Officially On: Revocation/Denial of Passport For Americans With Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt

 

The IRS has now posted a notice on its website indicating that it has began sending certifications of unpaid tax debt to the State Department in February 2018. Americans with seriously delinquent tax debt (totaling more than $51,000 (including interest and penalties) , per IRC § 7345 will be certified as such  to the State Department for action. The State Department reportedly will not issue passports to to individuals after receipt of certification from the IRS.

Back in December 2015, we first reported in this blog  about the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” or “FAST Act” which includes Section 7345 that provides for the revocation or denial of U.S. passports to applicants with certain tax delinquencies considered ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ –that is, a tax liability that has been assessed, which is greater than $50,000 and a notice of lien has been filed. That law was passed and the IRS was supposed to start certifying in early 2017 but that did not happen.

According to the recent IRS notice, upon receiving certification, the State Department shall deny the tax delinquent individual’s  passport application and/or may revoke his/her current passport. If the passport application is denied or the passport is revoked while said individual is overseas, the State Department may issue a limited validity passport but only for direct return to the United States. Read more here via IRS.gov

Note that the guidance also says that the State Department is held harmless in these matters and cannot be sued for any erroneous notification or failed decertification under IRC § 7345.  Affected individuals can file suit in the U.S. Tax Court or a U.S. District Court to have the court determine whether the certification is erroneous or the IRS failed to reverse the certification when it was required to do so. “If the court determines the certification is erroneous or should be reversed, it can order the IRS to notify the State Department that the certification was in error.”

The State Department’s statement on this issue is available here with IRS contact details.

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Security Threat Prompts U.S. Embassy Turkey ‘s March 5 Closure to the Public

Posted: 2:08 pm PT
Updated: March 6, 12:28 am PT
 

 

The US Embassy Ankara announced a second day closure for Tuesday, March 6, 2017. No reopening date has been announced as of this update.

On Sunday, March 4, 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced that it will be closed to the public tomorrow, Monday, March 5, due to a security threat. Embassy Ankara informs U.S. citizens that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara will be closed to the public on March 5, 2018, due to a security threat.  The Embassy will announce its reopening, once it resumes services. During this period, only emergency services will be provided.  Routine services, such as passport renewals including lost or stolen passports, reports of birth abroad, and notarial services, are not considered emergencies.  Requests for these services will be processed through our online appointment system once the Embassy reopens.  Visa interviews and other routine services are cancelled; applicants will be informed directly of steps to take. Actions to take:

  • Avoid large crowds.
  • Avoid the Embassy.
  • Heighten your personal security posture and awareness if you choose to visit popular tourist sites, shopping malls, shopping districts, and sports and entertainment venues.
  • Notify family and friends of your safety.
  • Monitor local media for updates.
  • Keep a low profile.

 The U.S. Mission in Turkey which includes the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the constituent posts in Istanbul and Adana is currently headed by career diplomat Philip Kosnett who assumed the duties of Chargé d’Affaires in October 2017 upon the conclusion of Ambassador John Bass’ assignment in Turkey.   Prior to becoming CDA, he was appointed  Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey in July 2016.

Turkish media reported previously that INR’s Daniel B. Smith will be appointed as the next U.S. envoy to Ankara following Ambassador Bass’ appointment to Kabul. To-date, the Trump Administration has not publicly announced a nominee for the post in Ankara. Ambassador Smith who still heads INR has now been tapped to lead the current phase of Tillerson’s Redesign (see 2017 Redesign Ends With a Whimper as Tillerson Announces Start of “The Impact Initiative”).

Also note that the State Department has previously urged Americans to reconsider travel to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory. Read More.

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Consular and Border Security Programs: Increases/Decreases in FY2019

Posted: 3:54 am ET

 

This is a follow-up post on the item we did on consular revenue forecasts last week (see@StateDept Revises Downward Its Consular Revenue Forecasts). The following summarizes projected obligations for Consular and Border Security Programs in FY2019, including increases/decreases from the FY 2018 Request.  These are the areas that get spending allocations from consular revenue generated by Consular Affairs. If the consular revenue continues to shrink, we think that the programs and offices below will see the impact with the decreased funds — from salaries to OBO and MED; and it won’t stop there.

via reactiongifs.com

Domestic Executive Support: $35,430,000

Domestic Executive Support includes $35.4 million in CA leadership and support operations. This amount will maintain core activities and programs, as well as new initiatives to increase operational efficiency, provide necessary staffing, improve customer service, and promote management best practices. The decrease of -$6.8 million from the FY 2018 Request is largely due to a reduction in contract service costs and a decrease in support costs related to the CA Domestic Facilities Planning Board.

