So, Should US Ex-Pats Register with the US Embassy?

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At a recent dinner in Mexico City, some ex-pats living in La Paz met Sara Craig, Director of Citizens Services at the US Embassy. Her response to the headline question is, “Yes. Every citizen should register.” The first question asked of Ms. Craig was, “What about the IRS using that information to harass us?” She chuckled a moment, and then said that the IRS has tried mightily to pierce the right to privacy that every US citizen has. The various embassies have won the fight every time the IRS tried to access information from them.

Of course, most US expats pay their taxes and have no fear of the IRS. But it is always the most frequently asked question: Exactly what happens to our privacy if we register with the embassy? She assured us many times that our privacy is protected. Well, it is protected unless you are a wanted felon; then she is obligated to turn you in. But a wanted felon would most likely NOT register with anyone.

Why would you register with the embassy? Here are some reasons:

  1. To register a birth, death, or marriage.
  2. In case there is an emergency back in the US and family members need to find you.
  3. In case you are hurt, sick, or dead, the embassy knows who to contact to help you or to transport your remains home.
  4. So that you can receive email updates from the Department of State and the embassy regarding their actions, and other information that may be important.
  5. In case of a weather or political emergency, to offer evacuation services. Not so likely in La Paz, but other places in Mexico have natural disasters.

Ms. Craig mentioned more than once that if someone turned up dead or hurt and unable to communicate, the Embassy would have no way to find a family member, unless they were registered. Even if you are traveling in Mexico and something happens, if your information is on file, your friends or family in the old country can be contacted.

You can register on the US Embassy website:

Here is a quote from its webpage: “You can’t predict when an emergency will arise, but you can plan and prepare for one before it happens! We encourage all U.S. citizens who are traveling or living abroad to enroll with the U.S. State Department through its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It is a fast and free world-wide service to record information about your upcoming trip or current residence abroad and provide useful contact information that can be used by the nearest Embassy or Consulate in a emergency or disaster.”

You can enroll online at: Enter your relevant contact information and the time you will be staying in Mexico (for long-term residents, enter 5 years). If you want to receive up-to-date safety and security information, please be sure to provide an email address.

Susan Fogel is the broker/owner of and the Secretary of AMPI. You can reach her at Follow her Blog She is also the author of Margarita Mind: How to Avoid It; A Guide to Buying Mexico Real Estate Safely & Sanely.

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