How do embassies help U.S. citizens?

Joetta Martes, of Beaverton, Ore., boards a U.S. Air Force cargo plane headed to Miami from Port-au-Prince, Haiti

U.S. citizens board a U.S. Air Force cargo plane
headed to Miami from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
(© AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Embassies help American citizens in many ways. The effects of some are in plain sight, issuance of visas to promote international visits to the United States while maintaining our border security. Other effects are less obvious but can have an even more direct impact: a trade agreement worked out at the U.S. embassy in Japan, for example, might well affect you personally in the lower cost of a car, but you would probably never know it. Close consultations with foreign governments and international organizations can stop an illness from becoming a pandemic. Skillful negotiations can prevent a small conflict from spiraling into a war.

While the Consular officers provide immediate and personal assistance to American citizens every day around the world -- replacing lost passports, assisting injured or ill travelers, and assisting with marriages, births, and adoptions, other sections of the embassy provide more specialized assistance. The Foreign Commercial Service or Foreign Agricultural Service helps American businesses connect with local counterparts to increase American exports. The economic section works with local political leaders to ensure that finance laws and regulations remain friendly for American businesses. The public affairs section presents U.S. policy, values and culture to local media and public and helps visiting American journalists get background, official interviews, and information for their stories. The U.S. Agency for International Development works with host country institutions to encourage agrarian and business enterprise and to enhance infrastructure. Military attaches and drug and law enforcement agents manage programs and conduct exercises which create better coordination between army and police services.

A man, identified as a U.S. citizen, is hoisted to a U.S

A U.S. citizen is hoisted to a U.S. Navy helicopter by a Rescue team after he was rescued from the rubble of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (© AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)