7 FAM 000 

7 FAM 010


(CT:CON-915;   05-24-2021)
(Office of Origin:  CA/OCS)


(CT:CON-915;   05-24-2021)

a. The U.S. Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater responsibility than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas.  Article 5 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) provides that consular functions include.

Article 5, VCCR, Consular Functions

“Consular functions consist in:

(a) protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, both individuals and bodies corporate, within the limits permitted by international law. . . .”

b. Bureau of Consular Affairs:  Primary responsibility for protection of U.S. citizens abroad is carried out by the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) in the Department of State and by dedicated consular officers, locally engaged staff and consular agents abroad.  1 FAM 250 outlines the duties and responsibilities of the Bureau of Consular Affairs.  It is imperative that consular officers participate fully in post Emergency Action Committees (EAC) to ensure that the interests of private U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad are considered in post strategic planning and decision-making.  (See 12 FAH-1 H-230, Emergency Action Committees).

c.  Overseas Citizens Services:  Within CA, the Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services (CA/OCS) is charged with exercising the Secretary of State’s responsibility to provide consular protection and services to United States citizens abroad.  OCS serves as a liaison between concerned family members, friends and members of Congress in the United States and consular posts and U.S. citizens abroad.  OCS is responsible for the ongoing development, delivery and oversight of a broad range of highly technical and complex programs and services requiring an in-depth knowledge of the laws, regulations, treaties, conventions, and precedents governing those programs.  CA/OCS is comprised of three offices:  American Citizen Services and Crisis Management (ACS), Children’s Issues (CI), and the Office of Legal Advisor for Consular Affairs (L/CA).  These offices are under the leadership of a Managing Director and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizens Services.

d. The Office of American Citizens Services (ACS) and Crisis Management (CA/OCS/ACS) is in effect the Department’s “America Desk.’’  ACS helps U.S. citizens/nationals abroad and their families and friends at home with emergencies such as deaths, arrests, illnesses and injuries.  ACS provides vital assistance to U.S. citizens/nationals during periods of crisis such as transportation accidents, natural disasters, and civil unrest, including the evacuation of U.S. citizens.  In addition to ACS’s emergency and crisis work, it provides assistance on a wide variety of other issues, including estates, property, voting and adjudicating acquisition and loss of U.S. citizenship.

e. The Office of Children's Issues (CA/OCS/CI) provides assistance to the public on international parental child abduction and international adoption cases.  CI serves as the U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) and for the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of International Adoption.  CI also formulates and coordinates policy and provides direction to posts on international parental child abduction cases and international adoption policy issues.  See 7 FAM 1710 and 7 FAM 1790.

f.  The Office of Legal Advisor for Consular Affairs (L/CA) participates in formulating policies relating to emergency and non-emergency services to U.S. citizens residing or traveling abroad and to interested parties in the United States.  L/CA provides legal and technical guidance relating to OCS programs carried out by all OCS personnel and by consular officers worldwide.  L/CA’s primary responsibilities, stated briefly, include policy formulation, program analysis and planning, litigation, legislation, regulations, treaties, advisory opinions involving complex legal analysis, liaison with other agencies and private-sector counterparts.


(CT:CON-416;   07-26-2012)

a. U.S. Nationals Eligible for Consular Protection and Other Services:  Nationality is the principal relationship that connects an individual to a State.  International law recognizes the right of a State to afford diplomatic and consular protection to its nationals and to represent their interests.  Under U.S. law the term "national" is inclusive of citizens but "citizen" is not inclusive of nationals.  All U.S. citizens are U.S. nationals.  Section 101(a)(22) INA (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(22)) provides that the term “national of the United States” means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.  U.S. nationals are eligible for U.S. consular protection.

b. U.S. Non-Citizen Nationals:  A non-citizen national of the United States is a person who, though not a citizen, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.  Section 308(1) INA (8 U.S.C. 1408(1)) provides that nationals, but not citizens of the United States, include people born in an outlying possession of the United States on or after the date of formal acquisition of such possession, in addition to several other limited categories.  Section 101(a)(29) INA (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(29)) defines the term “outlying possessions of the United States” to mean American Samoa and Swains Island.  Some statutes and treaties, such as Section 302 of the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (48 U.S.C. 1801, 48 U.S.C. 1801 Notes), have specified means by which persons who automatically acquired U.S. citizenship could instead opt to be noncitizen nationals, see:

·         7 FAM 1100, Acquisition and Retention of U.S. Citizenship and Nationality

·         7 FAM 1121.4, Laws Governing Status of Persons Born in Outlying Possessions

