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.

List of Attorneys

If you are involved in a situation that could lead to a criminal charge or to a legal dispute, the Consular Section can provide a list of local attorneys.  This list of attorneys is done at their request, not based on the recommendation of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and we suggest you do your own research before hiring the services of any of the lawyers on the list.

List of Attorneys in the Consular District of Quito (PDF 544 kb)

List of Attorneys in the Consular District of Guayaquil (PDF 120 kb)

Please note: The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on the following lists. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government.  The order in which they appear has no significance.  The information on the list is provided directly by the local service providers; the Department is not in a position to vouch for such information.

The U.S. Embassy or Consulate assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or reputation of the persons whose names appear on the list.  If you have a complaint against any of the lawyers on our list, we ask that you please let us know as soon as possible via email. Please visit the Contact Information section for details.


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.