The Embassy has a Duty Officer to assist American citizens outside of normal business hours. The Duty Officer can provide information on medical facilities, on obtaining emergency funds from home, on dealing with and replacing lost/stolen items, on reporting crimes, etc. However, most activities, like obtaining an emergency passport to replace a lost/stolen one, can only be performed during normal working hours. The Duty Officer can be reached at tel. 91-587-2200.
Victims of Crime
Spanish authorities have dedicated an English-language telephone number for victims of crimes who wish to make a police report (denuncia) but do not speak Spanish. The number is 902-102-112. It operates from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily, and the caller will be instructed on the phone where to find the police station (comisaría) where they must go to sign the denuncia and obtain a copy.
Please be sure to inform the American Citizens Services unit if you have been the victim of a crime in Spain and review our Help for U.S. Citizens Victims of Crime handout (PDF - 380K).
Medical Assistance / Medical Insurance
In order to help American citizens, who might not speak Spanish, the Embassy maintains a list of English-speaking physicians in the Madrid area. The Consulate General in Barcelona and the U.S. Consular Agents throughout Spain can provide information concerning the availability of health care in their respective regions. The Department of State maintains information which may be of use should you experience a medical problem while outside the U.S.
After hours, the Duty Officer may be able to help an injured/sick American by contacting friends or relatives in the U.S. or by directing the American to a near by health care facility. Occasionally, an American citizen will want help arranging a medical evacuation (medevac) to the United States. There are no U.S. government funds available to pay for medical treatment or medical evacuations, and U.S. nationality does not entitle a person to a military medical evacuation free of charge. Medical evacuations can in fact cost up to $100,000 and the cost is born by the ill or injured person, the family and or the medical insurance company.
Important: American Citizens living or traveling abroad should be sure they have adequate medical insurance that will cover expenses incurred abroad. Medicare and Medicaid are only valid in the United States. Some private American medical insurance companies will pay for expenses abroad, but most require that the patient pay the bill first, then file for reimbursement. Hospitals and health care providers will expect payment if you are not covered by the Spanish health care system. The United States Embassy does not have funding to help cover medical expenses of American citizens in Spain. You may find it useful to look into the possibility of obtaining a policy that specifically covers expenses incurred overseas.
Death of US Citizen Abroad
In the unfortunate event that an American citizen dies in Spain, the American Citizens Services Unit can assist the family in making arrangements for return of the remains to the United States, if necessary, or for burial or cremation in Spain. There are, however, no U.S. government funds available to cover or defray any of the expenses involved. Please contact the ACS unit if you experience the loss of a loved one in Spain on 91-587-2240. After hours, you may call the duty officer on 91-587-2200.
Welfare and Whereabouts Cases
In emergencies, the Embassy can assist private citizens to locate friends or relatives in our consular district, passing messages if necessary. We are limited somewhat in this function by the Privacy Act, a U.S. law stating that the U.S. Government cannot release information concerning an individual without consent of that individual. If an emergency exists and you have been unable to contact a loved one in Spain, you may request assistance by contacting the American Citizens Service Unit at the U.S. Embassy at 34-91-587-2240 (during Spanish working hours). Our ability to locate a person outside normal business hours in Spain is severely limited.
Arrest of an American Citizen Abroad
When arrested, an American citizen has the same rights as a Spanish citizen. The Embassy has a list of English speaking attorneys that is available to any American arrestee upon request. If the accused chooses not to retain an attorney privately, a legal aid attorney (Abogado de Oficio) will be appointed from the Bar Association.
When an American citizen is arrested in Spain, the Embassy is responsible for ensuring that the arrestee's legal and human rights are respected. Neither arrest nor detention deprives an American citizen of a Consular Officer's best efforts in this respect. At the same time, a Consular Officer cannot act as the citizen's legal representative nor can the officer solicit preferential treatment for the prisoner based on citizenship.
The Consular Officer’s Role
Spanish police ordinarily inform the Embassy of the detention of an American citizen within twenty-four hours of the arrest. The Consular Officer will come to visit the arrestee as soon as possible after notification. On the initial visit, the Consular Officer will check on the well-being of the detainee and the circumstances of the arrest, provide the list of attorneys, and ask for a Privacy Act Waiver to provide authorization for the consular officer to be in contact with others regarding the arrest. If necessary, the Consular Officer will intercede with local authorities to ensure full observance of the citizen's rights under Spanish law.
