@StateDept Issues Travel Advisory Following Massive #LebanonProtests

 

 

On October 21, the State Department issued a  Travel Advisory for Lebanon. The advisory is a Level 3 Reconsider Travel due to to crime, terrorism, armed conflict and civil unrest. Excerpt:

U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Lebanon should be aware that consular officers from the U.S. Embassy are not always able to travel to assist them. The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions. The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice.
[…]
The Lebanese government cannot guarantee the protection of U.S. citizens against sudden outbreaks of violence. Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes can escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning. Armed clashes have occurred along the Lebanese borders, in Beirut, and in refugee settlements. The Lebanese Armed Forces have been brought in to quell the violence in these situations.

 

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Foggy Bottom’s Top ‘Champion of Diplomacy’ to Step Up, or Maybe Not

 

On Wednesday, the WH released the transcript (PDF) of President Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Just Security has a helpful timeline here for those not caught up with the matter yet.
Foggy Bottom watchers were immediately drawn to the two presidents’ exchange referencing the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Louise Yovanovitch who served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv from August 18, 2016 – May 20, 2019.  (see @StateDept Recalls Amb. Marie Yovanovitch From Ukraine After Persistent Campaign For Removal).
We have seen folks calling publicly for Secretary Pompeo to stand up for one of his top career diplomats. Maybe he’ll surprise us but those waiting will probably be in for a disappointment.
The Trump-Zelensky call occurred in July 25, 2019 (although there apparently was an April 2019 call, too), about two months after Ambassador Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine.  The released July 25 transcript does not indicate the individuals in on the call, but the declassified whistleblower complaint identified at least one participant from the State Department, Secretary Pompeo’s Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl (see Pompeo Appoints West Point Pal, Ulrich Brechbuhl as @StateDept Counselor).  Somebody pointed out to us that the “counselor” title often causes outsiders to believe that this position handles legal matters. It does not. With few exceptions, most recently, Tom Shannon Jr. (2013–2016) and Kristie Ann Kenney (2016–2017), the “C” position is typically held by a political appointee who performs tasks assigned by the Secretary of State (i.e., a senior official without portfolio).

“Counselor of the Department, T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, is an Under Secretary-level principal officer who serves the Secretary as a special advisor and consultant on major problems of foreign policy and who provides guidance to the appropriate bureaus with respect to such matters. The Counselor conducts special international negotiations and consultations, and also undertakes special assignments from time to time, as directed by the Secretary.

The day after the phone call, July 26, Secretary Pompeo also met with the president at the White House.  The notion that the targeting of a veteran public servant by this president, his personal lawyer, and others is a surprise to the secretary of state, begs for some creative imagination. He had a chance to stand up for her before she was recalled, did he do that? The idea that he must have done so or she would have been fired doesn’t make sense. She is a career FSO with workplace protections. They could not just fire her on a whim. But what could a recalled career diplomat do with no onward assignment? The State Department could send her to a university, right?
Ambassador Yovanovitch is currently a Senior State Department Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD), in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown. She is a Career Minister (FE-CM) of the U.S. Foreign Service; that’s equivalent in rank to a Lieutenant General in the U.S. military.  She had three previous ambassadorial appointments: Ukraine (2016-2019) and Armenia (2008-2011) under the Obama Administration, and the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under the G. W. Bush Administration. She also previously worked as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, the #2 senior ranking official at the EUR bureau. Which is to say that she has extensive diplomatic experience overseas and in Foggy Bottom. And yet, for some reason, Secretary Pompeo, who talks way too much about swagger and professional ethos could not find a spot for Ambassador Yovanovitch in his org chart.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, we ‘d like to note once more that ambassadors like Ambassador Yovanovich, a career diplomat, do not go freelancing nor do they go rogue; they do not make their own policy concerning their host countries.  They typically get their marching orders from their home bureau, in this case, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) at the State Department, under the oversight of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, who reports to the Secretary of State.  And they follow those orders.  Even on instances when they personally disagree with those orders or the administration’s policies, they follow orders. Career diplomats who do not follow their instructions do not have lengthy careers in the U.S. diplomatic service.
We, of course, have to acknowledged the presidential prerogative on the appointments of ambassadors. But. If her recall had really nothing to do with politics, if as the State Department puts it, the departure was “as planned” how come Foggy Bottom has not put her extensive experience and training to appropriate use?  How come she’s not in Foggy Bottom?  How come she had no senate-confirmed successor at the US Embassy in Kyiv, if this was “as planned”? There are a few officials at State who would know the whys and hows of her treatment based on their responsibilities in the bureaucracy.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Secretary Pompeo’s second bestie in Foggy Bottom in May 2019 (see Senate Confirms Brian Bulatao as Under Secretary of State For Management). Prior to Bulatao’s confirmation,  the Deputy Under Secretary for Management William Todd was running the bureau with oversight on personnel and assignments.
The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources Carol Perez assumed her post as DGHR  on January 30, 2019. She directs the recruitment, assignments and professional development of State Department and Foreign Service personnel. Prior to her assumption of office, William Todd was also Acting DGHR.
At the geographic bureau, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is under the umbrella of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) . The most recent Senate-confirmed assistant secretary Wess Mitchell took office in October 2017 and left post on February 15, 2019 (see EUR’s Wess Mitchell Quits, New Acting EUR A/S Millard Reportedly to Retire 2/22).  Since March 18, 2019, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, a career diplomat has been the Acting Assistant Secretary for the bureau.
Given what we know now, what happened at the IO bureau was not a glitch but a marker to alert us of a dreadful trend (IO case involved the departures of 50 of 300 domestic IO employees). There are now two very public instances where Secretary Pompeo appeared unable to protect his people from political retaliation. How good a “champion of diplomacy” are you if your umbrella can only keep the shit off your head but not your people? This is a necessary question to ask as we enter a most difficult period in our national life.

