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American Embassies: Why They're There and
How to Use Them If You Ever Need To


The United States has embassies all around the world, which exist to take care of U.S. citizens abroad and also promote friendly relations between the U.S. and other countries.

united states embassy flag

A U.S. embassy can assist you if you need help while traveling abroad.

The embassy and its ambassador act as spokespeople for the United States in other countries, representing the government abroad.

They also engage in various activities to develop the economic, cultural and scientific interests in the country. For example, the U.S. embassy in Windhoek, Namibia is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Peace Corps, Defense Attaché Office, and American Cultural Center in helping Namibians to:

  • Remove landmines leftover from the struggle for independence.

  • Create small businesses and projects that help people help themselves at the local level.

  • End patterns of domestic violence against women and children.

  • Develop a tradition of practicing democracy and respecting the rights of individual citizens.

In addition to special projects like these, U.S. embassies issue U.S. passports and visa services to foreign nationals who wish to visit or study in the United States.

What Can a U.S. Embassy Do for You?

The U.S. Department of State encourages all Americans traveling abroad to register with the U.S. embassy nearest to their travel destination. This is so in the event of a disaster or other emergency, American consular officers can help you, either by sending you warnings or helping with evacuation. But as it says on their Web site, "They cannot assist you if they do not know where you are."

the united states embassy

Before traveling abroad, you can register with the U.S. embassy in the country you'll be visiting at the State Department's travel registration Web site.

Aside from helping to evacuate you during an emergency, a U.S. embassy can help you with:

  • Passport services (loss or theft of your passport)

  • Notary services

  • Reports of births or deaths abroad

  • Crisis situations

  • Arrests abroad

  • Voting by absentee ballot

  • Finding local attorneys, medical practitioners, banks, travel agents, law enforcement officers and investigators

  • Information on how to find employment, housing, driving permits, interpreters, marriage services etc.

  • Information on receiving federal benefits

If you need to find a U.S. embassy, the U.S. Department of State has a list of all U.S. embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.

Registering With a U.S. Embassy

This is a smart move if you'll be traveling abroad for any length of time, however according to the Department of State registration is particularly important for those who plan to stay in a country longer than one month, or who will travel to:

  • A country that is experiencing civil unrest, has an unstable political climate, or is undergoing a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a hurricane.

  • A country where there are no U.S. officials. In such cases, you should register at the U.S. embassy or consulate in an adjacent country, leave an itinerary with the Consular Section, ask about conditions in the country that you will visit and ask about the third country that may represent U.S. interests there.

To register, simply visit the State Department's travel registration Web site.

Recommended Reading

How to Travel Abroad Safely: Six Important Tips You Need to Know in an Emergency

Twelve of the World's Most Dangerous Countries: A Very Brief Tour


U.S. Department of State: Travel Abroad

U.S. Department of State: U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions

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