·         7 FAM 1125, American Samoa and the Swains Island

·         7 FAM 1126, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

c.  Lawful permanent resident aliens (LPRs):  Section 101(a)(20) INA (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(20)) defines the term “lawfully admitted for permanent residence” as the status of having been lawfully accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws, whose status has not changed.  LPRs generally are not entitled to emergency and protective services provided by the U.S. Government.  Refer such persons to the nearest diplomatic representative of the country of which they are a national or citizen.  When an LPR applicant has exceptionally close and strong ties to the United States, and overriding humanitarian and compassionate grounds exist, request guidance from CA/OCS/ACS about the propriety of providing the service, with the understanding that the host government may not, and is not obligated to, honor a request from the U.S. Government on behalf of such an individual.  The Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a) does pertain to LPRs.  (See also 7 FAM 060).

d. No Ties to the United States:  Persons with no ties or allegiance to the United States may not be provided emergency or protective services except under the most extraordinary circumstances, and then only with the prior approval of the Department (CA/OCS).

e. Availability of Certain ACS Consular Services to Foreign Nationals:  Notarial and Authentication services are available to foreign nationals under certain circumstances.  (See 7 FAM 800).


(CT:CON-300;   05-20-2009)

The status of diplomatic and consular premises arises from the rules of law relating to inviolability and immunity from the jurisdiction of the receiving State; the premises are not part of the territory of the sending State (the United States of America).  Therefore, contrary to popular belief, a U.S. embassy or consulate is not U.S. soil.  (See 7 FAM 180, Refuge – Temporary Emergency Protection Of Private U.S. Nationals At Overseas Posts).


(CT:CON-822;   07-16-2018)


(CT:CON-106;   06-06-2005)

In the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) and bilateral consular conventions, the country that sent the consular officer to serve abroad is referred to as the “sending State.”  The “receiving State” is the country where that consular officer will serve (the host country).  You should become accustomed to this way of referring to countries in your formal dialogue with the authorities of the country where you serve abroad.  Of course, diplomatic parlance is not useful or necessary when speaking informally at the working level.

7 FAM 016  Reporting

(CT:CON-686;   11-15-2016)

a. Each subchapter of the 7 FAM provides specific guidance regarding reporting requirements for posts concerning consular protection and passport and citizenship cases.

b. Most American Citizen Services (ACS) reporting is now done in the ACS system and via record email.  Certain high profile cases continue to be reported via cable using appropriate TAGS to ensure appropriate distribution in the Department of State.

c.  As the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) moves to adopt a more person-centric casework model, posts must scan pertinent documents as defined below and enter case notes, where appropriate, into the ACS system record of a U.S. citizen in actual or potential high-visibility cases.  This will ensure that both Washington and posts have a complete picture of what work has been completed on a case, allowing us to respond quickly to urgent inquiries.

d. Consular One will eventually consolidate all citizen and passport services systems, including ACS (American Citizens Services), TDIS (Travel Document Issuance System), ACRQ (American Citizen Record Query), PIERS (Passport Issuance Electronic Record System), PLOTS (Passport Lookout Tracking System), ECAS (Enterprise Case Assessment Service), STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), MASCOT (Message Alert System for Citizens Overseas Tool, CTF (Consular Task Force), TFA (Task Force Alert), ATS (Adoption Tracking Service), and IPCA (International Parental Child Abduction).  A critical feature of this system is a person-centric case work model.  No longer will information be held in many systems, in separate case files, in emails, or elsewhere.  You will be able to access a U.S. citizen's record literally from cradle to grave or, with a naturalized citizen, from visa application to passport issuance and, following conferral of citizenship, to the same extent as other U.S. citizens' records.  Our goal is to put the right information at the fingertips of the right people when they need it most, whether in a routine passport application, an Information Memorandum to the Secretary, or during a crisis.

e. This system is intended to provide for a better, more well-informed consular team that enjoys improved system support.  We aim to give action officers the information and documents they need for a swift response to requests for briefings by senior officials, for assistance in a crisis, or for routine consular services.

f.  Where you think an ACS case might draw press or Congressional attention or involve a post or senior Department principal, please scan or attach electronic copies of pertinent U.S. and host-country official documents, incoming letters from the public in high profile cases, Congressional responses, memos prepared on the case, etc., to the U.S. citizen's ACS subject record.  CA/OCS will do the same.  If the case is unusual and requires further explanation, include a case note that provides pertinent details that CA or post need to prepare a written response to any inquiry.  The documents post should scan include:

(1)  Congressional Correspondence for any case;

(2)  Diplomatic notes exchanged for any case;

(3)  Action, Information, and Briefing Memoranda;

(4)  Key press clippings or coverage;

(5)  Talking Points and Press Guidance;

(6)  Privacy Act Waivers;

(7)  Welfare and Whereabouts messages passed;

(8)  Notarial Documents where service is refused (for U.S. citizens only); and

(9)  Incoming correspondence for the cases above.

g. Please note that we are not suggesting scanning every document in every case (or even in most cases), but rather only in high-profile cases likely to draw attention outside of the Consular Section.  While there will be some additional scanning involved, we do not intend to task large volumes of new work.  Posts should not be scanning documents for routine cases.  Likewise, scanning these documents can be achieved using the existing equipment already in the field and in Washington.