Via Politico:

While it’s still not clear what Pompeo did or did not do, the still-unfolding Ukraine scandal could dramatically affect his standing at Foggy Bottom and on Capitol Hill, not to mention his well-known political future political ambitions.
[…]
State Department staffers, meanwhile, are questioning how the secretary could have allowed the Ukraine-related dealings to go on under his nose, and whether he was complicit in derailing the career of a respected ambassador along the way.

“It’s impossible to believe that the secretary wasn’t aware of what was happening,” said one State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If he was kept in the dark, that’s even more troubling.”
[…]
Aside from Pompeo, lawmakers and their aides are trying to establish what role certain U.S. envoys played in connecting Giuliani with Ukrainian officials, and whether Pompeo signed off.

Those diplomats include the special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. There also are questions about the actions of U.S. ambassadors in other European countries where Giuliani may have met with Ukrainian officials.
[…]
Of special interest: the role Pompeo and his aides played in recalling Marie Yovanovitch, the career diplomat who was serving as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Related posts:

Amb. Marie L. Yovanovitch

US Embassy Cairo and NYT Reporters Declan Walsh and David Kirkpatrick

 

 

#

US Embassy Nassau: #HurricaneDorian 🌀 Aftermath, @USAID/OFDA, @USCGSoutheast

 

This is a follow-up to our post on August 31, US Embassy Bahamas on ‘Ordered Departure’ For Non-Emergency Staff/Family Members #HurricaneDorian.  The NOAA Hurricane Update of 1100 PM EDT Mon Sep 02 2019 notes that devastating hurricane conditions continue on Grand Bahama Island and that a life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 12 to 18 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds on Grand Bahama Island.

USAID/OFDA announced on Twitter that a team of Caribbean-based disaster experts is in the Bahamas to work w/ national authorities & humanitarian partners to help assess impacts & humanitarian needs.

The US Coast Guard Southeast said that its Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews, forward deployed to Andros Island, medevaced 19 people from the Marsh Harbour Clinic to Nassau International Airport on Monday, September 2. 

US Embassy Bahamas on ‘Ordered Departure’ For Non-Emergency Staff/Family Members #HurricaneDorian

 

On August 30, 2019, the State Department issued a Travel Advisory for The Bahamas urging caution due to Hurricane Dorian. It also announced the “ordered departure” of non-emergency personnel and family members from the island on August 29. Embassy Nassau announced on Twitter that the mandatory departure of affected personnel and family members are done via commercial flights and ferries.

Freeport, Grand Bahama – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Exercise increased caution in Freeport, Grand Bahama due to Hurricane Dorian.

On August 29, The Department of State ordered non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees to depart Freeport, Grand Bahama in The Bahamas in advance of Hurricane Dorian.

