Last month we discussed the risk of “virtual kidnapping”, the practice of extorting funds from the families of those travelling abroad without an actual kidnapping taking place. We’d like to highlight an important preventive measure. The United States Department of State strongly encourages all those who are travelling abroad, particularly if the itinerary includes underdeveloped or politically unstable countries, to register on their website. A detailed itinerary in the hands of the State Department will enable local authorities to confirm the location of the alleged “victim” and eliminate the need to pay ransom to the “kidnapper.” Registration is free and allows the State Department to reach you in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster, terrorism,

civil unrest, or trouble at home. Each year U.S. embassies and consulates assist over 200,000 Americans who are victims of accidents, violent crime, sudden illness, or who must be contacted because of a family emergency. By registering on the website, you make it much easier for the U.S. government to locate you. The registration

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process is simple. Create an account by clicking on the “Create Account” link and following the instructions. You will be prompted to create a username and password that allows you to enter and access your travel data during your trip and for subsequent trips abroad. The personal information requested includes your name, address, phone number and the names and numbers of emergency contacts. Each time you wish to add a destination or foreign address, you may click the “Add Overseas Residence” button that alerts the appropriate US embassy or consulate of your pending arrival. The State Department will send you an e mail confirming your registration and updates. U.S. consular offices supply updates on security issues and assist Americans overseas who encounter financial, medical or legal difficulties. Although the consular office cannot provide medical care or legal advice, they can recommend local English speaking medical professionals and lawyers. They are also able to offer emergency loans, help with absentee voting, the filing of U.S. income tax forms, and coordinating federal benefits. Other services include issuing American birth certificates for the children of U.S. citizens born abroad, notarizing documents, and replacing lost or stolen passports. When traveling to destinations where kidnapping or political instability are rife, registration with the U.S. State Department should be part of every U.S. citizens’ plan.

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About The Author

Frank Gillingham, M.D. serves as Chief Medical Director for HTH Worldwide. Frank has led HTH Worldwide's international business development efforts in Europe and Canada and has been a guest speaker at international business conferences and has authored a series of articles on travel medicine, including pieces on travel information available on the Internet and the role of physicians working with travel insurers. Frank is a Board-Certified Internist and Emergency Medicine Specialist. He is also a private emergency physician in Southern California and a former emergency department director and member of the UCLA emergency department staff. Frank completed residency training at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, received his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania .

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