What Does a U.S. Embassy Do and How Can It Help You in an Emergency?

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The U.S. Embassy is your 911 when overseas, it’s your point of contact for assistance in many different situations. Before traveling, make sure you know how to locate your U.S. Embassy and understand the services they do provide.
What does a U.S. Embassy do

Things to Know Before You Go

Legal Issues Abroad

  • U.S. citizens are subject to a foreign country’s laws and regulations
  • If arrested abroad, a U.S. citizen must go through foreign legal processes
  • U.S. consular offices provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested
  • Don’t expect you have the same rights and freedoms in a different country

Medical Issues Abroad

  • U.S. medical insurance is generally not accepted outside the U.S.
  • A U.S Embassy can assist you in locating medical services and contact family or friends, if needed
  • Payment of hospital fees and all expenses are the responsibility of the traveler
  • U.S. Embassies and consulates do NOT cover these expenses
  • Purchase a short-term travel policy to cover medical needs aboard

Deaths Issues Abroad

  • Disposition of remains are affected by local laws, customs and facilities
  • Consular offices provide guidance to grieving families on arrangements and the returning of remains
  • The U.S. does NOT provide funds to assist in the return of remains or ashes of American citizens who die abroad
  • Acquire a travel insurance that covers deaths abroad

Missing Persons Abroad

  • Consular offices assist in locating missing individuals abroad
  • Depending on the circumstances, consular officers may personally search hotels, airports, hospitals or even prisons
  • Due to the Privacy Act, consular officers may NOT reveal information regarding an American’s location, welfare, intentions or problems to anyone, including to family members
  • Discuss communication plans with friends and relatives before traveling. Provide contact information and if possible, a copy of the itinerary

Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters and Political Upheavals

  • Consular offices send security messages to registered travelers in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program regarding terrorist attacks, natural disasters and political upheavals
  • During emergencies, U.S. Embassies and consulates stand ready around-the-clock to locate and assist U.S. citizens in need
  • Consular officers arrange transportation, evacuation, and safe lodging to American citizens
  • All evacuation costs are the responsibility of the traveler
  • Costs are the equivalent of a full coach commercial fare to a nearby safe location
  • At a safe location, the traveler will then need to make his own onward travel arrangements
  • Choose travel insurance that covers evacuation costs

Victims of Crime

  • Consular officers assist American citizens who become victims of crime while abroad
  • Consular officers can assist with:
  • Replacing stolen passports
  • Contacting family, friends or employers
  • Obtaining appropriate medical care
  • Addressing emergency needs
  • Explaining local criminal justice processes
  • Connecting U.S. travelers that have become victims of crimes to local U.S.-based resources
  • Obtaining information about any local and U.S. victim compensation programs
  • Providing lists of local English-speaking lawyers
  • Consular officers CANNOT assist with:
  • Investigating crimes
  • Providing legal advice or representation in court
  • Serving as official interpreters or translators
  • Paying legal, medical or other fees

Lost or Stolen Passports

  • Before returning to the U.S. you will have to replace your lost or stolen passport
  • U.S. Embassies and consulates issue replacement passports
  • Some fees may apply for passport replacement, which depends on the circumstances in which the passport was lost or stolen
  • Expected time for a replacement passport depends on the circumstances

 

Services NOT Offered by U.S. Embassies

  • Tourism services
  • Commercial services
  • Banking services
  • Search for missing luggage
  • Settling of commercial disputes
  • Interpreter services
  • Lawyer advice and services

Remember to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and monitor the travel.state.gov website for updates and information during a crisis.

Sources:
http://riskmanagement.nd.edu/international-travel/international-travel/safety/what-does-a-u-s-embassy-do/
https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/emergencies.html