Fraud Prevention Programs: $5,768,000

The Office of Fraud Prevention Programs (CA/FPP) strengthens the integrity of the consular process by building skills, developing techniques, and increasing data-sharing to enable consular personnel to detect fraud domestically and overseas. The FY 2019 Request of $5.8 million funds the overall operations required for CA to enhance U.S. border protection and security through fraud prevention work. The decrease of -$0.5 million from the FY 2018 Request is due to reductions in travel, fraud prevention workshops and purchases of equipment for the Counterfeit Deterrence Laboratory.

Visa Processing: $248,397,000

The Visa Services Directorate (VO) administers the visa portion of the U.S. immigration system, supporting overseas posts in visa adjudication. VO considers visa adjudications to be national security decisions and works with other agencies to screen all applicants efficiently and accurately for security threats and other potential ineligibilities. The FY 2019 Request of $248.4 million supports the reduced costs of adjudication for immigrant visas (IVs) and non-immigrant visas (NIVs), FBI fingerprint checks, screening workloads, and other support costs. This includes funding for the Affidavit of Support Program (AoS) and the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program, as these two fees support overall VO services in the adjudicating and processing of visa requests. The decrease of -$73.6 million from the FY 2018 Request reflects reduced NIV demand and corresponding reductions to the FBI Fingerprint Checks reimbursements, purchase of visa products and consumables and overall costs for general visa operations.

Passport Directorate: $924,480,000

The Passport Services Directorate (PPT) adjudicates U.S. citizenship and nationality, determines entitlement, and issues U.S. passport documents to eligible U.S. citizens and nationals. These efforts help facilitate legitimate U.S. travel, trade, and tourism by providing secure travel documents to those eligible, thereby strengthening U.S. borders and national security. The FY 2019 Request of $924.5 million reflects a decrease of $98.3 million from the FY 2018 Request and includes funding for supplies and overhead costs for the production of U.S. travel documents, and supports the rollout of the Next Generation Passport (NGP) book, which are demand-driven expenses.

American Citizens Services: $17,467,000

The Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) is responsible for the protection and safety of U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad, and provides emergency and nonemergency services to U.S. citizens. The FY 2019 Request of $17.5 million allows OCS to meet its protection and safety responsibilities for U.S. citizens residing and traveling abroad, including consular crisis management, protection of children, crime victim assistance, welfare and whereabouts of citizens, voter assistance, and emergency information programs, and emergency support to imprisoned and destitute citizens. This increase of $1.3 million from the FY 2018 Request is attributable to market research contract cost increases.

Consular Affairs Overseas Support: $938,037,000

Overseas consular posts provide the full range of consular services to U.S. citizens abroad and to foreign citizens who want to visit, do business in, or immigrate to the United States. The Request of $938.0 million maintains core programs that are coordinated and administered in Washington, D.C., but support worldwide consular operations. Funding decreases of -$353.1 million from the FY 2018 Request are attributable to revised calculation methods for overseas funding requirements and changing consular workload.

CBSP SUPPORT/DEPARTMENT OF STATE PARTNERS: $536,535,000

Bureau of Diplomatic Security: $66,174,000

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) coordinates and facilitates investigations involving U.S. and foreign travel documents. Investigations include fraudulent issuance, acquisition, and use of U.S. passports, and visa fraud cases including fraudulent issuance, procurement, counterfeiting, and forgery of U.S. visas. The FY 2019 Request of $66.2 million reflects a -$0.5 million decrease from the FY 2018 Request and realigns funding from Passport Services to fund security equipment at various passport facilities, and to realign funding from Visa Services to fund renovations at Kentucky Consular Center. It also supports domestic and overseas DS operations that combat fraud and human trafficking, and supports uniformed protection officers assigned to domestic CA facilities.

