Traveling comes with its own set of risks, and unfortunately, things can go from bad to worse pretty quickly. If you’re in the middle of a national crisis overseas, that can be stressful enough, but imagine going through it after you’ve been robbed.

Navigating another country is difficult with money and almost impossible without it.  Getting home safely without financial resources an impossibility. Fortunately, the United States government can help when you’re far from home and you’ve lost everything. Your consulate can spot you some money for a ride home. These are called Emergency Repatriation Loans, or ERLs.

Before tapping the United States Department of State for a loan, there are at least two more options you may want to pursue.

For one, your family or friends can send emergency funds to you a variety of ways. The local United States Embassy or a commercial money transfer service like Western Union can assist in wiring funds. They can also deposit more money in your bank account from home, or through the United States Department of State for a $30 fee.

For another, your credit card company may be able to temporarily raise your credit limit or send a new card using an express delivery service. Make sure to learn your company’s policies before you leave the USA.

If you have no financial resources back home – no friends, family or credit – the United States Department of State can give you an ERL. In these specific circumstances, the local United States Embassy or Consulate will purchase transportation, food and/or lodging for your direct return to the United States.

There are, of course, some caveats to this.

First things first, you’d need to fill out an application and be approved. The process takes a few days, according to the United States Department of State. It will only be initiated if you are a United States Citizen, destitute, utterly without resources and experiencing hardship due to not being in the United States at the moment. It should be noted, they will check to see if you are actually “destitute” by their definitions  – including potential money sources that couldn’t or wouldn’t help you out, and the events that led you to be in this situation.

Furthermore, as the recipient of this loan, you’d be required to sign a promissory note for the full amount. You should fully expect to repay this money to the government. In fact, until you do, they’ll restrict your passport and will actively pursue repayment. That’s why these loans should only be sought if there’s no other option.
The United States Department of State doesn’t necessarily advertise their ERLs, mostly because they’re strictly to be used in emergencies, but students going abroad should know about the resources available to them. Explore the various tools students can use to study up and depart smart.