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What U.S. Consulates Can Do

U.S. consular officers are located at U.S. embassies and consulates in most countries overseas. They are available to advise and help you if you are in any serious trouble.


If you become destitute abroad, the U.S. consul can help you get in touch with your family, friends, bank, or employer and tell you how to arrange for them to send funds for you. These funds can sometimes be wired to you through the Department of State.


Should you become ill while abroad, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a list of local doctors, dentists, medical specialists, clinics and hospitals. If your illness or injury is serious, the consul can help you find medical assistance from that list and, at your request, will inform your family or friends of your condition. If necessary, a consul can assist in the transfer of funds from the United States. Payment of hospital and other expenses is your responsibility. Consular officers cannot supply you with medication.

In an emergency when you are unable to communicate, the consul will check your passport for the name and address of any relative, friend, or legal representative whom you wish to have notified. Because the U.S. Government cannot pay for medical evacuations, it is advisable to have private medical insurance to cover this.


U.S. diplomatic and consular officials do not have the authority to perform marriages overseas. Marriage abroad must be performed in accordance with local law. There are always documentary requirements, and in some countries, there is a lengthy residence requirement before a marriage may take place.

Before traveling, ask the embassy or consulate of the country in which you plan to marry about their regulations and how to prepare to marry abroad. Once abroad, the Consular Section of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate may be able to answer some of your questions, but it is your responsibility to deal with local civil authorities.


A child born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents generally acquires U.S. citizenship at birth. The U.S. parent or parents should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to have a Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America prepared. This document serves as proof of acquisition of U.S. citizenship and is acceptable evidence for obtaining a U.S. passport and for most other purposes where one must show a birth certificate or proof of citizenship.


When a U.S. citizen dies abroad, the consular officer reports the death to the next of kin or legal representative and arranges to obtain from them the necessary private funds for local burial or return of the body to the United States. Before you begin your trip, complete the address page in the front of your passport. Provide the name, address and telephone number of someone to be contacted in an emergency. Do not give the names of your traveling companions in case the entire party is involved in the same accident.

Because the U.S. Government cannot pay for local burial or shipment of remains to the United States, it is worthwhile to have insurance to cover this. Following a death, a Report of the Death of An American Citizen (Optional Form 180) is prepared by the consular officer to provide the facts concerning the death and the custody of the personal estate of the deceased. Under certain circumstances, a consular officer becomes the provisional conservator of a deceased American's estate and arranges for the disposition of those effects.


Consular employees provide non-emergency services as well. These include information on Selective Service registration, travel advisories, absentee voting, and the acquisition or loss of U.S. citizenship. They arrange for the transfer of Social Security and other federal benefits to beneficiaries residing abroad, provide U.S. tax forms, and notarize documents. Consuls can also provide information on how to obtain foreign public documents.

Excerpted from:U. S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. U. S. State Department Publication 9926. February, 1992. pgs. 30-32. Note: As of July, 1997 this was the latest non-internet-published U.S. State Department document pertaining to this topic.

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