Foreign Service Institute: $25,921,000

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) provides training in consular work, language studies, professional development, leadership, information technology, and security. The Request of $25.9 million consists of a -$1.7 million reduction from the FY 2018 Request for Consular and Professional Training due to increased distance learning and a reduction in IT training costs

Bureau of Overseas Building Operations: $264,421,000

The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State. OBO supports the overseas consular facilities, including office space (functional leases) and housing space (residential leases) for consular personnel, CA’s share of new embassy and consulate capital construction projects through the Capital Security Cost-Sharing Program (CSCS), and as necessary, targeted facility infrastructure improvement projects for consular sections overseas. The FY 2019 CBSP Request of $264.4 million, transferred to OBO’s ESCM appropriation, is a $0.4 million decrease from the FY 2018 President’s Request and results from reduced funding needed for functional leases and non-recurral of targeted facility improvement projects. The decrease is offset by a $31.5 million increase for CA’s share of CSCS.

Post Assignment Travel: $47,907,000

Post Assignment Travel (PAT) for overseas consular personnel includes training, travel, and change of station costs, including the shipment of personal effects and baggage. PAT is crucial for staffing worldwide missions with the trained Foreign Service staff needed to meet visa demand overseas. The FY 2019 Request of $47.9 million is a reduction of $0.8 million and refines cost calculations for overseas travel.

Bureau of Human Resources: $14,203,000

The Bureau of Human Resources (HR) provides onboarding and administrative support for domestic and overseas consular employees, to support the staff increases needed to address consular workload changes. The FY 2019 Request of $14.2 million reflects a $1.6 million increase from the FY 2018 Request and funds a new dedicated CA Limited Non-Career Appointments (LNA) subunit in HR related to gateway online testing and other support costs to facilitate the expeditious vetting of Consular Fellow candidates to fill consular staffing gaps overseas.

Bureau of Administration: $54,269,000

The Bureau of Administration (A) supports CA by operating and maintaining facilities at the National Visa Center (NVC) and National Passport Center (NPC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), the Charleston Regional Center (RCO), and SA-17, and CA’s headquarters building in Washington, D.C. The Bureau also offers technical expertise and assistance for incoming mail threat detection, ergonomic assessments of office environments, indoor air quality assessments, and other environmental health and safety programs at all CA-occupied facilities throughout the United States. The FY 2019 Request of $54.3 million includes contract cost adjustments. This request is a $1.0 million increase from the FY 2018 Request.

Bureau of Medical Services: $292,000

The Bureau of Medical Services (MED) safeguards and promotes the health and well-being of America’s diplomatic community worldwide. It provides medical clearances for employees filling consular positions, including Foreign Service Officers, LNAs, and Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFMs).

CBSP STAFF / AMERICAN SALARIES: $644,812,000

Human resources are the most vital component of CBSP-funded programs and activities. The Department devotes a significant amount of effort and resources towards increasing efficiency and capacity in the visa and passport processes, ensuring adequate staffing levels both domestically and overseas. CBSP-funded payroll includes 4,914 funded positions in CA and in Department partner bureaus that receive CBSP funding.

Repatriation Loans: $789,000

The CBSP funds the administrative costs for the Repatriation Loans program, which assists destitute U.S. citizens abroad who have no other source of funds to return to the United States.

Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS): $1,044,000

The Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS) provides financial services in support of ongoing consular-related activities, including vouchering, payroll processing, accounts payable, receivables, and refund processing.

Confidential Investigations: $500,000

Confidential Investigations conducts certain law enforcement activities related to visa and passport fraud. The FY 2019 CBSP Request of $0.5 million funds the Office of Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Services.

Bureau of Information Resource Management: $60,686,000

The Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) provides systems technology and backbone support for critical visa and passport systems. The FY 2019 Request of $60.7 million reflects a $0.4 million increase from the FY 2018 Request and supports all consular domestic and overseas IT initiatives such as Network Services, Enterprise Server Operations Center (ESOC) Hosting Services, Global IT Modernization (GITM) Program, SharePoint, and SMART. The increase is due to contract cost adjustments.

Office of the Legal Adviser: $329,000

The Office of the Legal Adviser (L) provides legal advice and services to Department of State bureaus and officials on consular-related matters, such as interagency efforts and international negotiations, benefits and services to U.S. citizens abroad, international children’s issues, international judicial assistance, and the performance of other consular functions by U.S. consular officers or U.S. protecting powers abroad.