If you decide to travel to The Bahamas:

      • Exercise caution in the area known as “Over the Hill” (south of Shirley Street) and the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay in Nassau, especially at night.
      • Do not answer your door at your hotel/residence unless you know who it is.
      • Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
      • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
      • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
      • Review the Crime and Safety Report for The Bahamas.
      • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency and medical situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

The Bahamas – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution in the Bahamas due to crime. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault, occurs even during the day and in tourist areas. Although the family islands are not crime-free, the vast majority of crime occurs on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the area known by many visitors as the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Activities involving commercial recreational watercraft, including water tours, are not consistently regulated. Watercrafts are often not maintained, and many companies do not have safety certifications to operate in The Bahamas. Jet-ski operators have been known to commit sexual assaults against tourists. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

NOAA’s Public Advisory issued at 5PM EDT Sat Aug 31 2019 notes that hurricane conditions are expected in the hurricane warning area across the northwestern Bahamas by Sunday, with tropical storm winds beginning tonight. It also warns of life-threatening storm surge that will raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves. Further, rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods.

 

 

#USCIS Badly Written ‘Policy Alert’ on Citizenship Blows Up, Causes Wildfire

 

 

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published a Policy Alert on August 28, 2019 on “Defining Residence in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship.”  The same day, the agency had to issue a USCIS Policy Manual Update and the Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli subsequently had to issue a statement clarifying the policy update, “This policy update does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period.  This only affects children who were born outside the United States and were not U.S. citizens.  This does NOT impact birthright citizenship.  This policy update does not deny citizenship to the children of US government employees or members of the military born abroad.  This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedure, that’s it.”
That’s it! The end. But that doesn’t make it so. There was a hashtag trending already.
So, first, we need to point out that the Foreign Affairs Manual (see 8 FAM 301.1) already dispels the myth that birth on a U.S. military base outside of the United States or birth on U.S. embassy or consulate premises abroad constitutes as “birth in the United States:”

(1) Despite widespread popular belief, U.S. military installations abroad and U.S. diplomatic or consular facilities abroad are not part of the United States within the meaning of the 14th Amendment.  A child born on the premises of such a facility is not born in the United States and does not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth;

(2)  The status of diplomatic and consular premises arises from the rules of law relating to immunity from the prescriptive and enforcement jurisdiction of the receiving State; the premises are not part of the territory of the United States of America.

Children born at U.S. military installations overseas or at U.S. diplomatic and consular premises are not born in the United States and do not/do not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth in the United States or outlying possessions; they could acquire citizenship through one or both their U.S. citizen parents.  We’re throwing this out there because various reporting appears to perpetuate the misconception that birth in these premises accord children their U.S. citizenship; it doesn’t.
Now, we’ve read USCIS’s multiple justifications for this update (pages 9-10), and we still don’t understand the reasoning for rescinding the previous interpretation. What precipitated this update? If true that this affects only approximately a hundred annually, why is this update even necessary?  Supposedly, the original  policy determination was made in 2004, and there were changes in 2008, but the previous Administration did not clean it up or reconcile the conflicts in the various  parts of the Immigration Act so the current Administration is now updating the policy? That’s basically what USCIS is saying on the Alert.
Also, the previous policy apparently “produced confusion” which obviously, this policy update does not.
One blog pal who did consular work called it “messy and contradictory prior guidance.” But we think part of the problem is that this Administration has such a poor record on immigration that it even when it is providing a policy guidance to clean up or sort out the conflicts in the law, it causes a wildfire in our heads.
We have some thoughts about this updated USCIS policy; just that  – some thoughts based on the published regs because we’re nerdy that way and the wildfire caused by this interests us. That USCIS Policy Alert is frankly, a convoluted piece of work but it makes two points:  one, it makes a distinction between a “residence” and “physical presence” in the United States, and two, it talks about change specific to INA 320.

Residence vs. Physical Presence

The USCIS Policy Alert basically says that an individual may be physically present in the United States for summer camps or while visiting relatives for weeks or even months but those would not constitute a residence  for the purposes of transmission of citizenship. Page 4 of the Alert notes:

Residence is more than a temporary presence or a visit to the United States. Therefore, temporary presences and visits are insufficient to establish residence for the purposes of transmitting citizenship. For example, someone who resides along the border in Mexico or Canada, but works each day in the United States, cannot use his or her workplace to establish a residence.”

We found a similar language in the State Department’s 8 FAM 301.7-4(B)  Birth in Wedlock or of Wedlock to Two U.S. Citizen Parents, updated in June 2018, which notes the following:

Residence is not determined solely by the length of time one spends in a place, but also takes into account the nature and quality of the person’s connection to the place.  This is a very fact-specific test.  However, at all times and in all cases, residence involves the connection to a specific physical place.  Residence is not a state of mind that travels with a person.  Department guidance clearly states that residence is more than a temporary presence and that visits to the United States are insufficient to establish residency for the purposes of citizenship transmission under INA 301(c).

