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Travel Safety and Wellness
In Case of Emergency
Detention or Arrest While Abroad

What To Do: Detention or Arrest While Abroad

In the event of an emergency related to detention or arrest while abroad, access detailed guidance and contact information in U-M’s General Emergency Protocols for International Travelers.

Notice: Travelers are subject to local laws and regulations while visiting or living in a host country and are expected to abide by these laws. Those who break a law, even unknowingly, may be subject to penalties including detention or arrest.

Tips to Avoid Detention or Arrest Overseas

  • Follow local laws and regulations. Learn which laws might be different from the laws in the United States. Some starting points to gain a better understanding of local laws include:
  • Some prescription or recreational drugs that are legal in the U.S. may not be legal in your destination. Check all bags and pockets prior to travel to ensure you are not accidentally transporting illegal substances.
  • Travelers with research that may be considered politically sensitive by host country authorities may attract unwanted scrutiny. They are encouraged to:
    • Better understand the risk environment of travel to their location and how to best mitigate risks, such as maintaining a low profile.
    • Review the “Conducting Sensitive Research” section of the Global Michigan Research & Data Security webpage.
    • Reach out to the Global Engagement Team for a travel safety consultation.

Steps to Take Following Detention or Arrest While Abroad

  • Stay calm. Cooperate with the detaining authorities to the extent that it is safe to do so.
  • With the exception of a handful of countries, detaining authorities are required by international treaty to inform the Embassy / Consulate of your citizenship. Ask the detaining authorities to notify the appropriate Embassy / Consulate as soon as possible. Those who are aware of a detainment of a U.S. citizen can:
    • Reach out to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate to inform them of the arrest. A consular officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad can also be notified by phone at (888) 407-4747 (from the U.S. and Canada) or (202) 501-4444 from abroad.
    • Reach out to the U-M Global Engagement travel safety team at umich-, who can then reach out to consular services on the traveler’s behalf.
  • Review DoS Arrest or Detention of a U.S. Citizen Abroad to understand the limitations of Consular Services and what Embassy Personnel can and can’t do for you. A U.S. Consular Officer CANNOT:
    • Get U.S. citizens out of jail State to a court that anyone is guilty or
    • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court
    • Serve as official interpreters or translators
    • Pay legal, medical, or other fees

NOTE: In order to allow a U.S. Consular Officer to speak with U-M or your family regarding your situation, you will need to sign a Privacy Act Waiver that the Consular Officer will provide you. If you wish the Consular Officer to speak with U-M emergency responder, please identify a Global Engagement Team member (preferably the Chief International Travel Safety Officer or the International Travel Safety Manager) in the Privacy Act Waiver.

  • Contact U-M, who can inform your department and your emergency contacts (with permission). Though U-M will advocate for you, similar to the U.S. Government, U-M cannot get U-M faculty, staff, or students out of jail, provide legal services, or pay for fees associated with the arrest. As stated in the U-M General Emergency Protocols, you can inform U-M in the following ways:
    • Call the U-M Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) at +1 734-763-1131 (Ann Arbor) / +1 313-593-5333 (Dearborn) / +1 810-762-0006 (Flint). Let the DPSS emergency responder know you are a U-M student detained abroad. DPSS will transfer you to a U-M emergency responder for international travelers.
    • Email Global Engagement Team travel safety members at