The Department of State is committed to ensuring fair and humane treatment for U.S. citizens imprisoned overseas. We stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international law, domestic and foreign law.
Avoid getting arrested overseas by:
- Following the laws and regulations of the country you are visiting or living in.
- Learning about laws there which might be different from the laws in the United States. We provide some information for each country on our Country Specific pages. For further information on laws within the foreign country before you go, contact that country’s nearest embassy or consulate within the United States.
If you are arrested overseas or know a U.S. citizen who is:
- Ask the prison authorities to notify the U.S. embassy or consulate
- You may also wish to reach out to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate to let us know of the arrest. Contact information for the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General in Saudi Arabia overseas can be found here or by going to our Country Specific Information page for Saudi Arabia.
Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners:
When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented. It can be more difficult because the prisoner is in unfamiliar surroundings, and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system.
We can help:
- Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
- Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen with their written permission
- Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
- Help ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care for you
- Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
- Inform the detainee of local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime that may be available to them
- If they would like, ensuring that prison officials are permitting visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of your choice
- Establish an OCS Trust so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens, when permissible under prison regulations
- Get U.S. citizens out of jail overseas
- State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
- Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court overseas
- Serve as official interpreters or translators
- Pay legal, medical, or other fees for U.S. citizens overseas
Have you been made aware that a U.S. citizen was recently arrested in Saudi Arabia?
Please ask the local authorities to notify the nearest embassy or consulate immediately. The embassy or consulate can work to help protect the person and ensure fair treatment. The embassy or consulate will visit the prisoner, provide information about the local legal process including giving a list of local attorneys, and notify family and friends.
While in Saudi Arabia, you are subject to its laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. To visit incarcerated individuals, the Saudi Government requires diplomatic missions to request visits – including to police stations – via formal diplomatic channels, which often causes delays.
Persons violating Saudi Arabian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, imprisoned, or even executed. Suspects may be detained without charges or legal counsel, and with limited access to a consular officer, for months during the investigative stage of criminal cases. Penalties for the import, manufacture, possession, and consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs in Saudi Arabia are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, public floggings, and/or deportation. The penalty for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia is death, and Saudi officials make no exceptions. Customs inspections at ports of entry are thorough. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General have no standing in Saudi courts to obtain leniency for a U.S. citizen convicted of alcohol or drug offenses.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained in Saudi Arabia. In the case of dual nationals the Saudi Government may recognize only the nationality of the document used to enter the Kingdom. While staff at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General will make every effort to visit incarcerated U.S. citizens, they may experience delays in obtaining permission from the Saudi authorities for the visit.
The U.S. Privacy Act
The Privacy Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-579) was enacted to protect U.S. citizens against unauthorized release of information about them by the government. If you want us to notify your family or friends about your arrest you must first give us written permission to do so.
The embassy or consulate will not inform any person of your arrest without your permission. Even if your family or friends find out by other means, we will be unable to discuss your case with them without your permission. Although we routinely report to the Department of State in Washington on the condition of American prisoners in our consular district, the Department of State does not release this information to individuals without your permission.
You can give the embassy or consulate permission to contact people with a Privacy Act Waiver (PAW). Here is a sample copy (PDF 184 KB).