Skip to content

January 28, 2009


U.S. Consuls Help Americans Abroad

There are U.S. Embassies in more than 160 capital cities of the world. Each embassy has a consular section. Consular officers in consular sections of embassies do two things:

• They issue visas to foreigners;
• They help U.S. citizens abroad.

There are also consular officers at about 60 U.S. consulates general and 20 U.S. consulates around the world. (Consulates general and consulates are regional offices of embassies.)

Help Image Photo: ## N.## on Flickr

U.S. Consuls usually are assisted by local employees who are citizens of the host country. Because of the growing number of Americans traveling abroad, and the relatively small number of consuls, the expertise of local employees is invaluable.

In this pamphlet, we highlight ways in which consular officers can assist you while you are traveling or residing abroad.

To help us help you while you are abroad, register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. This makes it easier for consular officers to reach you in an emergency or to replace a lost passport.

Consular officers provide a range of services – some emergency, some non-emergency.


Replace a Passport – If you lose your passport, a consul can issue you a replacement, often within 24 hours. If you believe your passport has been stolen, first report the theft to the local police and get a police declaration.

Help Find Medical Assistance – If you get sick, you can contact a consular officer for a list of local doctors, dentists, and medical specialists, along with other medical information. If you are injured or become seriously ill, a consul will help you find medical assistance and, at your request, inform your family or friends. (Consider getting private medical insurance before you travel, to cover the high cost of getting you back to the U.S. for hospital care in the event of a medical emergency.)

Help Get Funds – Should you lose all your money and other financial resources, consular officers can help you contact your family, bank, or employer to arrange for them to send you funds. In some cases, these funds can be wired to you through the Department of State.

Help in an Emergency – Your family may need to reach you because of an emergency at home or because they are worried about your welfare. They should call the State Department’s Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. The State Department will relay the message to the consular officers in the country in which you are traveling. Consular officers will attempt to locate you, pass on urgent messages, and, consistent with the Privacy Act, report back to your family.

Visit in Jail – If you are arrested, you should ask the authorities to notify a U.S. consul. Consuls cannot get you out of jail (when you are in a foreign country you are subject to its laws). However, they can work to protect your legitimate interests and ensure you are not discriminated against. They can provide a list of local attorneys, visit you, inform you generally about local laws, and contact your family or friends. They can try to get relief if you are held under inhumane or unhealthful conditions.

Make Arrangements After the Death of an American – When an American dies abroad, a consular officer notifies the American’s family and informs them about options and costs for disposition of remains. Costs for preparing and returning a body to the U.S. may be high and must be paid for by the family. Often, local laws and procedures make returning a body to the U.S. for burial a lengthy process. A consul prepares a Report of Death based on the local death certificate; this is forwarded to the next of kin for use in estate and insurance matters.

Help in a Disaster/Evacuation – If you are caught up in a natural disaster or civil disturbance, you should let your relatives know as soon as possible that you are safe, or contact a U.S. consul who will pass that message to your family through the State Department. Be resourceful. U.S officials will do everything they can to contact you and advise you. However, they must give priority to helping Americans who have been hurt or are in immediate danger. In a disaster, consuls face the same constraints you do – lack of electricity or fuel, interrupted phone lines, closed airports.


Issue a Consular Report of Birth – A child born abroad to U.S. citizen parents usually acquires U.S. citizenship at birth. The parents should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to have a “Report of Birth Abroad of a U.S. Citizen” prepared. This is proof of citizenship for all purposes.

Issue a Passport – Consuls issue approximately 200,000 passports abroad each year. Many of these are issued to persons whose current passports have expired.

Distribute Federal Benefits Payments – Over a half-million people living overseas receive monthly federal benefit payments. In many countries, the checks are mailed to the U.S. embassy or consulate and distributed through the local postal service.

Assist in Child Custody Disputes – In an international custody dispute, a consul can try to locate the child abroad, monitor the child’s welfare, and provide general information to the American parent about laws and procedures which may be used to affect the child’s return to the United States. Consuls may not take custody of a child, or help a parent regain custody of a child illegally or by force or deception.

Help in Other Ways – Consuls handle personal estates of deceased U.S. citizens, assist with absentee voting and Selective Service registration, notarize documents, advise on property claims, and provide U.S. tax forms. They also perform such functions as adjudicating U.S. citizenship claims and assisting U.S. courts in legal matters.


In addition to the qualifications noted above, consular officers cannot act as travel agents, banks, lawyers, investigators, or law enforcement officers. Please do not expect them to find you employment, get you residence or driving permits, act as interpreters, search for missing luggage, or settle disputes with hotel managers. They can. However, tell you how to get help on these and other matters.

If you need to pick up mail or messages while traveling, some banks and international credit card companies handle mail for customers at their overseas branches. General Delivery (Poste Restante) services at post offices in most countries will hold mail for you.


