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, domestic, and foreign law.    

Tips to Avoid Arrest 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 Information pages. For more information on a specific country’s laws, contact that country’s nearest embassy or consulate in the United States before you travel.

In Case of an Arrest Overseas:

Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners

When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented. They may be 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
  • Ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care 
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Upon request, ensure that prison officials permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of the detainee’s choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust, if necessary, 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