Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Providing assistance to U.S. citizens arrested or detained abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State. The Department of State is committed to the welfare of U.S. citizens detained overseas. Our embassies and consulates stand ready to assist citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international, domestic and foreign law.

What a U.S. Consular Officer Can and Cannot Do

We can:

  • Provide you a list of local attorneys;
  • Contact your family, friends, or employers with your written permission;
  • Visit you regularly and provide reading materials, personal items, and vitamin supplements, where appropriate and permitted;
  • Help to ensure that officials are providing you appropriate medical care;
  • Inform you of local and U.S.-based resources available to detainees;
  • Request that officials permit you visits, including with  a member of the clergy of the religion of your choice; and
  • Help facilitate family and friends in sending you money if they are unable to send you money directly.

We cannot:

  • Get you out of jail;
  • State to a court that you are guilty or innocent;
  • Provide you with legal advice or represent you in court;
  • Serve as your official interpreters or translators;
  • Pay your legal, medical, or other fees


Officers of the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates overseas are prohibited by 22 CFR 91.81 from acting as agents, attorneys or in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of U.S. citizens involved in legal disputes overseas, including those U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained abroad. Department of State personnel, including its attorneys, do not provide legal advice. This brochure seeks only to provide general information; it is not an opinion on any aspect of U.S., foreign, or international law nor does it constitute legal advice. The U.S. Department of State does not intend by the contents of this [form] to take a position on any aspect of any pending litigation.