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Student Handbook - Help From Your Consul


See the Country Handbooks for embassy and consulate contact information.

The consular officers at your country's embassy or consulate in your host country are there to advise and help you, especially if you are in serious trouble of any kind. They cannot serve as attorneys or give legal advice, but they can help you find adequate legal representation.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED, ask permission to notify the consular officer at your nearest embassy or consulate. If you are turned down, keep asking, politely but persistently. The consular officer will visit you, advise you of your rights according to local laws, and contact your family and friends if you ask them.

IF YOU NEED EMERGENCY MEDICAL CARE, the consular officer will try to help you get in touch with a doctor or clinic.

IF YOU BECOME DESTITUTE ABROAD, the consulate will help you get in touch with your family, friends, bank or employer and tell you how to arrange for them to send funds to you.

IF YOUR MONEY IS LOST OR STOLEN, the consulate can advise you on informing the local police.

IF YOUR PASSPORT IS LOST OR STOLEN, report the loss to the local police and go to the your nearest embassy or consulate on the next business day to apply for a new one. If you have a police report, photos and proof of identification (or are accompanied by someone who can identify you), bring them with you.



When you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. There are no exceptions, so use good common sense. Develop a cultural and political awareness of your area to avoid inadvertent misunderstandings and political difficulties.

When you enter some countries and when you register at hotels, you may be asked to fill out a police information card listing your name, passport number, destination, local address, and reason for traveling. In some nations, you will be asked to leave your passport at the hotel reception desk overnight in order that it may be checked by local police officials. These are normal procedures required by local laws.

You should be aware as well that many countries have laws under which you can be held "guilty by association." It is wise to avoid others who are in possession of illegal goods of any sort.

Some pointers:

Don't assume that what is legal in your home country is also legal in other countries. Adhere to local laws strictly. The penalties you risk are severe.

Drug Arrests
Drug laws vary by country. Remember that they may be much more severe in countries you visit than in your home country. If you are caught with illicit soft or hard drugs abroad, you are subject to local not home country laws. The penalties for possession are often the same as for trafficking.

If you are arrested, you will find that:

If you are convicted:
You may face a sentence of two to ten years in most countries, or death in some countries, such as Algeria, Iran, Malaysia, Singapore and Turkey.
Very simply, it is a wise choice not to get involved with drugs while you are abroad. The apparent availability of drugs in some countries is illusory; often the dealer from whom you buy will turn you in and be paid by the police for their services.

Some countries are very sensitive and impose strict requirements about what may not be photographed, such as police stations, military posts, etc. Taking a picture of a harbor may seem harmless to you, but it might be construed as a threat to the country's national security. Before you take out your camera, check for any signs posting restrictions or ask an official if it is okay.