8 FAM 301.7-4(B) also notes that “a child born abroad to two U.S. citizens acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if, before the child’s birth, one of the parents had a residence in the United States or its outlying possessions.  No specific period of residence is required.”
Is that why USCIS want to clarify this? The USCIS Policy Alert description of documents required to demonstrate residence is almost identical to the State Department’s list enumerated in the 8 FAM 301.7-4(B) section, by the way.
This FAM citation also helpfully points out:

The concept of “residence” should not be confused with the term “physical presence” which is used elsewhere in the INA as the test for transmitting citizenship, and which is a more literal concept that may be easier to apply.  INA 301(g), for example, requires that when only one parent is a U.S. citizen, that citizen parent must have a specific duration of physical presence — not residence–in the United States prior to the birth of the child in order to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.  Unlike in INA 301(g), in INA 301(c), Congress chose to use the term “residence,” and not set a time requirement.  The rationale being that the nature of a residence presupposes the sort of relationship to a place that mere physical presence does not.

INA 320/INA 322

The USCIS Policy Manual Update explains the Policy Alert better:
      • Clarify that temporary visits to the U.S. do not establish U.S. residence;
      • Explain the distinction between residence and physical presence in the United States; and
      • Explain that USCIS no longer considers children who are living abroad with a parent who is a U.S. government employee or U.S. service member as “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquiring citizenship under INA 320.
That’s simple enough when put that way. It also links to Automatic Acquisition of Citizenship after Birth (INA 320) and the  General Requirements for  Genetic, Legitimated, or Adopted Child Automatically Acquiring Citizenship after Birth.
So we looked up INA 320 in the FAM. Per 8 FAM 301.10-1(A), the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), Public Law 106-395, which took effect February 27, 2001, amended INA 320 to extend U.S. citizenship automatically to certain foreign-born children of U.S. citizens.  It extended citizenship to three categories of children:

(a)  Children of naturalized citizens;
(b)  Children adopted abroad by U.S. citizens; and
(c)  Children born abroad to a U.S. citizen and who do not otherwise acquire U.S. citizenship at birth under INA 301 as made applicable by INA 309.

The law also amended INA 322 to apply only to children who reside outside the United States and who do not have Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status; amended INA 322 to provide for expeditious naturalization to children born outside the United States and who do not have LPR status.;  and stepchildren cannot avail themselves of the CCA unless they have been adopted by the U.S. citizen step parent.
The FAM notes that children acquiring U.S. citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act are not eligible for form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad of Citizen of the United States of America or form DS-1350, Certification of Birth, which are processed by consular sections at US embassies and consular posts overseas.
The acquisition of U.S. citizenship under the revised INA 320 or revised INA 322 is a form of expedited administrative naturalization.  The FAM cite further notes that Section 322 INA is administered exclusively by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
So it looks like what this policy update does in attempt to clarify what “residence” means, and it removes the exception  under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) for children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members residing outside the United States. One of the requirements under INA 320 is that “The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent. [5]  
One source who did consular work told us that it may be that U.S. military serving overseas are considered resident on, for instance, a U.S. base in Germany. Well, in fact, the USCIS still has this in their footnotes as of this writing: 

“5. [^] See INA 320. See 8 CFR 320.2. Children of U.S. government employees temporarily stationed abroad are considered to be “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquisition of citizenship under INA 320. 

We borrowed another head which happens to be a consular one, and he/she thought that with this policy change of what is a “residence,” U.S. citizens could not just be on TDY to the United States or on a visit to obtain citizenship for their children, they have to be residing in the United States. Whereas in the past, military members or FS members may be able to arrive in the US. and get naturalization for their children then return overseas to continue their assignment, it appears that this new update would make it so that U.S. citizen parents have to do the naturalization on behalf of their minor children at the end of their overseas tours and when they are permanently relocating to the United States. At least, that’s how we’re reading this policy update at this time. We’re happy to entertain other interpretations.
We’ve checked the USCIS website to see what this means in terms of processing fees and time.  The USCIS website which has not been updated yet as of last night notes that per INA 320, the child must be under 18 years of age and must be a legal permanent resident in order to qualify. In order to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, a child who has automatically acquired citizenship must follow the instructions on the Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600). This cost $1,170 and the fee applies even if the applicant is filing as an adopted child or as a child of a veteran or member of the U.S. armed forces. Processing time for an N-600 case according to USCIS is between 5 Months to 24.5 Months (same for Newark, NJ, and WashDC but may vary for other areas).
Effective October 29, 2019, USCIS no longer considers children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members residing outside the United States as “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquiring citizenship under INA 320, but they may still apply under INA 322.

