When you’re planning a trip outside of the United States, you’re usually not thinking about what happens if something goes wrong. But you should have a general idea about what one of our U.S. embassies or consulates can do for you in an emergency. A good rule of thumb before you go is to find out where the closest U.S. embassy or consulate is while you are away. If you plan to be in one place for some time, let them know where you are.
Before you depart, join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which you can do online. The site provides e-updates on a specific destination’s dangers and provides any policy changes and worldwide alerts. We are not suggesting that because an area is on alert necessarily means you should not visit.
But in today’s world, you should be diligent and cognizant of your surroundings at all times. The US has over 300 embassies and consulates around the world in countries far and near. Remember, these people are our agents – they are there to help us.
First, let’s have a look at what they can do for you:
- Replace a lost or stolen passport
- Add pages to a passport
- Help families track down a missing loved one
- Provide support to an ill or destitute American
- Make arrangements for the remains of a deceased individual to be returned home
- Explain the local criminal justice process to you
- Obtain information about your case – if you have a legal issue
- Provide a list of lawyers who speak both English and the local language
- Advise family members, friends, or co-workers how to transfer funds to an impaired traveler or one who has lost funds while away.
- Assist with marriages, births and adoptions
Now, what they cannot do:
- Spring you from jail, but they can press for fair prison conditions
- Pick up medications
- Foot any bills you may have racked up
- Pay for a flight home
If you ever have a chance to spend time with a former embassy or consulate worker, you will find them to be highly amusing when they speak of specific cases and the crazy requests they get. So, before you contact the embassy or consulate to assist you, make sure you understand how far they can go. It will help save you some annoyances later.
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