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@StateDept Revises Downward Its Consular Revenue Forecasts

Posted: 1:52 am ET

 

The State Department’s FY2019 Budget Proposal discusses Consular Affairs:

The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) supports U.S. national security objectives by protecting the interests of U.S. citizens overseas, strengthening border security, and facilitating legitimate travel to the United States. CA provides routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens overseas, adjudicates U.S. passport and visa applications, and undertakes fraud prevention and detection efforts. Together with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Intelligence Community, the Department of the Treasury, and the Law Enforcement Community, the Department has built a layered visa and border security screening system that rests on training, technological advances, biometric innovations, and expanded data sharing.

Revenue from Department-retained consular fees and surcharges funds CBSP activities. The fees and surcharges collected and retained for consular services include: Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees, Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) surcharges, Passport Security surcharges, Immigrant Visa (IV) Security surcharges, Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery fees, Fraud Prevention and Detection (H&L) fees, and Affidavit of Support (AoS) Review fees. Each consular fee or surcharge is used to fund CBSP programs and activities consistent with the applicable statutory authority.

We understand that since the beginning of FY 2013, the Consular and Border Security programs (CBSP) was completely funded using consular fees collected and retained by CA, that is, congressionally appropriated funds were not used for CA operations.

Consular Affairs charges user fees for many of the consular services it provides to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, including fees for services associated with passport issuance and non-immigrant visa processing/issuance. Congress permits the State Department to collect and retain revenue generated from certain consular fees, but the bureau is required by law to remit other amounts collected for consular fees to the Department of the Treasury. The retained consular fees are used to fund the Consular and Border Security Program (CBSP).

Consular and Border Security Programs

During FY 2014, the State Department collected $3.7 billion in consular fees. The revenue is generated primarily from the issuance of 467,370 immigrant visas and 9,932,480 nonimmigrant (temporary) visas and border cards. Note that the State Department only releases its visa issuance number and does not provide a public accounting of the total number of visa applicants. Visa processing fees are collected from all applicants (with few exceptions), and visa issuance fees are collected from certain countries based on reciprocity. (PDF)

In FY 2015, the Department collected $4.1 billion in consular fees that came from immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants including 531,463 immigrant (permanent) visas issuance and 10,891,745 nonimmigrant (temporary) visas and border cards issuance. FY2015 is the first time, nonimmigrant visa issuances hit the 10 million mark. (PDF)

We should point out that the consular revenue came from many different fees that cover a variety of services, like fraud prevention fees that are charged to particular visa applicants to fees charged to American citizens for expedited processing of passports. Consular revenue also includes surcharges that are imposed on some services. According to State/OIG, the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee includes a legislatively imposed $2 surcharge to support programs to combat human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Trends

For the last several years until 2016, there had been an upward trend in visa demands. In 2012, the USG recognized the growth of foreign visitors from emerging economies with growing middle classes in China, Brazil and India. Then President Obama tasked the Department with increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% in 2012; and ensuring that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application (see Visa Hot Love for China and Brazil, Why No Hot Love for Mexico?).

For immigrant visas, the  issuance trend went down in FY2014, then went up in FY2015 and FY2016. In FY2017,  the issuance went down by over 58K. We don’t know at this time what function, if any, or how much, the Trump travel ban contributed to the decrease.

For nonimmigrant visas, the upward trend continued from FY2013-FY2015, then started dipping in FY2016. The decrease in number of nonimmigrant visa issuances continued in FY2017. The chart below also indicates a decrease of over 32,000 in border crossing card issuances in FY2017. To get a sense of what this means in direct U.S. dollars, check the consular fees here for visa services.

The State Department’s FY2019 Budget Proposal recognizes what could be a trend, telling Congress that “Due to new decreased revenue forecasts, the spending plans for FY 2018 have been revised downward from the FY2018 Request. Decreased spending is anticipated within the Bureau of Consular Affairs, partner bureaus, and other support activities.”

The Trump Administration has now submitted two budget proposals to Congress that include deep cuts to the State Department and USAID’s budgets. We have no reason to believe that its proposals for FY2020 and FY2021 would look anything different. But if what we’re seeing in consular workload is the start of a downward trend in revenue, the State Department could be in for a double whammy.

