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, U.S., Sri Lankan and Maldivian law.
Avoid getting arrested overseas by:
- Following the laws and regulations of the country where you are visiting or living.
- Learning about laws 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 is arrested:
- Ask the prison authorities to notify the U.S. embassy
- You may also contact us directly
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. The U.S. government cannot arrange for an American citizen to be released from jail or prison.
How we can help:
- Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
- 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 for you
- 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 the arrestee would like, ensure that prison officials are permitting visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of their choice
- Establish an 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