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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
1995 APRIL:  THE OFFICE OF OVERSEAS CITIZENS SERVICES 
BUREAU OF CONSULAR AFFAIRS 
 
 
 
 
            The Office of Overseas Citizens Services 
 
When You Need Help 
 
Overseas Citizens Services 
 
Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) in the State Department's Bureau of 
Consular Affairs is responsible for the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. 
citizens traveling and residing abroad.  OCS has three offices:  
American Citizens Services and Crisis Management, the Office of 
Children's Issues and the Office of Policy Review and Interagency 
Liaison.  
 
AMERICAN CITIZENS SERVICES AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT  (ACS)  
 
American Citizens Services and Crisis Management  corresponds 
organizationally to American Citizens Services offices set up at U.S. 
embassies and consulates throughout the world.  ACS has six geographical 
divisions with case officers who assist in all matters involving 
protective services for Americans abroad, including arrests, death 
cases, financial or medical emergencies, and  welfare and whereabouts 
inquiries.  The office also issues Travel Warnings and Consular 
Information  Sheets and provides guidance on nationality and citizenship 
determination, document issuance, judicial and notarial services, 
estates and property claims, third-country representation, and disaster 
assistance. 
 

     Arrests 
 
Over 2,500 Americans are arrested abroad annually.  More than 30% of 
these arrests are drug related.  Over 70% of drug related arrests 
involve marijuana or cocaine. 
 
The rights an American enjoys in this country do not travel abroad.  
Each country is sovereign and its laws apply to everyone who enters 
regardless of nationality.  The U.S. government cannot get Americans 
released from foreign jails.  However, a U.S. consul will insist on 
prompt access to an arrested American, provide a list of attorneys, and 
provide information on the host country's legal system, offer to contact 
the arrested American's family or friends, visit on a regular basis, 
protest mistreatment, monitor jail conditions, provide dietary 
supplements, if needed, and keep the State Department informed. 
 
ACS is the point of contact in the U.S. for family members and others 
who are concerned about a U.S. citizen arrested abroad. 
 
     Deaths 
 
Approximately 6,000 Americans die outside of the U.S. each year.  The 
majority of these are long-term residents of a foreign country.  ACS 
assists with the return of remains for approximately 2,000 Americans 
annually. 
 
When an American dies abroad, a consular officer notifies the next of 
kin about options and costs for disposition of remains.  Costs for 
preparing and returning a body to the U.S. are high and are the 
responsibility of the family.  Often local laws and procedures make 
returning a body to the U.S. for burial a lengthy process. 
 
     Financial Assistance 
 
If destitute, Americans can turn to a U.S. consular officer abroad for 
help.  ACS will help by contacting the destitute person's family, 
friends, or business associates to raise private funds.  It will help 
transmit these funds to destitute Americans. 
 
ACS transfers approximately 3 million dollars a year in private 
emergency funds.  It can approve small government loans to destitute 
Americans abroad until private funds arrive. 
 
ACS also approves repatriation loans to pay for destitute Americans' 
direct return to the U.S.  Each year over $500,000 are loaned to 
destitute Americans. 
o Medical Assistance 
 
ACS works with U.S. consuls abroad to assist Americans who become 
physically or mentally ill while traveling.  ACS locates family members, 
guardians, and friends in the U.S., assists in transmitting private 
funds, and, when necessary, assists in arranging the return of ill or 
injured Americans to the U.S. by commercial carrier. 
 
     Welfare and Whereabouts of U.S. Citizens 
 
ACS receives approximately 12,000  inquiries a year concerning the 
welfare or whereabouts of an American abroad.  Many inquiries are from 
worried relatives who have not heard from the traveler.  Others are 
attempts to notify the traveler about a family crisis at home. 
 
Most welfare/whereabouts inquiries are successfully resolved.  However, 
occasionally, a person is truly missing.  It is the responsibility of 
local authorities to investigate and U.S. consuls abroad will work to 
ensure their continued interest in cases involving Americans.  
Unfortunately, as in the U.S., sometimes missing persons are never 
found. 
 
     Consular Information Program 
 
ACS issues fact sheets on every country in the world called Consular 
Information Sheets (CIS).  The CIS contains information on entry 
requirements, crime and security conditions, areas of instability and 
other details relevant to travel in a particular country.   
 
The Office also issues Travel Warnings.  Travel Warnings are issued when 
the State Department  recommends deferral of travel by Americans to a 
country because of civil unrest, dangerous conditions,  terrorist 
activity and/or because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with the 
country and cannot assist an American in distress.   
 
Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings may be heard anytime, by 
dialing the Office of Overseas Citizens Services travelers' hotline at 
(202) 647-5225 from a touchtone phone.  They are also available via 
Consular Affairs' automated fax system at (202) 647-3000, or at any of 
the 13 regional passport agencies, at U.S. embassies and consulates 
abroad, and through the airline computer reservation systems, or, by 
sending a self-addressed, stamped business size envelope to the Office 
of Overseas Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Room 4811, 
U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818. 
 
