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Expat Insider: The US Embassy Abroad Explained

United States embassies are beacons of home for weary travelers.

The proud American flag waves gently from atop well-guarded rooftops, beckoning Americans with an image of home.

That being said, you probably don’t want to find yourself in a position where you actually need to venture inside of one.

The US Embassy exists for several purposes, including to help out United States Citizens who run into problems abroad. You don’t want to have any problems abroad.

But if you do, the embassy is there to help you in any way it can. Read on to discover its other purposes, and what it can do for you.

What Exactly is the US Embassy?

The US is a powerful first world nation. As such, it must conduct diplomatic relations with all other major world powers and most other countries.

US Embassy

Image via US Embassy

The United States operates its embassies as the diplomatic headquarters from where United States diplomats conduct their business.

This involves helping out its citizens who have problems while traveling. Embassies are also hubs where local citizens can go to interview for American visas.

Embassies have other important purposes as well. According to the US Department of State, embassy employees work to gather information on the political and economic climate of the host country and give reports to the United States federal government.

Embassies also work to keep relationships with foreign countries genial, and ensure United States operations are being conducted smoothly in foreign nations. The US Department of State operates embassies across the world.

The US Embassy Help and Services for Citizens Abroad

What do you do if your passport gets lost?

How about if all your money gets stolen? There’s an embassy for that. Although helpful services can vary somewhat from country to country, there are a few blanket services provided by embassies:

Passport Help from the US Embassy

If you lose your passport, the very first thing you should do is contact your embassy. They will instruct you on all the necessary steps to take.

Often these include filling out a variety of forms, paying for a new passport and taking pictures. In some instances, the fees may be waived. These include natural disasters and serious crimes. It is difficult to get a passport free of charge.

Paperwork and Taxes

The embassy can help out expats by providing them with vital records paperwork like social security cards and birth certificates. They are also there to help out with marriage or divorce papers.

Filing your United States taxes overseas can sometimes also be done through the United States embassy where you live as well.

Crime and Punishment

In the event that a crime has been committed against you, you can report it at the embassy and seek help there. It is important to note that while the embassy can aid in putting you into contact with family and friends abroad, it is extremely unlikely  that they can help in any sort of financial manner.

If you have been incarcerated, you should inform them immediately. The embassy usually cannot do much in these instances, and you will most likely have to rely on yourself in the event that you commit a crime.

Medical Emergencies

In the event of a medical emergency, the embassy will determine what help you can receive. If you are destitute, you may receive money. This is not a gift but a loan issued by the government, which you will have to pay back in full.

Normally you will have to give up your passport upon your return home, and you will not be issued a new one until you pay back the loan.

Rules and Regulations of the US Embassy

rules and regs for the US Embassy

Image via Quartz

Security is tight at the US Embassy.

If you do go, don’t take these items inside:

  • Large purses
  • Weapons of any sort
  • Any electronic devices
  • Any food
  • Any bottles

It’s a good idea to leave everything outside, except the paperwork you absolutely need. As per government regulations, you’ll usually have to go through security of some sort at an embassy or consulate.

US Embassy Fun Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

The embassy is full of surprises!

US Embassies are considered to be the property of the US, though not technically owned by the US. That means that embassies on foreign soil operate under the laws of the United States, not the host country.

Embassies are not to be entered by any citizen of the host country, including police and government officials, without express permission from the United States government. That means any search inside or seizure of property is forbidden.

The US Embassy Serves You!

Learning about the embassy nearest to you is absolutely imperative when traveling or moving abroad.

Not only does the US Embassy serve an important function politically, it also serves you. So make sure you know where to go to take advantage of all its services and protections — you never know when you might need it!

Feature image via Translation Embassy

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