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As Govt #Shutdown Looms Large, @StateDept Still “Reviewing All Available Options” #MissingGuidance

Posted: 8:23 pm PT

 

On January 18, the State Department spokesperson was asked about the the preparations for a potential government shutdown and the impact on the State Department. Here is one part of the response:

MS NAUERT: Yeah, well, first let me start off by mentioning to everyone here the current continuing resolution expires at midnight tomorrow, January the 19th. We are putting in place prudent management of this. Our Secretary’s office right now is reviewing all the available options as to how we should handle some of the decision-making going forward, if this were to happen, if there were to be a government shutdown. We will be prepared for all contingencies – I want to make that clear – including the possibility of a lapse. That would mean a government shutdown.

OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, has requested that all agencies determine ways to minimize the impact on the American people. Matt, I think that would fall under visas and passports and the like. This is what we’re doing here from the State Department. Some of those decisions are still being made, exactly what services we will be able to provide and which ones we will not.

The State Department spox and her bosses do not realized that passports and visas are fees-funded and not appropriated funds?

After the spox talked about the Secretary having “quite a bit of leeway” and embassies having “a lot of discretion over how they will handle their staffing”, she was asked “You sound very reassuring, like the Secretary has lots of leeway, the embassies have some leeway. It sounds very peaceful in your view. But does the State Department view this looming prospect as dangerous to national security on its face?”

MS NAUERT: Look, national security, and keeping the security and the safety of Americans is always a top priority. We will not pull back on that in any way, shape or form. We will continue to follow those things. We’re not going to get all excited about what may or may not happen. We will have contingency plans that we put in place, and we will adhere to those. Okay.

A State Department official cited by vox.com notes that “US missions usually designate people as essential employees who must work during government shutdowns; others are considered non-essential and therefore can’t work. As of Thursday, no such list has been created.”

Are they going to come up with the furlough lists after the actual shutdown occurs?

On December 4, 2017, the State Department released its Guidance on Operations During a Lapse in Appropriations. The guidance was prepared in anticipation of the lack of appropriation or continuing resolution before midnight on December 8, 2017. As of this writing, we have not seen an updated guidance for the looming shutdown tomorrow. We’ve asked the A/DGHR if this same guidance would apply if there is no CR by midnight Friday, January 19, the deadline to pass a short-term spending bill to keep the U.S. government open and avoid the shut down of federal agencies, but our question has so far been ignored.

Below is an excerpt from the December 2017 guidance that has not been updated for 2018 but potentially relevant to how the State Department will manage the agency in a shutdown.

Appropriated Funds: 1-Year, 2-Year, No-Year Funds

Departmental entities will continue to operate until their respective balances are insufficient to continue. While many appropriated funds expire after one year, the Department has some accounts that are 2-year funds or no-year funds.

If there is no appropriation or continuing resolution before midnight on December 8, 2017, Department elements using multi-year or no-year appropriations (with remaining available balances), trust funds, other permanent appropriations, fees, and the Working Capital Fund will fund and continue operations as long as this funding is available. Please note that due to reduced funding or revised authorities, such availability for FY 2018 may be different than what was in place for the previous lapse in appropriations.
[…]
If there is no appropriation or continuing resolution before midnight on December 8, 2017, posts and offices supported by single-year appropriations will immediately commence procedures [/] on the first business day following that date, i.e., Monday, December 11, 2017. Posts that normally operate on Saturdays or Sundays will immediately commence procedures [/] on Sunday, December 10, 2017.

Determination of Excepted Functions and Positions

A. Definition of Excepted Functions: “Excepted” functions that may be continued in an absence of appropriations include those necessary for emergencies involving “the safety of human life or the protection of property,” and those necessary for activities essential to national security, including the conduct of foreign affairs essential to national security. Employees performing “excepted” functions will continue to report to work and perform their duties.

B. Chief of Mission (COM) Authority Regarding Other U.S. Government Agency Employees Abroad: Under a lapse of appropriations, each U.S. government agency at post must determine which positions meet the criteria of “excepted” in the absence of appropriations. If an agency has determined that certain of its positions abroad do not meet those criteria, and that determination conflicts with the views of the Chief of Mission, then the Chief of Mission should attempt to resolve the matter directly with the parent agency concerned. Based on COM authority and the Department’s foreign affairs responsibilities, the COMs and Department’s judgment about what functions constitute the conduct of foreign relations essential to national security carries great weight. If the COM is unable to reach agreement with another agency on what functions should continue to be performed during a lapse of appropriations, the COM may refer the matter to Washington to see if the Department is able to reach an accommodation with the other agency.

