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International Travel

Embassies are the official diplomatic representation of one sovereign government to another. The principal person in charge of an embassy is usually an ambassador. An ambassador is the official representative from the head of state of one country to the host country. Embassies are primarily responsible for maintaining government-to-government communications and business. Embassies generally do not perform functions directly for nationals from their home country who may be travelling or residing in their host country.

Supervision of U. S. embassies is the job of the U. S. Department of State (DOS), under the administration of the U. S. Secretary of State. The DOS is the large governmental department that manages relations with foreign governments and helps to interpret and implement U. S. policies around the world. It also assists U. S. citizens abroad. The DOS divides its embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic posts into six geographical regions. These are:

  • Africa
  • East Asia and the Pacific
  • Europe
  • Near East
  • South Asia
  • The Western Hemisphere

There is an embassy in almost every country with which the United States maintains diplomatic relations; the embassy is usually located in the capital. Each embassy contains a consular section. Consular officers in consular sections of embassies perform two primary functions:

  • they issue visas to foreigners wishing to travel to the United States, and
  • they help U. S. citizens abroad.

In some countries, the United States may have a consulate general or a consulate to assist the embas-sy in handling its business. These are different from the consular section within embassies. Consulates General or consulates are regional offices of embassies. When U. S. citizens travel abroad, they may want to register at the U. S. embassies or consulates at the countries they visit. When they register at an U. S. embassy or consulate, it makes their presence and whereabouts are known, in case it is necessary for a consular officer to contact them. It is a good idea for them to register at the Consular Section of the nearest U. S. embassy or consulate, especially if their stay in a country will be longer than one month. They should also consider registering at the nearest U. S. embassy or consular office if they are traveling in a country or area that is experiencing civil unrest, is politically unstable, or has experienced a recent natural disaster.

American consular officers can help evacuate U. S. citizens from a country were that to become necessary, but they cannot help them if they do not know where the travelers are. Registration also makes it easier for travelers to apply for a replacement passport, if theirs becomes lost or stolen. Sometimes, registration will be done for them if they are traveling with an organized tour to areas experiencing unrest or political upheaval.

Inside International Travel