In general, INA 322 provides that a parent who is a U.S. citizen (or, if the citizen parent has died during the preceding five years, a citizen grandparent or citizen legal guardian) may apply for naturalization on behalf of a child born and residing outside of the United States who has not acquired citizenship automatically under INA 320. The child must naturalize before he or she reaches 18 years of age.

See Children of Service Members Residing Abroad (INA 322). (Form N-600K) This also cost $1,170. Processing time for an N-600K case in El Paso, TX is between 6.5 Months to 28.5; same processing time for Los Angeles, CA, although the time may vary in other locations; we haven;’t checked all the locations).
Based on USCIS info, the processing fees are the same either way, but applications under INA 322 may take slightly longer than applications INA 320.  Are there any other ways where the INA 322 process is different or more challenging to applicants? We’ll update this post if we learn anything more.

 

Related items:

301.7 IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT OF 1952

301.1 (U) ACQUISITION BY BIRTH IN THE UNITED STATES

8 FAM 301.10 ACQUISITION OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP BY THE CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT

 

IRS to Individuals With Significant Tax Debts: Act Now to Avoid Passport Revocations

 

We’ve blogged previously about the potential revocation of passports for those with substantial tax debts to the Internal Revenue Service (see Officially On: Revocation/Denial of Passport For Americans With Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt;   IRS to Start Certifying Unpaid Taxes of $50K+ in Early 2017 For Revocation/Denial of US PassportsNew Law Authorizes Revocation or Denial of U.S. Passports to Certain Tax Delinquents).
Recently, the IRS again reminded individuals with significant tax debts to act promptly to avoid the revocation of their passports. See the sample IRS notice below or click this PDF file. Click here for a guide in understanding the IRS notice.

Click on image to see the “seriously delinquent” IRS notice

Via IRS:

Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the IRS notifies the State Department (State) of taxpayers certified as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt, which is currently $52,000 or more. The law then requires State to deny their passport application or renewal. If a taxpayer currently has a valid passport, State may revoke the passport or limit a taxpayer’s ability to travel outside the United States.

When the IRS certifies a taxpayer to State as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt, the taxpayer receives a Notice CP508C from the IRS. The notice explains what steps the taxpayer needs to take to resolve the debt. IRS telephone assistors can help taxpayers resolve the debt. For example, they can help taxpayers set up a payment plan or make them aware of other payment options. Taxpayers should not delay because some resolutions take longer than others.

Don’t Delay!

It’s especially important for taxpayers with imminent travel plans who have had their passport applications denied by State to call the IRS promptly. The IRS can help taxpayers resolve their tax issues and expedite reversal of their certification to State. When expedited, the IRS can generally shorten the 30 days processing time by 14 to 21 days. For expedited reversal of their certification, taxpayers will need to inform the IRS that they have travel scheduled within 45 days or that they live abroad.

For expedited treatment, taxpayers must provide the following documents to the IRS:

      • Proof of travel. This can be a flight itinerary, hotel reservation, cruise ticket, international car insurance or other document showing location and approximate date of travel or time-sensitive need for a passport.
      • Copy of letter from State denying their passport application or revoking their passport. State has sole authority to issue, limit, deny or revoke a passport.

The IRS may ask State to exercise its authority to revoke a taxpayer’s passport. For example, the IRS may recommend revocation if the IRS had reversed a taxpayer’s certification because of their promise to pay, and they failed to pay. The IRS may also ask State to revoke a passport if the taxpayer could use offshore activities or interests to resolve their debt but chooses not to.

Before contacting State about revoking a taxpayer’s passport, the IRS will send Letter 6152, Notice of Intent to Request U.S. Department of State Revoke Your Passport, to the taxpayer to let them know  what the IRS intends to do and give them another opportunity to resolve their debts . Taxpayers must call the IRS within 30 days from the date of the letter. Generally, the IRS will not recommend revoking a taxpayer’s passport if the taxpayer is making a good-faith attempt to resolve their tax debts.

