American Embassies Overseas

American embassies overseas will assist you in times of national crisis or threatening circumstances.  Embassies will not assist you if, by virtue of your own actions, you break the laws of the country in which you reside.  If you are arrested and taken to jail for a crime you have knowingly committed, the embassy is not responsible for your release.  The US government has no funds for your legal fees or other related expenses. 

If you experience difficulties with the local authorities, remember that American officials are limited by foreign laws, US regulations, and geography as to what they can do.  Should you find yourself in need of legal counsel, contact the nearest consular office and they can provide you with a list of attorneys and other services.  Consular offices will do whatever they can to protect your legitimate interests and insure that you are not discriminated against under local law.  But they cannot get you out of jail.  See Appendix D in the back of this Handbook for a list of what services a consular office can and cannot provide for you.

Information concerning international legal assistance can be viewed at: www.travel.state.gov/law/info/judicial/judicial_702.html or www.travel.state.gov, click on “Law and Policy” then “Judicial Assistance”.

If you are arrested, immediately ask to notify the nearest US Embassy.  You have the right to contact the American Consulate.  If you are unable to do this, try to have someone contact the embassy for you.  The Consulate should visit you, contact family and friends and can assist in the transfer of money, clothing and food. 

Office of Overseas Citzens Service

Should your family need to contact you while you are traveling (e.g. after the program is over), emergency assistance is available through the Pitt Study Abroad Office and the Citizens’ Emergency Center of the Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) operated by the State Department’s Bureau of Consulate Affairs.  That office is open from 8:15am to 10:00pm Monday through Saturday and can be reached at 1-888-407-4747.  Emergency communication after hours and on Sundays and holidays, contact can be made through the Overseas Citizens’ Services duty officer at (202) 501-4444.  They can, for example, transmit emergency messages from your family, provide protection in the event of an arrest or detention while abroad, transmit emergency funds to destitute nationals when commercial banking facilities are not available, etc. 

It would be wise for you to provide your family with at least a tentative itinerary so that in an emergency, they can give the State Department some idea where to begin looking for you.  Keep in contact with your parents on a regular schedule.