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U.S. Law, International Law and Arrest or Detention

A number of U.S. laws apply to citizens traveling abroad and returning to the United States. 

Export Controls

There is a network of federal agencies and inter-related regulations that govern exports collectively referred to as “Export Controls.” In brief, Export Controls regulate the shipment or transfer, by whatever means, of controlled items, software, technology, or services out of U.S. (termed an “Export”).   For more information contact the Office of Research Compliance.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines elicitation as the strategic use of conversation to extract information from people without giving the feeling they are being interrogated. The FBI has identified incidents where foreign government officials attempted to recruit U.S. students into schemes to access and share sensitive U.S. information. In a particular high profile case, an individual who accepted foreign financial support toward their attempts to pass exams for jobs in U.S. intelligence was convicted and jailed in the United States. The FBI provides advice on awareness and protection from prospective actions of foreign intelligence. If you feel you are being approached in this manner, report it to your program resident director, the international risk manager or officials at your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

International Law and U.S. Students

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, fined, arrested or imprisoned.

Arrests Abroad

If you are arrested or detained while abroad for any reason, it is important that you know what the U.S. government and Ohio State can and cannot do for you. If you are detained for any reason, do not admit to wrongdoing or sign anything until a U.S. Consular official has been notified and you have obtained appropriate legal counsel. 

A U.S. Consular official may:

  • Visit you in jail after being notified of your arrest.
  • Give you a list of local attorneys (the U.S. government cannot assume responsibility for the hprofessional ability or integrity of these individuals or recommend a particular attorney.)
  • With your authorization, notify your family and/or friends.
  • Work with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards and to ensure that U.S. citizens are afforded due process under local laws and international standards.

U.S. Consular officials cannot:

  • Demand your immediate release or get you out of jail or the country.
  • Represent you at trial or give legal counsel.
  • Pay legal fees and/or fines with U.S. government funds.

Likewise, Ohio State faculty and staff can check on your general well-being and make appropriate contact with U.S. Consular officials, local authorities and family and friends in the United States. However, Ohio State cannot secure your release from jail, secure bail or other payments or provide representation in a court of law.