If you’re in some trouble overseas and need assistance, your consulate can help you in several ways. But there are some limitations you should be aware of, which is why battleface has a quick look at what you reasonably can expect your country to do for you when you’re on foreign soil.
Staff at embassies can:
- give advice, with the aim of helping you to help yourself
- help with a lost or stolen passport
- help you contact relatives or friends to request emergency funds
- provide a list of lawyers who speak your language and help you contact family and friends if you are detained or arrested
- help you contact family and friends if you are ill or injured
- help with arrangements following a death overseas
- in certain circumstances, provide notarial services such as witnessing affidavits, statutory declarations and other documents for use under the law of your country
- help during crises, such as civil unrest and natural disasters
Staff at embassies cannot:
- pay your hotel, travel or other bills, legal or medical expenses, or costs of returning a body home
- give you legal advice, including on family law matters such as child custody, international surrogacy and adoption issues
- investigate a crime or get you out of prison
- get you better conditions in prison or hospital than a local citizen would receive
- arrange visas or work/residency permits for you
- provide you with financial assistance, except in a real emergency, and subject to very strict conditions
- operate a personal mail service for you, including through the diplomatic bag, or store your belongings
- compel another country to overturn your travel ban
- become involved in commercial disputes or civil litigation
Remember though – and this info may sound a little basic but apparently confusion on this happens frequently – consular services at any embassy are only available to citizens of that country.
You’re not going to get assistance if you can’t prove you’re a bona fide citizen of that embassy. For anyone with dual citizenship, this can be frustrating if you’ve entered a country on one passport and then seek assistance from the embassy of the other country you’re a citizen of. And just to be clear, residency of a particular country does not entitle you to access, support or shelter at an embassy you’re not a citizen of.
Before you leave home on your travels to foreign lands it’s advisable to check what city you do or don’t have an embassy in and then keep the contact details handy, just in case.
If you think you might run into the kind of trouble that embassies can’t help you with, consider getting crisis response insurance.
Crisis response insurance can:
- provide assistance for violent crimes, wrongful detention, mysterious disappearance, kidnapping, blackmail, extortion, political threats, hijacking, and acts of terrorism
- cover emergency political evacuation costs
- manage legal expenses
- pay for an independent interpreter
- deal with costs of relocation travel and accommodation