The provisions of the Privacy Act are designed to protect the privacy rights of Americans. Occasionally they complicate a consul’s efforts to assist Americans. As a general rule, consular officers may not reveal information regarding an individual American’s location, welfare, intentions, or problems to anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, without the expressed consent of that individual. Although sympathetic to the distress this can cause concerned families, consular officers must comply with the provisions of the Privacy Act.

For more information, contact Overseas Citizens Services by calling 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas: +1-202-501-4444)

If you enjoyed this post, please considersubscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

You May Also Be Interested In:

  1. angelina peterson
    Aug 12 2009

    Can u please tell me if there are any charitable orginizations that help US citizens get back to America for a family funeral. I.e. with cost of airfare.

    • American Citizen Services
      Aug 18 2009

      Unfortunately, there are no such organizations the Embassy is aware of in the United Kingdom. You may want to speak with a travel agent or airlines directly to see if a discounted fare could be arranged. You also may want to contact charitable organizations near where your family lives in the United States for assistance.

  2. Kelly Tanner
    Aug 13 2009

    Hi there,

    Just to let you know that the number listed to call from overseas (202 501 4444) does not appear to be correct.

    I dialed it twice and both times the number was for an organisation in Birmingham, England.

    This needs to be changed asap, I think…
    Best regards,
    Kelly Tanner

    • American Citizen Services
      Aug 13 2009

      If you are dialing from the U.S., you must dial 00 and then the country code for the U.S., which is 1 before dialing the number.

  3. Christy
    Nov 23 2009

    Married to a British citizen before my work permit/visa expired. I sent in the applications before it expired, but had the wrong information. Have contacted a solicitor back in March, she is trying to get discretionary leave granted to me on my Human Rights basis(Article 8). My application & US passport has been with the UK Border Agency since June 2nd. They haven’t processed my application still. I am wondering whether I should be worried if my passport has gone missing from their H.O Border Agency or if they are just waiting for a caseworker to decide my case. I did receive a phone call back in July stating that I needed to call them, but I have had no luck in speaking with this caseworker and it is now November 23rd 2009. My visa has been expired for a year and I have been married for more than a year to my husband. I wonder if I need to visit the Embassy or wait out the processing times. I can’t work, as you can’t employ a nurse, even though we need nurses in the Health Service. Thanks for your help.

  4. Haziza
    Dec 3 2009

    My husband is a USA citizenship but work in UN UK. He went to Nigeria for his assignment and was kidnapped by the militant there. He did reprot this to the Nigeria embassy but was not entertained. He called his bank in Uk to draw out his money in the form of a willed check to his friend in Singapore using courier services. So that with this check, his friend can pay the ransom money for his release. The problem is his frend don’t have money to pay the courier service that is in singapore money is 19k. In what way can the USA embassy help him to have the check deliver thus save his life

  5. michelle reynolds
    Dec 17 2009

    my friend needs money to help him pay for his plane ticket. it exspired and he needs to get two more. one for him and his son. can the embassy help. i told him that i would go to the embassy and he said ok. will they help with this?

    • American Citizen Services
      Dec 17 2009

      If you’re friend is an American citizen, he needs to contact the Embassy directly for assistance. Please have them contact us at , or by telephone on 020 7499 9000 (24hrs).

  6. Richard
    Dec 17 2009

    My friend was held up at gun point and brutally beaten for all her belonging including all her documents. She went to the Embassy but was told that she needs $2000 to help her. She just wants to leave and come back to the US. What can she do or who can she/ we contact to help if this is the case?

  7. Marilyn
    Jan 13 2010

    I am an American citizen living in Colombia. My husband is Colombian. I need to get out of Colombia before this man harms me or our son. I am not working and he won’t give me the money to leave. He is very violent. Can the US embassy help in buying the plane tickets to go back to the States? Please I need help!

    • American Citizen Services
      Jan 14 2010

      Marilyn – You should contact the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá for immediate assistance.

  8. irish
    Feb 12 2010

    Hi, i have a fiancee who is a US citizen. I am here at UK to study and just about to finish until december2011. I am not a UK citizen and just only foreigner in this country. i have only a student visa and i am from asia. My fiancee want to process my papers in your office. Is it possible to process my fiancee visa here in UK? thanks and hoping for your reply

  9. Caroline
    Mar 16 2010

    My friend who is a US Citizen is in detention in London, I don’t know exactly where. He was detained at Heathrow airport on Thursday Mar 11, 2010, and has not been released to date. A barrister called me and told me that my friend was fined 600 GBP for the offense but my friend can’t get to his funds to pay the fine. Could the consul help him? I’m supposed to get a call from him soon so I can verify the situation. I believe he should call the Consul directly? If he cannot, what information do you need to assist him so I can relay the details? Thanks.

