Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Extradition

What is international extradition?

International extradition is a legal process by which one country (the requesting country) may seek from another country (the requested country) the surrender of a person who is wanted for prosecution, or to serve a sentence following conviction, for a criminal offense.  In the United States, international extradition is treaty based, meaning that the United States must have an extradition treaty with the requesting country in order to consider the request for extradition.

How does the extradition process work?

Extradition practice varies greatly, depending on the country involved. Typically, extradition is comprised of a judicial and an executive phase.  After a person has been located and arrested in the requested country, the case enters the judicial phase. During the judicial phase, a court will determine whether the extradition request meets the requirements of the applicable extradition treaty and the law of the requested country.  If so, the judicial authority will rule on whether the person may be extradited.  If the judicial authority rules that the person may be extradited, the case enters the executive phase, in which an executive authority of the government of the requested country, usually a Prime Minister, Minister of Justice or Minister of Foreign Affairs (for the United States, the appropriate executive authority is the Secretary of State), will determine whether the requested country will surrender the wanted person in extradition.  If so, the executive authority may issue a surrender order.  Depending on the country involved, both the judicial ruling and the executive decision to surrender the wanted person may be subject to multiple levels of appeal.  Once the requested country is ready to surrender the person, its authorities will coordinate with authorities in the requesting country to transfer the wanted person in custody.

The State Department describes the extradition process for persons wanted abroad and found in the United States, along with its treaty, statutory and regulatory bases here.

Who may request the extradition of a person from a foreign country?

International extradition requests are not initiated by private individuals.  Only prosecuting authorities may initiate an extradition request, usually, after charges are filed and a court has issued a warrant of arrest for the person.  When the person is wanted in the United States, the Office of International Affairs will work with the prosecutor to prepare a request for extradition to be submitted to a foreign country.  The State Department presents the request to the foreign country through diplomatic channels.

How long will it take to extradite the wanted person?

Extradition of persons located abroad can take many months or even years to complete.  The United States works with foreign authorities to locate wanted persons and then to request the extradition of the person.  However, the extradition case is handled by the foreign authorities in the foreign courts.  Once the extradition request is submitted to the foreign government, the United States does not control the pace of the proceedings.  Even if there are no immediate legal impediments to extradition, it may take many months or even many years for the extradition request to be heard by the courts and for the executive authority to make a surrender decision.

What if I have been the victim of a crime and would like the government to seek extradition?

Extraditions are not initiated by individuals.  If you are a victim of a crime committed overseas, contact the State Department for further assistance here.

If you are a victim of a crime in the United States, please contact the local offices of the appropriate state or federal law enforcement authorities or visit the Department of Justice site here for additional information.

Updated June 11, 2015

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