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.
U.S. Department of State’s Role
Officers of the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates overseas are prohibited by federal regulation from acting as agents, attorneys or in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of U.S. citizens involved in legal disputes overseas. Department of State personnel, including its attorneys, do not provide legal advice to the public. For more information please see the Department of State’s webpage on retaining a foreign attorney.
Please note: The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on the following lists. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. The information on the list is provided directly by the local service providers; the Department is not in a position to vouch for such information
Avoid getting arrested:
- Following the laws and regulations of the country you are visiting or living in.
- Learning about laws there which 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 has been arrested):
- 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 Specific 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 help:
- Provide a list of local attorneys
- 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 local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime that may be available to them
- If they would like, ensuring that prison officials are permitting visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of the U.S. citizen’s choice
- Establish an Overseas Citizen Services (OCS) Trust so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens, when permissible under prison regulations
- Get U.S. citizens out of jail overseas
- State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
- Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court overseas
- Serve as official interpreters or translators
- Pay legal, medical, or other fees for U.S. citizens overseas