  10. Christine Hales
    Mar 23 2010

    I am an American citizen married to a british citizen for sixteen years. We are relocating to the UK. Do I need a visa to live and work in the UK, and if so, where do I apply?

    • American Citizen Services
      Mar 24 2010

      Christine – if you require information about relocating to the UK, you should contact the British Embassy in the United States for more information. A list of UK embassies in the United States is available here

  11. abigel
    Apr 20 2010

    Im a tourist, a student and unemployed. I gave birth in united state and left back for my country wit my child after 2months, as i was unable to pay the hospital bill when i was there. I am planning on going back to visit for 3weeks and to disscus my term of payment. Will i be allowed entry ? b’cos i heard rumour that i won’t be allowed except i pay ell the bill at the point of entry.

    • American Citizen Services
      Apr 21 2010

      Abigel – this blog is for American Citizen Services only . If you have a query regarding entry to the United States as a visitor, please visit the Embassy’s website or the our’s Visa Services Blog.

  12. Iris Wood
    May 22 2010

    I feel I have been scammed by three people, one goes by the name of Paul Knock and is a Colnel in the U.S.Army in Afganistan, his Freiend Jeff Perry says he is a Un.D. Diplomat and then there is Mrs. Sharon in State Security in Ghana. I have been in correspondence with Paul Knocks on the computer for two months and have helped him out with money for his friend Jeff Perry medicial bills as he said that he had malaria and was taken into hospital in Ghana and then carried on to a hospital in Dubia, So far I have sent £20,000 for his treatment. Paul Knocks says that he cannot send me a cheque from Afghanistan and he would send it by a courier to be delivered to me direct. None of that has happened. I really do need some advice on this as if there is any way I can get my money back. Paul Knocks gave me his Bank account details and a man rang me and said there was no way he could send me the money over out of Paul’s account. or transfer it into my Bank which I know is not right. Any advice or help would be appreciated

    • American Citizen Services
      May 24 2010

      Iris – we regret that this sounds exactly like the hundreds of scams we hear about each week at the Embassy. If an American citizen is having difficulties, they should contact the Embassy serving the country where they are staying. No American citizen in distress would be turned away. We strongly advise you to cease all contact with these people and particularly to send no further money. We regret that it is unlikely that you will recover the money you have already sent. You should look at our blog post here for more information on internet scams, including how to report them.

  13. Marco
    Jun 1 2010

    Hi, I’m a U.S citizen in Thailand right now and i was wondering if there was anyway i’d be able to get a flight back to America to avoid all the problems going on right now, i’m currently enrolled in one of the local universities, but lack my own funds to go back on my own. Is there anyway i could get assistance or should i keep trying on my own?

    • American Citizen Services
      Jun 7 2010

      Marco – if you require assistance to return to the United States, you should contact the Embassy in Bangkok. Contact information is available from their website, here.

  14. Debby Curran
    Jul 30 2010

    I have a friend/acquaintance Aaron Hamilton traveling with his son Terry. He went to Nigeria to construct a bridge/road or something. He has been gone since May. Says he lost his wallet and has no money, and is unable to use his ATM/Debit card there for any expenses. He told me that he notified the embassy there, and they told him there was a $500 processing fee, and there is no guarantee they can help.. He keeps asking me to send money, but I am not in a position to do so. He says he has no money for food, and has arranged with the motel manager to send money for his motel expenses on his return to the states. He says he cannot leave until he pays his laborers, but the job is completed. He tells me he is unable to access his stateside accounts for money. I have the money gram info he sent me Aaaron Hamilton…city Lagos, State Lagos, zipcode 23401, country Nigeria. Is this a scam?

    • American Citizen Services
      Jul 30 2010

      Debby – this sounds exactly like the hundreds of scams we hear about every week at the Embassy. We recommend that you break off contact with the scammer and do not send them any money.

  15. nichole
    Aug 7 2010

    i am a american citizen who has been married to a british citizen over in the states fo 5 yrs. my husband,and our 2 children and i came to the uk. we are trying to get back to the states but have very little funds and the funds we do have are from our family over in the states.i am worried that if i cant get the help i will get deported and our family will be seperated what can i the moment we are not living in a good enviroment and dont know where else to turn.

    • AmericanCitizenServices
      Aug 9 2010

      nichole – if you wish to return to the United States, your husband will require an immigrant visa. More information about immigrant visas, including how to apply for one, is available from the Embassy website, here.

  16. Justin
    Sep 10 2010

    My wife is a colombian national but a U.S. citizen . She took my 5 year old daughter to colombia without my permission and is now hiding her. My daughters passport is has now expired . What are the chances that she will be granted colombian citizenship and a colombian passport . I also have been granted custody by the North Carolina courts , where she was born and lived for 5 years. If i travle to colombia make contact and regain my rightfull custody . Will the embassy help us with passports for safe return to the U.S. ?