Ways to Resolve Tax Issues

There are several ways taxpayers can avoid having the IRS notify State of their seriously delinquent tax debt. They include the following:

      • Paying the tax debt in full,
      • Paying the tax debt timely under an approved installment agreement,
      • Paying the tax debt timely under an accepted offer in compromise,
      • Paying the tax debt timely under the terms of a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice,
      • Having a pending collection due process appeal with a levy, or
      • Having collection suspended because a taxpayer has made an innocent spouse election or requested innocent spouse relief.
The IRS says that taxpayers may ask for a payment plan with the IRS by filing Form 9465. Some taxpayers may also qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the tax liability for less than the full amount owed.  The IRS notes that it will not certify a taxpayer as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt or will reverse the certification for a taxpayer under certain circumstances. For instance, taxpayers who are in bankruptcy, those who have been identified by the IRS as a victim of tax-related identity theft, or those who are located within a federally declared disaster area will not be certified for purposes of passport revocation.
There is also an exception for those serving in combat zones: “taxpayers serving in a combat zone who owe a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS postpones notifying the State Department of the delinquency and the taxpayer’s passport is not subject to denial during the time of service in a combat zone. Read in full here.

#

After Leaked Diplomatic Letters Over A$AP Rocky’s Detention in Sweden, Where Should @StateSPEHA Go Next?

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Trump’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien who was in Sweden for A$AP Rocky’s assault trial apparently told USAToday reporter Kim Hjelmgaard that it is “entirely appropriate” for him to be in Sweden even though this was a criminal case. “When foreign govts. hold American citizens it’s always appropriate”.
The things we learn these days!
As of December 2018, the Bureau of Consular Affairs has conducted 10,399 visits to U.S. citizens in prison overseas. Note – prison visits not hostage visits. Only a few of those U.S. citizens make the news (see CA Fact Sheet).
The Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs also said publicly, while tagging his ultimate boss on Twitter, that the president “has made bringing our fellow citizens home a center piece of his foreign policy”.
Consular work just got so utterly fascinating. Now, which ones of the over 10,000 prison visits by consular officers to U.S. citizens incarcerated overseas will now be done by the special envoy? Which fellow citizens jailed overseas will be brought home next?

#

U.S. Sends Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to A$AP Rocky’s Assault Trial in Sweden

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According to the State Department, when an American is arrested or detained abroad, the State Department—through its Embassies and Consulates—ensures that U.S. consular officers are there to assist. They help see that Americans are treated humanely and in accordance with local law, are given the opportunity for a lawyer, and can correspond with family back home.
Per its Foreign Affairs Manual, the Department expects consular officers to be “particularly active in, and to fully engage in” the protection of the welfare of the arrestee; ensure that the arrestee is being treated fairly and is afforded all due process under local law, provide needed consular services such as EMDA or administer a trust fund in a timely and efficient manner; track the process of the case through the host country’s legal system; and to keep the Department, family members, congressional representatives and others full informed on all aspects of the case, consistent with Privacy Act.

 

Consular assistance to Americans arrested or detained overseas includes the following:
State Department/U.S. Embassies Can:
  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen (with their written permission)
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Upon request, ensure that prison officials permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of the detainee’s choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust, if necessary, so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens
State Department, U.S. Embassies Cannot:
  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees
Reports note that POTUS sent the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to Sweden for the A$AP Rocky trial.  “The president asked me to come here and support these American citizens,” O’Brien told the New York Times. “I’ll be here until they come home.” (via). How often is he going to do this for other American citizens?
Nowhere in the Foreign Affairs Manual is there any mention of the role the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs play in cases of U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad or while they are on trial. In most of the normal world, it is understood that American citizens are subject to the local laws and regulations while visiting or living in the particular countries they are in. In this particular case, Time says that “Sweden does not have a bail system, which is why the rapper was detained with no way to get out even before he was formally charged.” Also see our old post below about the non-portability of American rights.

Non-Portability of American Rights

In any case, we don’t understand why the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs is involved with this case.  Does the U.S. Government considers A$AP Rocky on trial for assault in Sweden, a hostage? Are we to understand that Americans incarcerated and detained overseas are now considered hostages to bring back as soon as possible? And if that’s not the case, and if this is an exception, what are the grounds for the Trump Administration to make this type of exception?
Is the Special Envoy’s role now includes affecting the release of all American citizens from foreign incarceration/detention?
How does a regular American citizen’s family petition for the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs to be involved in their cases overseas?
Any guidance sent to consular officers doing ACS work? When is the State Department updating the Foreign Affairs Manual?
Also the next time U.S. diplomats overseas talk to their local counterparts about judicial independence and the rule of law, should they expect a push back with this case as Exhibit A?

 

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New Report: Scans Show Changes to Brains of U.S. Embassy Havana Staffers

 

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