If authorized by the citizen to do so, the Consular Officer will notify the arrested person's family and relay requests for financial or other assistance. Consular Officers in Spain try to visit detained American citizens in pre-trial status once every three months. For convicted prisoners, visits are scheduled every six to twelve months.
The Embassy is obliged to bring evidence of maltreatment or discrimination to the attention of the Spanish authorities if the citizen so requests.
What can the U.S. Embassy and State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs do for Americans caught in a disaster or a crisis abroad? Earthquakes, hurricanes, political upheavals, acts of terrorism, and hijackings are only some of the events threatening the safety of Americans abroad. Each event is unique and poses its own special difficulties. However, for the State Department there are certain responsibilities and actions that apply in every disaster or crisis.
When a crisis occurs, the State Department sets up a task force or working group to bring together in one set of rooms all the people necessary to work on that event. Usually this Washington task force will be in touch by telephone 24 hours a day with our Ambassador and Foreign Service Officers at the embassy in the country affected. In a task force, the immediate job of the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs is to respond to the thousands of concerned relatives and friends who begin to telephone the State Department immediately after the news of a disaster is broadcast. Relatives want information on the welfare of their family members and on the disaster.
The State Department relies on its embassies and consulates abroad for hard information. Often these installations are also affected by the disaster and lack electricity, phone lines, gasoline, etc. Nevertheless, Foreign Service officers work hard to get information back to Washington as quickly as possible. This is rarely as quickly as the press is able to relay information. Foreign Service Officers cannot speculate; their information must be accurate. Often this means getting important information from the local government, which may or may not be immediately responsive.
You can help yourself and your relatives by planning in advance (see emergency preparedness message):
Enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Ensure your passport is valid.
Gather all vital documents into a secure location and make photocopies which you keep separately.
Remain informed by watching the news, reading newspapers and referring to the State. Department Consular Information Sheets, Public Announcement, and Travel Warnings.
Leave your itinerary and contact information with family/friends at home.
Arrange for regular communications with family/friends through email or phone calls.
For more information, please see U.S. Department of Homeland Security Website.
Among the highest priorities of the Department of State and our missions abroad is the safety and security of locally-resident Americans overseas. In the past year the Department has intervened to assist in the evacuation of Americans from half a dozen countries throughout the world, as a result of serious political or economic unrest, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks. Hundreds of expatriate Americans each year are forced by personal emergencies (e.g. death or illness in the family) to return to the U.S. on short notice. Evacuations, especially under crisis conditions, are inevitably very disruptive and distressing for those involved. The State Department routinely provides standard advice to its employees on prudent steps to take to ensure they would be prepared in the event of such an evacuation. This and other advice on crisis preparedness is available on the Department's Web site, and we are summarizing the principal points below. The Embassy/Consulate commends these elementary steps to you for your careful consideration.
Assemble all vital documents such as passports, birth and marriage records, vaccination, insurance and bank records in one readily accessible location.
Check to be sure that your passport and any necessary visas are valid and that you are registered at the Embassy/Consulate with your current address and phone number. If you need to obtain a new passport or to update your enrollment, please do so at the Embassy as soon as possible. Visa processing can take several weeks. Immediate family members should keep their U.S. visas current, and apply for visas with as much time in advance of planned travel as possible.
Make or update as necessary a complete inventory of your household effects, in duplicate.
Maintain an adequate supply of food, water, and necessary medications in your home. Make sure your car is in good working order. Keep the gas tank full and check oil, coolant, tires, and battery.
We do not want American citizens to become unduly alarmed. These are precautionary measures only. Given the potential for acts of violence, terrorism, or anti-American demonstrations, we believe it is important for all citizens to maintain readiness for all possibilities in case of an emergency. We will promptly inform you of any significant developments and advise you accordingly.
The Department of State encourages all American citizens residing abroad to enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and obtain up-to-date information on security conditions at the nearest American Embassy/Consulate (please see list of Consular Offices in Spain).
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