    • AmericanCitizenServices
      Sep 14 2010

      Justin – you should contact the Embassy in Bogota, Columbia, for assistance in your case. Contact information is available from their website, here.

  17. david
    Sep 11 2010

    I’m an american, living here in the philippines for two years..I Have no more money… Can i ask the US consular embassy in the philippines , to help me with fiinancial aid to go back to US?

    • AmericanCitizenServices
      Sep 14 2010

      david – if you require assistance, you may wish to contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Contact information is available here.

  18. tonya smith
    Sep 23 2010

    my fiance went to Ghaa onAril 10,2010, to buil a hotel…He isnot able to use his business card to reieve money…..he has sent me items to sell n oreder to get im cash..On Sept. 20, he was robbed of his money passport, plne ticket,and visa…now he has no money to get him home, what can he do…we are out of options

    • AmericanCitizenServices
      Sep 24 2010

      tonya – unfortunately, this sounds exactly like the hundreds of scams we hear about each week at the Embassy. We strongly urge you to cease all contact with the scammer and particularly, do not send them any money.

      You can find information about commons scams at the Embassy website, here.

    Oct 11 2010

    Hi,I ‘m Egyptian American citizen and my 3 kids are a green card holder under 16 years old we are in Egypt now because I have some business to do.I have a house we can’t live in it .I’m renting since I been in Egypt because my bad neighbor wnat stolen my house .yesterday attacks me and my kids and skip gas on us then try to burn us by matches but we run away from them and we went to el kanater police did robert against them.please help us if you are apple to second, can my kids do the American passport in U S embassy in Cairo because I’m their father to be easy for them to go back to U S at any time?

    • American Citizen Services
      Oct 12 2010

      Ayman – If you believe that you are in danger, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Their contact details as well as information on obtaining a U.S. passport for your children can be found on their website at:

  20. Ahmad S.
    Nov 10 2010

    I was wondering were to go to for help regarding me going back home to texas , i am currently in northern cyprus stuck with no money to get back home ,i tried selling most of my belongings to get some money to feed my self, extra phone, ipod , jewlerey ect., i am an american citizen and i no there is not any american embassy because it is not a recodnized country, so please if anyone can help me get back home , i am not asking for no one to send me money i just want to get back home and i want an honest answear from people with experiance , will the american embassy help me get back home ??

    Thanks for you help in advance

    • American Citizen Services
      Nov 10 2010

      Ahmad – There is a U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus. Please contact them for immediate assistance. As an American citizen, you have a right to return home and the U.S. Embassy will be able to help you.

  21. Sophia
    Nov 30 2010

    I am a Colombian citizen with a 5 years american citizen daughter. I need to know if my daughter can claim any american government financial aid to study in Colombia or after she finish her high school in Colombia to study university in US. Where can I find this kind of information?

  22. Sandy
    Dec 12 2010

    us consulate general office in Lagos refuse to help my boyfriend who went to the office to request some help to return home. He is asking for assistance to purchase an airline ticket to Arizona. No one listen to his plea, he was turned away, now he sleeping in a police station at night..but the police are now demanding things from him…Please investigate and help…all expenses will be refunded to consulate…he will agree to make an agreement for repayment.

    • AmericanCitizenServices
      Dec 14 2010

      Sandy – unfortunately, this sounds exactly like the hundreds of scams we hear about each week at the Embassy. The U.S. Embassy would never refuse to assist an american citizen in distress.

      If your boyfriend is still having difficulties returning home, you may contact the Consulate in Lagos yourself, to request assistance for him. Contact details are available from the Embassy in Abuja’s website,

      However, we do warn you that this sounds like a scam, and particularly recommend that you do not send any money.

  23. den
    Dec 14 2010

    My friend is in the UK on business and was injured in a cab accident on the way to the airport. He was unconscious when brought to the ER. He is suffered a neck injury. He has insurance but the hospital wants to be paid for the NHS charges since he is not a citizen. He has no immediate next of kin to wire him the money (They want at least 1/2 of the 900 GPB). I am unable to help. They will not work out a payment plan for this until he is able to fly home. They are threatening to stop treatment.
    Is there anyone who can help. Who can he contact? Since he was a passenger in the cab should he try to get a copy of the accident report and get a lawyer so the cab co will pay the charges?

    • AmericanCitizenServices
      Dec 15 2010

      den – unfortunately, this sounds like a scam. We hear about hundreds of these scams each week at the Embassy. If your friend is a U.S. Citizen, he should contact the Embassy directly to request assistance. Please be assured that doctors in the United Kingdom would not refuse to treat a patient and would not demand money in advance.

      You should advise your friend to contact the Embassy directly. Our contact details are available from our website, including an emergency number, here. Remember, the Embassy will never refuse to assist an American in distress. We particularly recommend that you do not send any money to this person.

Comments are closed.