If you have a personal computer, modem and communications software, you 
can access them, and other consular handouts and publications through 
the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB).  This service is free of 
charge.  To access CABB, dial the modem number:  (202) 647-9225; set 
modem speed (it will accommodate 300, 1200, 2400, 9600 or 14400 bps); 
and terminal communications program to N-8-1 (parity, 8 bits, 1 stop 
bit). 
 
     Disaster Assistance 
 
ACS coordinates the Bureau's activities and efforts relating to 
international crises or emergency situations involving the welfare and 
safety of large numbers of Americans residing or traveling in a crisis 
area. Such crises can include plane crashes, hijackings, natural 
disasters, civil disorders, and political unrest. 

 
CHILDREN'S ISSUES (CI) 
 
The Office of Children's Issues (CI) formulates, develops and 
coordinates policies and programs, and provides direction to foreign 
service posts on international parental child abduction and 
international adoptions.  It also fulfills U.S. treaty obligations 
relating to the abduction of children. 
 
     International Adoptions 
 
CI coordinates policy and provides information on international adoption 
to the potential parents.  In 1994, over 8,000 foreign born children 
where adopted by U.S. citizens.  The Department of State cannot 
intervene on behalf of an individual in foreign courts because adoption 
is a  private legal matter within the judicial sovereignty of the 
country where the child resides.  This office can, however, offer 
general information and assistance regarding the adoption process in 
over 60 countries. 
 
     International Parental Child Abductions 
 
In recent years, the Bureau of Consular Affairs has taken action in 
thousands of cases of international parental child abduction.  The 
Bureau also provides information in response to thousands of  additional 
inquiries pertaining to international child abduction, enforcement of 
visitation rights and abduction prevention techniques.  CI works closely 
with parents, attorneys, other government agencies, and private 
organizations in the U.S. to prevent international abductions. 
 
The Hague Convention provides for the return of a child to his or her 
habitual place of residence if the child has been wrongfully removed or 
retained.  CI has been designated by Congress as the Central Authority 
to administer the Hague Convention in the United States.  

 
POLICY REVIEW AND INTERAGENCY LIAISON (PRI) 
 
The Office of Policy Review and Interagency Liaison (PRI) provides 
guidance concerning the administration and enforcement of laws on U.S. 
citizenship, and on the documentation of Americans traveling and 
residing abroad.  The Office also provides advice on matters involving 
treaties and agreements, legislative matters, including implementation 
of new laws, conducts reconsiderations of acquisition and loss of U.S. 
citizenship in complex cases abroad, and administers the overseas 
federal benefits program. 
 
     Consular Conventions and Treaties 
 
PRI works closely with other offices in the State Department  in the 
negotiation of consular conventions and treaties, including  prisoner 
transfer treaties.   
 
As a result of these prisoner transfer treaties, many U.S. citizens 
convicted of crimes and incarcerated abroad have returned to the U.S. to 
complete their sentences. 
 
     Federal Benefits 
 
Over a half-million people receive monthly federal benefits payments 
outside the U.S.  In many countries, the monthly benefits checks are 
mailed or pouched to the consular post and then distributed through the 
local postal service.  In other countries, the checks are mailed 
directly into the beneficiaries' foreign bank accounts.  Consular 
officers assist in the processing of individual benefits claims and 
problems; investigate claims on behalf of the agency concerned; and 
perform other tasks requested by the agencies or needed by the 
beneficiaries or survivors. 
 
     Legislation 
 
PRI is involved with legislation affecting U.S. citizens abroad.  The 
Office participates in hearings and provides testimony to Congress on 
proposed legislation, particularly legislation relating to the 
citizenship and welfare of U.S. citizens.  They also interpret laws and 
regulations pertaining to citizens consular services, including the 
administration of the Immigration and Nationality Act. 
 
     Privacy Act 
 
PRI responds to inquires under the Privacy Act.  The provisions of the 
Privacy Act are designed to protect the privacy and rights of Americans 
but occasionally complicate efforts to assist U.S. citizens abroad.  As 
a general rule, consular officers may not reveal information regarding 
an individual American's location, welfare, intentions, or problems to 
anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, 
without the expressed consent of that individual.  In all potential 
cases, consular officers explain Privacy Act restrictions and 
requirements so that all individuals involved in a case understand the 
Privacy Act's constraints. 
 
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Hours of Operation: 
 
Monday-Friday 8:15 a.m.-10:00 p.m., and Saturday 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.: 
Telephone:  (202) 647-5225* 
 
 
For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and Holidays, 
Telephone:  (202) 647-4000 
and request the OCS duty officer. 
 
 
*Overseas Citizens Services has a 24-hours a day hotline at (202) 647-
5225 for American Citizens Services (including travel and citizenship 
information). Policy Review and Interagency Liaison can also be reached 
at this number.  
 
The Office of Children's Issues can be reached by calling (202) 736-
7000. 
 
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Bureau of Consular Affairs 
Office of Public Affairs 
US Deartment of State 
Department of State Publication 10252

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