PROPERTY DISPUTES TOURIST, TRADE AND COMMERCIAL COMPLAINTS FOREIGN CLAIMS U.S. CUSTOMS AND TREASURY REQUIREMENTS
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IN THIS CIRCULAR IS PROVIDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY AND MAY NOT BE TOTALLY APPLICABLE IN A PARTICULAR CASE. QUESTIONS INVOLVING INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC U.S. OR FOREIGN LAWS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO APPROPRIATE LEGAL COUNSEL.
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The Department of State and U.S. consular officers abroad receive numerous inquiries about a variety of issues related to potential legal disputes involving property, tourism, trade and investment abroad. These issues are handled by a variety of offices in the Department of State and in other U.S. Government agencies. This information is designed to assist you in locating the best source of help.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The Department of State and officers of the Foreign Service are prohibited by Federal regulations from acting as agents, attorneys or in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of U.S. citizens in private legal disputes abroad (22 CFR 92.81). U.S. embassies and consulates can assist in facilitating communication with foreign authorities or businesses and making inquiries on behalf of U.S. citizens in tourist, trade and other commercial disputes. They may also be able to provide general information, but not legal advice, about how the legal systems work in the foreign country, and furnish you with a list of foreign attorneys. In addition, our Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management in the Bureau of Consular Affairs has information available about service of process and obtaining evidence abroad .
Consular officers are not authorized to accept for safekeeping private property except under very limited circumstances related to the death of a U.S. citizen abroad. See our information regarding estates of U.S. citizens who die abroad . Under current U.S. law and regulations (22 U.S.C. 4195; 22 CFR Part 72), the only time a consular officer may take possession of the property of a U.S. citizen is (a) when acting as provisional conservator of the estate of a deceased American abroad; (b) when taking custody of the effects of a deceased American seaman; or (c) when taking jurisdiction over a U.S. registered vessel, its cargo or effects on board following a disaster at sea. Consular officers can assist in referring you to local shipping and storage companies that may be able to assist you. If a U.S. citizen's wallet or purse is located by local police and returned to the U.S. embassy or consulate, the consular officer will attempt to locate you and return your belongings to you. Shipping expenses must be paid by the U.S. citizen.
Lists of foreign attorneys are available by contacting the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Overseas Citizens Services, Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management at (202) 647-5225 or from U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. In addition, many U.S. embassies are now placing their lists of attorneys on their home pages. See links to home pages of U.S. embassy and consulates . Links to many U.S. embassy lists of attorneys are also available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page. See also our general information flyer, Retaining A Foreign Attorney .
The U.S. Government is not authorized to pay for the legal expenses of U.S. citizens abroad. Some foreign countries have legal aid available, available primarily in criminal matters. This topic may be discussed in the U.S. embassy list of attorneys. For additional information, contact the local foreign bar association, Ministry of Justice, or legal attache or consular section at the foreign embassy in Washington, D.C. about the availability of legal aid. Information about how to contact foreign embassies and consulates in the United States .
Consumer or other contractual complaints (not collection cases) in excess of $500, in which the complainant has made an effort to settle the dispute but had not filed a legal action, may be referred to the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration or contact the Department of Commerce’s regional foreign business center. The U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center is the first stop for information about all U.S. Federal Government export assistance programs, general export counseling, and country and regional market information. Please call ITA at 1-800-USA-TRADE to receive personal export assistance from a trade specialist Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (EST) or consult the International Chamber of Commerce ; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, International and U.S. Chambers of Commerce Abroad .
For assistance with tourism complaints, contact the foreign embassy or consulate in the United States . It may also be useful to contact the foreign country's tourism office in the United States . In case of serious problems, contact the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management at (202) 647-5225 or the local U.S. embassy or consulate abroad .
Contact the Department of State, Bureau of Economic Affairs, International Finance and Development , Office of Investment Affairs (EB/IFD/OIA), at 202-647-4907; fax: 202-647-0320; email: [email protected]
U.S. Business Investment Treaty Program (BIT). BITs give U.S. investors the right to submit an investment dispute with the treaty partner's government to international arbitration. There is no requirement to use that country's domestic courts. See also information about the work of the Department of State, Coordinator for Business Affairs ; See the U.S. Department of State's Bill of Right for American business .
For assistance in determining your export licensing requirements, contact the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration, Export Counseling Division or for help from the Department of Commerce or write to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Export Counseling Division, Room 2705, 14th and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., U.S. Department of Commerce, Export Counseling Division, Washington, D.C. 20230.
For information about licensing criteria, contact the U.S. Department of Treasury, Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Info-by-Fax 202-622-0077, or write to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, OFAC, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Treasury Annex, Washington, D.C. 20220.
See the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Know Before You Go and Pets, Wildlife, U.S. Customs , other useful information about restricted and prohibited merchandise, medications/drugs, etc. See the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Travelers’ Tips On Bringing Food, Plant, and Animal Products Into the United States . See also the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service publications, Facts About Federal Wildlife Laws and Buyer Beware Guide .
The Department of State seeks to provide appropriate assistance whenever possible in claims involving United States citizens against foreign states. However, the ability of the United States to pursue individual claims formally must be determined on a case-by-case basis in accordance with generally recognized principles of international law. In order for the United States to be able to present a formal claim against a foreign government, the claimant must have been a U.S. citizen at the time the claim arose. Furthermore, the claimant must have exhausted local judicial and/or administrative remedies, or have demonstrated that to do so would be futile. Unless these conditions are met, the United States Government can not consider formal presentation of a claim. Inquiries about such claims may be addressed to the Office of the Legal Adviser, International Claims and Investment Disputes (L/CID), Department of State, (202) 776-8430. For information about the service provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and guidance on how to effect service under the Act, see our Bureau of Consular Affairs information at fsia.html .
See the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission home page for answers to questions about pursuing claims under existing agreements. The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States is a quasi-judicial, independent agency within the Department of Justice which adjudicates claims of U.S. nationals against foreign governments, either under specific jurisdiction conferred by Congress or pursuant to international claims settlement agreements.