The COM will be responsible for informing the most senior officials of other agencies at post immediately upon notification by OMB that we are to implement shutdown procedures.

C. Consular Operations Domestically and Abroad: Consular operations domestically and abroad will remain 100% operational as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations. However, if a passport agency is located in a government building affected by a lapse in appropriations, the facility may become unsupported. The continuance of consular operations in such instances will be treated on a case-by-case basis by the Office of the Under Secretary for Management.

D. Use of E-Mail/Telegrams/Remote Access/Mobile Applications: The Department will be minimally staffed if a shutdown occurs. Department managers and post managers are asked to reduce message traffic to include only the most urgent need. Remote access and mobile programs, to include fobs, secure laptop services, and centrally managed Blackberry support services will be minimally staffed. Additionally, due to reduced domestic staff levels, all personnel should be cognizant that there are fewer personnel available to respond to incoming messages.

Non-excepted employees should turn off all Department-provided mobile devices, and excepted personnel should not communicate with non-excepted employees. For purposes of communicating work status to non-excepted employees, supervisors should have employee personal contact information on file.

Personnel

U.S. Direct Hires Employees

An immediate hiring freeze will apply during a lapse in appropriations. Entry-on-board dates for prospective employees with employment offers are suspended until the funding lapse is over. No new job offers may be made.

We will need to examine the text of any subsequent appropriation or continuing resolution to determine if the Congress has authorized retroactive pay and allowances. All non-excepted personnel support activities, such as unfunded security investigations, should be suspended.

Family Members and Locally Employed (LE) Staff at Post

Eligible Family Members employed at post follow the furlough procedures of other direct-hire U.S. government employees unless paid on the local pay plan. Application of the furlough to LE staff (including foreign nationals and locally resident U.S. citizens, whether on personal services agreements (PSA) or direct-hire appointments) depends on local labor laws in each country. In general, Department LE staff will be required either: a) to report to work as directed by their supervisor (i.e., if “excepted,” or if treated as “excepted” because these LE staff legally must be paid, provided that in no event may LE staff report to work if adequate supervision is unavailable); b) to be on excused absence leave per 3 FAM 7451, if LE staff must be paid under local labor law but may not actually work because, for example, adequate supervision is not available; or c) to be placed on ordinary furlough status.

HROs at each post will examine local labor law and make appropriate, post-specific determinations in conjunction with post management. The COM should inform other U.S. government agencies at post that, as in the past, the Department plans generally to treat those LE staff members as excepted whom the Department believes must be paid under host state labor laws regardless of attendance. HR/OE will be in touch with those posts that indicated during sequestration planning that their host country local laws allow personnel to be furloughed.

Part-Time Employees

Part-time employees should follow the same guidance as full-time employees.

WAE Employees and Seasonal Employees

Employees with a When-Actually-Employed (WAE) work schedule and seasonal employees are called to duty at identified periods of the year in accordance with pre-established conditions. WAE employees are non-full-time employees without a regularly scheduled tour of duty. A seasonal employee is an employee hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less. Whether either group is called for work during the period in which furloughs are scheduled is discretionary with agencies, but those personnel must be performing excepted functions.

Rotation of Personnel

The decision to rotate personnel to perform excepted functions may be made at bureau and post discretion in unique and compelling circumstances. However, the following should be taken into consideration when making a decision on rotations:

  • Managers should take into account the potential impact on unemployment compensation eligibility for the employee, based on local jurisdictions’ unemployment insurance policies.
  • Decisions on rotations for specific positions should balance the Department’s need for continuity and equity to the employees.
  • Posts may determine on what basis rotations may take place (based on increments of at least one week), but due consideration should be given to continuity and fairness.
  • Personnel rotated into and out of an excepted function must have the requisite qualifications to perform the function.

All decisions to rotate employees must be documented by the bureau or post.

