Arrest or Detention of a U.S. Citizen Abroad
One of the highest priorities of the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad.
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.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. As our Country Specific Information for each country explains, penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, fined, arrested, or imprisoned.
If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted, possibly convicted and sentenced, and for any appeals process. Within this framework, U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families.
We monitor conditions in foreign prisons and may protest allegations of abuse against U.S. citizen prisoners when requested to do so by the prisoner. We work with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards and to ensure that U.S. citizens are afforded due process under local laws and international standards.
For more country-specific information, we encourage you to visit the Country Specific Information page for the traveling you are planning to visit.
- For more information, see our page about Crimes Against Minors Abroad.