Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Upon entering Ecuador all citizens are subject to Ecuadorian laws and regulations. If a U.S. citizen is arrested, you should request the authorities that have detained you to notify the nearest Embassy or Consulate, verbally and in writing.

Being a foreign citizen, you can request to speak with a Consular Officer at the Embassy or Consulate; if this is denied to you please remember as much information about the event as possible and inform the consular officer when you are visited, by doing this we will be able to make a corresponding complaint.

Upon being notified of an arrest, the staff in the American Citizens Services (ACS) Section will make every effort to visit the police station or prison within the next 48 hours.  Consular officers will provide information on the rights that a U.S. citizen has in accordance with local laws, a list of attorneys, and (at the request of U.S. citizen) can get in touch with friends or relatives to inform them about the current situation.

Consular officials make monthly visits while there is no sentence, and every six months once a sentence has been set.  The American Citizens Services Section will continue to monitor the case until you are released.

For more information on what the Department of State, Embassies and Consulates can do for you, please visit our website at

Important information about Ecuadorian laws

This section is for informational purposes only, you have to check the laws that apply in each case.

It is recommended to learn about local laws to avoid any inconvenience, as laws may be different from those of the United States.  We provide some information on our website and also you can access the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Religious Affairs website. Remember that lack of knowledge of the law does not exempt you from its compliance.

Drug trafficking

Each year, about 25 US citizens are arrested in Ecuador for drug trafficking.  In Ecuador penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of drugs are strict and offenders can face 1 to 13 years in prison, apart from the respective fines.

Entering the country with a passport validity of less than 6 months

Ecuadorian laws prohibit a foreigner entering the country if the passport validity is less than 6 months at the time of arrival.  The authorities at the airport can deport you at entry and you would be returned to the port of embarkation at your cost.

For foreign citizens who have dual citizenship with Ecuador, they could use their Ecuadorian passport if your U.S. passport does not have the time required to enter.  However, this is a decision made by Immigration Officials at the port of entry.

Unfortunately, if you encounter this problem at an Ecuadorian airport, we regret to inform you that neither the Embassy nor the Consulate may solve this problem for you.

Ecuadorian law states that you will be entitled to a public defender if you do not have an attorney.  Proceedings will be held in Spanish, although an interpreter might be available. If you wish to retain a private attorney, you can do so. The U.S. Mission in Ecuador dos have a list of attorneys for the consular districts of Quito and Guayaquil. These can be found on our legal assistance page.



U.S. Consular Sections around the world cannot give legal advice or pay legal expenses, however, the consular staff will do their utmost to protect legitimate interests and ensure that no one is discriminated against in the local legal system.