Legal Requirements Abroad
When you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.
- When you enter some countries and when you register at hotels, you may be asked to fill out a police information card listing your name, passport number, destination, local address and reason for traveling. In some countries, you may be asked to leave your passport at the hotel reception desk overnight so it can be checked by local police officials. These are normal procedures required by local law.
- Be aware that many countries have laws under which you can be held “guilty by association.” It is wise to avoid others who are in possession of illegal goods of any sort.
- Deal only with authorized outlets when you exchange money. Do not exchange money on the black market.
- Avoid areas of unrest and disturbance, such as protests or riots.
- Do not deliver packages for anyone unless you are certain they do not contain drugs or other prohibited items.
- Become familiar with local regulations before you sell personal items such as clothing, cameras and jewelry.
- Don’t assume that what is legal in your home country is also legal in other countries. Adhere to local laws strictly. The penalties you risk are severe.
- Some countries impose strict requirements about what may not be photographed (i.e., police stations and military posts). Taking a picture of a harbor or government office may seem harmless to you, but it might be construed as a threat to the country’s national security. Before you take out your camera, check for any signs prohibiting photographs or ask an official if it’s okay.
Drug laws vary by country and may be more severe abroad than in your home country. If you are caught with illicit soft or hard drugs, local laws apply. Often, the penalties in other countries for possession are the same as for trafficking. Below are some other factors to keep in mind:
- Some countries do not accept bail and may not provide a jury trial.
- Pretrial detention, often in solitary confinement, may last for months.
- Prison may lack even minimal comforts (i.e., bed, toilet, washbasin).
- Prison diets are often inadequate.
- If convicted, you could face a sentence of two to 10 years, or death in some countries.