h. To scan a record or file into ACS, posts can use existing flatbed scanners and will not require additional equipment.  When you attach a document in subject's ACS Activity Log, users should click the "Add" button and set the "Type" to Attach File, which along with a description then enables the "File Attach" function near the bottom of the window.  Users will have two choices.  First, users can click the button with three periods to bring up an "Open file" window to select the scanned file.  If you do have a scanner at your workstation, users can click the "Scan Doc" button to scan the documents directly.  It should be noted that ACS has a file size limitation of a maximum of 2MB per file attached.  Larger files will need to be broken up and attached as separate files.

i.  What about legacy documents for long running cases that have not been scanned in?  You only need to scan new documents.  However, please do keep in mind the records retention requirements referenced in 7 FAH-1 H-457 and contained in Chapter 9 of the Foreign Records Disposition Schedule; Chapters 13, 14, and 15 of the Domestic Records Disposition Schedule may also be relevant in some cases.  Many ACS case files can be retired or destroyed one to five years after the case is closed.  Therefore, you might not need to scan documents for cases that are closed, although high profile case records that meet the tests above should be scanned.  Please seek guidance from your CA/OCS/ACS country officer about scanning old documents for such cases.

j.  The following table provides a summary and cross references to certain critical case reporting requirements.  Reporting on other subjects are found throughout the 7 FAM:




All events in arrest cases must be entered in the ACS system.  In addition, immediate reporting via email is required as specified in the following 7 FAM sections:

7 FAM 424 - Reporting An Arrest - report within 24 hours of host country notification to post of arrest; initial report via email with complete report in the ACS System;

7 FAM 426.2-1 Failure to Notify Post of Arrest - report via email;

7 FAM 426.2-2 - Mistreatment - report immediately via email;

7 FAM 434 - Prison Visits - reports on prison visits in the ACS system;

7 FAM 453 - Request Authorization to Protest Judicial Discrimination;

7 FAM 455 - Trial - report each step of the trial/judicial process in the ACS system and via email;

7 FAM 456.2 Death Penalty cases - report via email;

7 FAM 400 Appendix A - Requests for Clemency, Pardons, Prisoner Release - report via email.  For emergencies after hours, contact CA/OCS duty officer.

7 FAM 472.1 - Death of a Prisoner - report via email.

7 FAM 473.1 - Escaped Prisoners - report via email.

7 FAM 474.6 - Hunger Strikes - report via email to CA/OCS/ACS.

Welfare and Whereabouts - Child Abduction

7 FAM 1715.6-1 - Reporting to Department - via record email with follow up cable in sensitive, high-profile cases

Welfare and Whereabouts - ACS

7 FAM 142 - Reporting to Department via record email with follow up cable in sensitive high profile cases.


7 FAM 221 b - Notifying the Department - enter information in the ACS system and alert your CA/OCS/ACS counterpart via email

7 FAM 017  guarantees and letters of introduction on behalf of u.s. citizens

(CT:CON-915;   05-24-2021)

a. Department officials are often requested by private U.S. citizen or host-country officials to provide a "guarantee" or similar assurances that a private U.S. citizens will remain in country or appear at judicial or similar proceedings.  Department officials have no legal authority to provide such assurances and must not submit any documentation to that affect to host-country authorities, except the rare cases where permission has been explicitly provided by the Department.

b. Such guarantees or assurances have the potential seriously to embarrass the conduct of U.S. foreign policy or result in persona non grata (P.N.G.) or pecuniary liability for the Department official(s) involved in the event something goes amiss, e.g., if the U.S. citizen flees the country or causes damage to persons or property while at large in the host country because of U.S. requests or assurances.

c.  The Department recognizes that some cases warrant special consideration and wishes to do whatever it reasonably can to protect U.S. citizens who are under threat of incarceration or detention abroad.  Regardless, Department officers are not to provide any "guarantees" or assurances to local authorities on behalf of U.S. citizens - either in their "personal" or "official" capacities - without first obtaining the express approval of the Department from all appropriate offices, including the relevant regional Bureau, CA and L/CA.

d. Similarly, posts must not provide letters of introduction on behalf of U.S. citizens.  Generally, requests for these types of letters are made to the Department by private U.S. citizens who are planning to travel to a country where sponsorship from an individual or company is required.

e. The U.S. Government cannot appear to be sponsoring a private U.S. citizen's travel to the country issuing the visa.  Further, we cannot be put in a position of appearing to be prepared to bear any costs involved in either the issuance of the visa or any other aspects of the citizen's travel.  In addition, Department/Posts cannot be put in the position of guaranteeing the issuance of visas to persons who appear to post with letters of introduction from other foreign embassies (i.e., reciprocity).

7 FAM 018  and 019 UNASSIGNED