U. S. consulates are a special division or office located at U. S. embassies and sometimes in other important cities or regions in foreign countries. The officials who work at consulates are known as consular officers. They can give advice and assistance if travelers are in serious trouble. Their services are loosely grouped into none-emergency services and emergency services. Non-emergency services include providing information about Selective Service registration, travel safety, absentee voting, and how to acquire or lose U. S. citizenship. Also, they can arrange for the transfer of Social Security and other Federal benefits to beneficiaries residing abroad, provide U. S. tax forms, and notarize documents.
Emergency services are often the most crucial functions of the consulate. Travelers may need the emergency services of a consulate in the following situations:
- If travelers need emergency funds, consulates can help them get in touch with their families, friends, bank, or employer and tell them how to arrange for money to be sent.
- If travelers become ill or injured, the nearest U. S. embassy or consulate can provide them with a list of local doctors, dentists, medical specialists, clinics and hospitals. If the illness or injury is serious, they can help travelers find medical assistance and can inform their family or friends of their condition. Because travelers must pay their own hospital and other expenses, they may want to consider purchasing additional or supplemental medial insurance before they travel abroad.
- If travelers get married abroad, their marriage must be performed according to local law. There will be documentary requirements to marry in a foreign country, and in some countries, they may be asked to complete a lengthy residence requirement before their marriage may take place. Before traveling, U. S. citizens need to ask the embassy or consulate of the country in which they plan to marry about the marriage regulations and how best to prepare to marry abroad. Once abroad, the Consular Section of the nearest U. S. embassy or consulate may be able to answer some of their questions, but it is the travelers’ responsibility to comply with local laws and to interact with local civil authorities.
- If a U. S. citizens child is born abroad, their children generally acquires U. S. citizenship at birth. As soon as possible after the birth, they should contact the nearest U. S. embassy or consulate to obtain a Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America. This document will serve as proof of U. S. citizenship, and is acceptable evidence for obtaining a U. S. passport for a child. It is also acceptable for most other purposes where parents must show a birth certificate or proof of citizenship for their child.
- If U. S. citizens plan to adopt a child overseas, they should know that the U. S. government looks on foreign adoptions as private, legal matters subject to the sovereign jurisdiction of the nation in which the child is residing. U. S. embassy or consular officers may not intervene on prospective parents’ behalf in the courts of the country where the adoption takes place. Even so, there are a ways in which U. S. embassies and consulates can assist them in an overseas adoption. These officials can provide them with information on the adoption process in that particular country, inquire about the status of their case in the foreign court, help to explain the requirements for documents, try to ensure that they will not be discriminated against by foreign courts, and provide them with information about the visa application process for their adopted child.
- If the death of a U. S. citizen occurs abroad, the consular officer reports the death to the next of kin or legal representative. The consular officer will prepare a Report of the Death of An American Citizen. This document will provide the facts concerning the death and the custody of the personal effects of the deceased. The consular officer also arranges to obtain from them kin the necessary private funds for local burial or return of the body to the United States because the U. S. Government will not pay for local burial or shipment of human remains to the United States. However, travelers may purchase private insurance to cover these expenses. As a first step toward simplifying the process for their loved ones in the event of a death while traveling abroad, travelers should complete the address page in the front of their passports, and do provide the name, address and telephone number of someone to be contacted in an emergency.