Consular assistance: how the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office provides support

What is consular assistance

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and UK embassies, high commissions and consulates can assist UK nationals abroad in a variety of circumstances. This includes, for example, support for those who have lost their passport, who have been the victim of a crime or who have been hospitalized or arrested.

Each year we support around 20,000-25,000 UK nationals and their families, including around:

  • 6,800 detained or arrested abroad
  • 4,500 dead abroad
  • 4,000 hospitalized
  • 1,600 victims of crime
  • 5,000 who need social assistance

In complex cases, this support can last for many years.

We also provide around 30,000 emergency travel documents to UK nationals each year.

We expect UK nationals to take responsibility for themselves and their safety abroad. The help we can provide depends on the person’s situation and circumstances. Specific advice for different situations can be found in our Assistance for UK Nationals Abroad.

We do not charge for consular assistance, but some specific services, such as emergency travel documents, incur a fee.

The provision of consular assistance is at our discretion and may include:

  • provide information about the legal or judicial systems of the country you are in, and details of interpreters and other services. We cannot provide legal advice but can give you contact details for local lawyers
  • provide contact details for local police and medical services if you have been the victim of a crime, sexual or violent assault. Sometimes we may be able to accompany you to the police station to report a crime
  • visit or contact you if you are arrested or detained, or are serving a prison sentence
  • with your consent, provide information to family in the UK about your situation or raise concerns with local authorities about any mistreatment
  • if we are informed of the death of a British national overseas and no family is present, ask the police to inform the family in the UK
  • provide details of international funeral directors and advice on how to register a death overseas
  • enabling you to obtain an emergency travel document if you lose your UK passport abroad. There is a charge for this service
  • in some countries providing notarial services, for example a certificate of non-impediment for someone getting married overseas. There are fees for notary services

We may be able to provide specialist support in specific situations, for example in cases of forced marriage, kidnapping, death by murder or manslaughter or where there are child protection concerns.

You can contact the FCDO 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by phone, by writing to us or by sending us a message on social networks.

If you need to contact us urgently or in an emergency you should call the nearest British Embassy, ​​High Commission or Consulate or the FCDO in the UK on +44 (0)20 7008 5000, by selecting the option: “Consular services for British nationals”.

How can we help you

Your first contact will be with our team 24/7 in our Global Consular Contact Centre. They work with consular teams in the UK and at UK embassies, high commissions and consulates to provide the most appropriate support. If you have questions about a service or support that we don’t provide, we may be able to direct you to other people who can help you. The privacy notice of our consular services describes how we process personal data.

Our trained teams will assess your request and your situation. We will then endeavor to offer assistance that meets your needs. The nature of the assistance we can provide will depend on matters such as your particular situation, your vulnerability, the laws and practices of the country in which you are located, and the availability of local services, such as the police or medical facilities. .

We seek to prioritize support for those UK nationals whom we assess to be vulnerable and most in need of our assistance. We generally consider a person to be vulnerable when they cannot protect themselves from significant physical or emotional harm, or be protected by others. We also consider certain people to be vulnerable, regardless of their situation, for example victims of rape and sexual assault, cases of forced marriage and situations involving children and young people.

We can provide consular assistance to UK nationals who need our help in a crisis, for example following a natural disaster, civil unrest, acts of terrorism or a major transport accident. We are working with the relevant authorities and other organizations to help those affected. We sometimes send additional FCDO staff to support in-country, when safe to do so.

Prepare before you travel

Before you travel, you should read our Travel Advice for the countries you plan to visit. It includes information on entry requirements, the security situation, local laws and customs, and other information to help you take care of yourself while abroad.

You must ensure:

  • your passport is up to date, valid for the duration of your stay abroad and you have completed the emergency contact details page
  • you have a necessary visa or other entry requirements
  • you have appropriate comprehensive overseas travel insurance
  • you have checked recommended vaccinations and other health requirements, for example to see if the medicines you are carrying are allowed in the country you are visiting
  • you have sufficient funds for your trip and can access them during your trip
  • you are able to travel, taking advice from health professionals if necessary

You should consider telling someone you trust when and where you are going, and leaving them copies of important documents, such as your passport and insurance details.

When our help is limited

The help we can provide will be limited if:

  • you are in a place where we advise against all travel
  • you need assistance in a country where we do not have a diplomatic or consular presence
  • helping you could put others, including our staff, at risk
  • you are abusive to our staff
  • you have dual nationality in the country of your other nationality

Our consular staff are trained to deal with many situations, but we can sometimes refer you to:

  • professionals in specialized fields, such as bereavement counselors
  • a partner organization that we have an established relationship with and know they can best provide you with the help you need
  • another UK government department or non-governmental or charity organization

We provide lists of providers on GOV.UK and our teams can advise you where necessary.

What we can’t do

Although we consider all requests for consular assistance from UK nationals abroad, some requests fall outside our remit. You have no legal right to consular assistance and you should not assume that assistance will be provided to you. Local authorities abroad will not treat you differently because you are British.

The UK is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the international treaty that sets the framework for consular services between countries. The treaty stipulates that our personnel must not interfere in the internal affairs of the host country when providing consular assistance.

We can not:

  • ensure your safety and security in another country. The competent authorities of the country or territory in which you are located are responsible for your safety. You must take personal responsibility to research your plans and prepare appropriately, and to follow the instructions of the authorities once there. Read and follow our travel advice
  • help you enter a country, or prevent your deportation, for example, if you do not have a visa or if your passport is not valid. Each country has the power to decide who they allow into their country and who should leave.
  • investigate crimes or perform physical searches for missing persons. It is the responsibility of the local authorities
  • get you out of jail, prevent local authorities from deporting you after your prison term, or interfere with criminal or civil court proceedings. We must follow the systems of other countries
  • get you better treatment in prison than that given to local people, although we may raise concerns with local authorities if the treatment does not meet internationally recognized standards
  • pay your bills or give you money
  • accept passport applications or issue new passports. Passports are issued by Her Majesty’s Passport Office in the UK. Only emergency travel documents are provided as part of our consular services
  • provide you with legal advice or pay for these services for you. You should ask a professional lawyer if you need legal advice
  • translate official documents, provide official interpretation services or pay for such services. You must contact a local translator or interpreter
  • become involved in private disputes or arrangements regarding property, employment, travel, trade or other matters
  • provide information on how foreign nationals can enter the UK or their immigration status in the UK. Learn more about UK visas

We do not provide consular assistance in British Overseas Territories. If you are visiting or residing in the British Overseas Territories, you should contact the local authorities if you need help.

Disclaimer

Read the disclaimer for this guide.

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