In the event that circumstances warrant an evacuation, the policy of the U.S. government is generally to help U.S. citizens get to the closest safe haven country. U.S. assistance is a last recourse once all commercial means of air or vehicle transport out of the country are unavailable. The Department of State has more information about the Role of the U.S. Department of State in an Evacuation online.
Generally, individuals evacuated on a U.S. government-coordinated transport, including charter and military flights or ships, even if those transports are provided by another country’s government, must sign an Evacuee Manifest and Promissory Note (Form DS-5528) note prior to departure. The Department of State uses Form DS-5528 to document who got on which transport, and it lets us know how to contact evacuees for billing purposes.
U.S. law requires that departure assistance to private U.S. citizens or third country nationals be provided “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.” By taking a U.S. government coordinated transport, evacuees are obligated to repay the cost of their transportation. We encourage people to leave on the first transport they are able and eligible to board.
In the Event of an Evacuation
- Pack luggage with suitable clothing and essential items. Remember season changes/weather conditions.
Engage children in packing their own backpacks or carry on bags with toys, snacks, games, books, and other comforting items.
Make sure carry-on baggage includes the following items:
Medications (prescription and over the counter)
Medical/dental records, immunization cards
Extra glasses and prescriptions
School records, report cards, test scores, and current samples of work
Current power of attorney
Birth certificates, naturalization certificates, marriage certificates
Passports with visas to third countries if needed
U.S. drivers license, auto insurance policies, auto registrations, and title
Personal checks and latest bank statement
Safe deposit box keys
Inventory of household items
Snacks, juice, books
Things to Take Into Consideration
In the event of an evacuation, American citizens will most likely be transported either to to a safe neighboring country such as Ghana, Togo, Benin, or Gabon or other country deemed appropriate for evacuees.
Each family will have to pay for all fees associated with the evacuation.
If the American Citizen is under the age of 16, only one non-U.S. citizen guardian is permitted to accompany the minor child. The designated person must be visa-qualified for the safe haven country or already have a visa. Since evacuation to the United States is not authorized in most cases, no visas to the United States will be issued during an evacuation.
Each passenger is usually allowed one suitcase and one small carry-on bag.
Pets are not normally allowed on evacuation flights.
FAQs on Evacuation
What can the U.S. Government do to help citizens in countries facing civil strife?
In the event of civil strife, natural disaster, or other occurrence endangering U.S. citizens abroad the U.S. Department of State issues Travel Alerts or Travel Warnings alerting U.S. Citizens to credible, specific potential threats and providing relevant information (please see our prior notices and recent Travel Warning, also located on the U.S. Citizen Services page of our Embassy website.) As a situation becomes more serious, the Embassy may recommend U.S. citizens to leave, and may assist U.S. Citizens to arrange commercial transportation out of the country. If commercial transportation is unavailable, the Embassy may organize charter flights to transport U.S. Citizens out of country, or request aircraft and other assistance from the U.S. military to evacuate U.S. Citizens.
How can I ensure that I receive information from the Embassy?
The most important thing you can do is enroll with the Embassy, if you have not already done so. If you provide an e-mail address, you will also receive messages directly. You can register by creating a secure account on the State Department website that will allow you to inform the State Department about all of your travel. To register, citizens should visit the website of the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Who would pay to evacuate me and my family if a decision is made to evacuate?
If commercial carriers are operating, the Embassy would recommend that you depart on your own and at your own expense. If commercial carriers are not operating, and the U.S. government charters aircraft or requests military assistance, you would be required take full responsibility for payment. The cost of such flights is often more than the commercially available rates.
Where would I be evacuated to?
In most cases, the U.S. government would bring U.S. citizens to the nearest safe location, which is generally not the United States. Evacuees will be helped by Embassy staff at that location in making arrangements for onward transportation, if that is desired.
My child is an U.S. citizen but I am not. Could you evacuate me and the rest of my family?
If a child does not have an American parent or legal guardian in-country, the U.S. government would allow one adult with the appropriate visa for the safe haven to travel with the child on an evacuation flight. If there is more than one U.S. citizen child in the same family, only one adult escort would be permitted. Non-U.S. citizen siblings will not be provided evacuation assistance. Non-U.S. citizen escorts are not guaranteed entry into the United States. The non-U.S. citizen escort must also be documentarily qualified to enter the country designated as the safe location.
I’m a U.S. citizen but my spouse and children are not. Could you evacuate all of us?
If a head of household is an American citizen, we will generally be able to provide evacuation assistance to the American’s dependents. This will generally include a non-U.S. citizen spouse and minor children. All dependents must be documentarily qualified to enter the country designated as the safe location. From the safe location, U.S. citizens may make arrangements for onward travel if they wish to return to the United States. However, non-American family members may not be qualified to enter the United States.
Besides transportation, what other assistance would be available from the U.S. government for evacuees?
The U.S. government is not able to provide money for food, lodging or other purposes to evacuees. Once evacuees have arrived in a safe location, they are expected to provide for themselves. U.S. Embassy employees will be available to assist in finding hotels and onward transportation. They may also be able to assist in contacting family and friends and in transferring funds as time and resources allow.
What would I be allowed to bring on the evacuation flight?
Each evacuee is usually allowed to bring one suitcase, weighing less than 10 kilos (22 pounds), and one carry on item. Pets are normally not be allowed on evacuation flights.
How do I repay an Evacuation Loan?
Evacuation loan payments shuold be made to the U.S. Department of State through the Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS) office in Charleston, South Carolina. If payment is not made in full and on time, your loan may accrue interest charges and penalties.
For more information about your evacuation loan, to repay your loan, or to request a payment plan, contact:
Comptroller and Global Financial Services
Phone: 1-800-521-2116 or 843-746-0592
Hours: Monday to Friday from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM ET
What If I cannot repay an evacuation loan?
Until your loan is paid in full, you and anyone for whose evacuation loan you are financially responsible may be denied a regular U.S. passport. If you have an urgent need for travel, or have another requirement for a U.S. passport, please contact CGFS regarding payment options and the National Passport Information Center to discuss U.S. passport issuance options that may be available to you.