An official website of the United States government

Arrest or Detention of a U.S. Citizen in Vietnam

One of the highest priorities of the Department of State and the U.S. Mission to Vietnam is to provide assistance to incarcerated U.S. citizens. The Department of State is committed to ensuring fair and humane treatment for U.S. citizens imprisoned overseas. We stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international, domestic, and foreign law.

Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners

When a U.S. citizen is arrested in Vietnam, they may be initially confused and disoriented. They may be in unfamiliar surroundings and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system.

 We Can:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English.
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen (with their written permission and in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974).
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate.
  • Ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care.
  • Upon request, ensure that prison officials permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of the detainee’s choice.
  • Establish an OCS Trust, if necessary, so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens.

We Cannot:

  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail.
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent.
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court.
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators.
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees.

The Privacy Act of 1974

The Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits a U.S. Consular Office from releasing any information about a U.S. citizen without their written consent except as set forth in the Act. A U.S. citizen can complete a Privacy Act written consent authorizing a Consular Officer to contact individuals on their behalf and disclose information. Please click here for additional information about the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Privacy Act written consent form.

Laws in Vietnam

While in Vietnam you are subject to Vietnamese laws. U.S. citizenship will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be arrested, expelled, or imprisoned.

Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Vietnam are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines, or even the death penalty. Police periodically raid nightlife establishments suspected of engaging in the drug trade and during these raids will subject all patrons present to drug testing at the police station. A positive result, regardless of whether drugs were consumed in Vietnam or before entry, may result in criminal charges.

In Vietnam, you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have proper ID, such as a passport or a copy of your visa. Driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in a fatal accident could lead to immediate imprisonment.

Gambling is highly regulated by the government and persons or businesses running games or gambling halls are required to be licensed. The Government of Vietnam pursues cases of running or playing in unlicensed games aggressively. There are currently U.S. citizens serving jail sentences of three to five years because of illegal gambling.

Although counterfeit and pirated goods are prevalent in many countries, they may still be illegal according to local laws. You may also pay fines or forfeit them upon return to the United States. See the U.S. Department of Justice website for more information.

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under the host country’s laws.

Arrests and Legal Processes

Arrest Notification in Vietnam:  If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General immediately. There are often delays in notification by the Vietnamese authorities to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General and officials have been known to delay consular access to prisoners for several weeks.

Vietnamese authorities routinely fail to provide timely notification of the arrest of a U.S. citizen to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General or approval for consular officials to visit U.S. citizens. While U.S. consular officials will make every effort to visit detained U.S. citizens, the delays for receiving access can take several weeks. Note that if you enter Vietnam with a non-U.S. passport, the Government of Vietnam has different notification and access responsibilities for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General.

Note that the Vietnamese legal system allows for lengthy criminal investigation periods that can lead to prolonged pre-trial detention; some investigations can last years without any explanation.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is accepted by the Vietnamese government in some, but not all, circumstances. However, dual nationals should be aware that Vietnam recognizes their Vietnamese citizenship as primary before others. In such cases, the U.S. Embassy and Consulate General may be limited in the consular services we are able to provide to detained U.S. citizens.  Dual national U.S. citizens who also hold Vietnamese citizenship may wish to contact local authorities and/or seek competent legal advice on how local laws may affect their status. For detailed information on Vietnamese nationality law and other legal issues visit the Embassy of Vietnam website

Resources for Detainees and Families

Emergency Contact Information

For emergency assistance involving a U.S. citizen, please call:

• the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi 24/7 at (024) 3850-5000 within Vietnam or (011) (84-24) 3850-5000 internationally.
• the U.S. Consulate General in HCMC 24/7 at (028) 3520-4200 within Vietnam, or (+84)(28)3520-4200 internationally.

For non-emergency issues, please contact us here .

Contact Us

Please note that we will not respond to inquiries sent by postal mail or fax.

Submit an inquiry: Inquiry Form

U.S. Embassy in Hanoi
Consular Section,
Rose Garden Building
Second Floor, 170 Ngoc Khanh Street
Hanoi, Vietnam
Mailing Address:
Consular Section
U.S. Embassy in Hanoi
7 Lang Ha Street, Hanoi, Vietnam

U.S. Consulate General in HCMC
American Citizen Services
4 Le Duan Blvd., Dist. 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam