How to Access Assistance Abroad – 7 Ways Consulates Can Help

U.S. Embassy in London
Photo by (c) KieranTimberlake/studio amd

After accepting the position of a lifetime in Barcelona, you get nervous. You and your family have only ever lived in suburban America and moving to a popular metropolis halfway across the world will be a big change.

How can you combat those nerves? Connecting with a consulate or embassy in your host country is a good start!

How do you register with an embassy or consulate?

To get the most out of consular services while abroad, register with your nearest embassy or consulate. Different countries have different registration processes, but, a lot of countries offer a simple, online travel registration.

It’s vital to know if your country of origin requires registration. For example, India requires citizens living in Washington, D.C. to register, while Australia and the U.S. just recommend expatriates register with embassies.

How can consulates help?

1) Most consulates will renew and replace passports

Passports
Some countries, like Brazil, will not allow travelers to enter the country without a passport that is valid for at least six months. However, there are situations where a citizen might need to get a new passport or visa while abroad.

2) Consulates will assist you in finding legal help

Court
If you break a law while traveling (even unknowingly!), your consulate will not get you off the hook. But consulate agents can get you in touch with attorneys or possibly provide you with a bail loan.

3) Consul agents will assist with tax return and absentee voting logistics

Absentee Ballot
Consulates won’t prepare your tax return for you. They should, however, help you with the technical parts of getting your tax returns and absentee ballots from the host country back to your home country.

4) Babies born abroad may hold national citizenship

Baby
Each country has laws determining if a baby born to its citizens in another country becomes a national citizen. Consulate agents can help citizens register births that happen overseas.

5) Consulates will notify citizens when they suggest an evacuation from a certain country

Commercial Airplane
Consulates will (probably) not fly a transport helicopter in to rescue citizens during an evacuation. Rather, they might suggest citizens find commercial transportation out of the country.

6) Embassies and consulates might host gatherings for holidays and events

Norwegian Constitution Day
For example, the Norwegian embassy in Washington, D.C. hosts an annual Constitution Day event (read: lots of ice cream and hot dogs) on May 17, which thousands of Norwegian expatriates and travelers attend each year.

7) Some consulates have a Community Liaison Officer

Community Liaison Officer
CLOs regularly communicate between the consulate and citizens in the area. Building a relationship with a CLO can be extremely helpful to stay informed about current policies and warnings.

How do you contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate?

Before traveling, determine where the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy is to your destination. The U.S. maintains more than 285 embassies and consulates in cities around the world. The travel section of the State Department’s website has contact information for U.S. embassies and consulates. The State Department announces travel warnings on the website, and also provides useful information about specific visa requirements, safety and security, and local laws.

Have you ever used consular services? Please let us know how a consulate helped you in the comments below.

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