorities of the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad. The Department of State is committed to ensuring fair and humane treatment for U.S. citizens imprisoned overseas. We stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international law, domestic and foreign law.          

Tips to avoid getting arrested overseas:

  • Understand that you are subject to the local laws and regulations while visiting or living in the country – follow them.
  • Learn which laws might be different from the laws in the United States. We provide some information for each country on our Country Specific pages. For further information on laws within the foreign country before you go, contact that country’s nearest embassy or consulate within the United States.

If you are arrested overseas or know a U.S. citizen who is:

  • Ask the prison authorities to notify the U.S. embassy or consulate
  • You may also wish to reach out to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate to let us know of arrest. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas can be found here or by going to our individual country information pages.

Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners:

When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented. It can be more difficult because the prisoner is in unfamiliar surroundings, and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system.  

 We can:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen with their written permission
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Help ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care 
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Inform the detainee of available local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime 
  • Upon request, ensure that prison officials permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of your choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust, when no other means to send funds are available so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens

We cannot:

  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail 
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court 
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees  


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