Details

Detailees follow the furlough policies and procedures of their home agencies because they remain officially employed by their home agencies. If you are detailed from the State Department to another federal agency, the State Department will determine if and how you are affected. If you are detailed to the State Department from another federal agency, your home agency will determine if and how you are affected. For more information and for details involving non-Federal agencies, refer to OPM guidance.

Specific Situations

The following are typical bureau/post obligation/payment categories and how they should be handled:

LE staff pay/allowances: Standard procedures to process LE staff payroll must be followed. Under no circumstances should alternate means be used to pay LE staff salaries, such as using petty cash. As per the above general guidance for obligations after a lapse in appropriations, no obligations for payroll after that date should be recorded on official accounts or in RFMS and GFMS, even for excepted activities. More detailed guidance on submitting time and attendance during the period of the lapse will be provided prior to the deadline for the next submission of time and attendance.

American Salaries, Benefits, and Allowances: While obligations may continue to be established for employees on US-based salary schedules performing “excepted” and shutdown activities, payments for salaries and allowances may only be made for services rendered prior to the lapse in appropriations.

Travel: Only travel in fulfillment of excepted activities can be initiated after a lapse of appropriations. Per guidance above, even in cases of travel in this category, obligations made after any lapse of appropriations should not be recorded on official bureau or post accounts even though obligations have been incurred. Blanket travel orders issued prior to the lapse in appropriations are not valid during the lapse period, unless in the case of travel abroad, travel commenced or any cost was incurred for that travel prior to the shutdown. No travel advances can be issued unless the obligation for travel abroad was incurred prior to the lapse in appropriations. Travel voucher reimbursements can be processed only if against obligations incurred and recorded for prior years, or for the current Fiscal Year (if obligated prior to the lapse in appropriations) multi-year or no-year appropriations for which funds remain available. Travelers who hold Citibank Travel Cards may charge advances against these cards for any approved trips as travel card advance charges do not create advances to official accounts. As part of GSA Smart Pay cards, Citibank Travel Cards will continue to function normally and banks will continue to provide service. Cardholders, as usual, should contact the bank customer service organization should they experience problems with their cards.

Utilities: As with other categories of payments, utility payments for obligations established prior to the lapse in appropriations can be processed and sent to CGFS for payment or entered in RFMS. Obligations for utility costs after the lapse in appropriations should not be recorded even though incurred, and utility payments for periods after that cannot be made from lapsed appropriations. Posts confronted with any emergencies in this regard should contact the Department as soon as possible (see paragraph 13 below).

OBO Allotment Activities: Since OBO activities abroad (e.g., rents, maintenance and repair, fire/safety and capital projects) are paid from the no-year OBO appropriation, these activities can be obligated and paid if the post has sufficient funds in its OBO allotment. Salaries for facility managers and OBO direct-hire project staff at post are funded domestically from the no-year OBO appropriation; therefore, those personnel will continue to report to work and perform their duties. Salaries for locally-hired OBO project staff are funded from post-held OBO allotments and can therefore be obligated and paid as long as post has sufficient funds in its allotment.

Collections: Embassy cashiers can continue to process all collections normally.

Absolutely Necessary Payments: To reiterate, and consistent with OMB guidance, we have authority to incur obligations but cannot make payments for excepted activities after the lapse in appropriations. Because our accounting system pays for incurred obligations, we cannot post (record) obligations due to the lapse of appropriations even though obligations have been incurred, nor can we make payments against the incurred but not recorded obligations for current Fiscal Year lapsed appropriations. If it is necessary to make payments in emergency situations (e.g., to safeguard life and property), the bureau or embassy should send a memo or cable, respectively, on a case-specific basis to request use of funds that BP determines may be available for such purposes. Each request should provide details of the date the funds are needed, the amount, the justification, and any other relevant information. Requests of this type should be limited to extreme cases.

Repatriation Loans: Post authority to expend up to $2,000 per applicant without Department approval is temporarily rescinded. If a post determines that a repatriation loan is necessary during the period of a lapse in appropriations, the post should cable CA/OCS and CA’s Comptroller to request funding as mentioned in paragraph 11 above.

Emergency Medical Services: If the concurrence of MED is received, emergency medical travel and services obligations can be incurred but not recorded. Accordingly, payments against such obligations cannot be made. Please coordinate with MED and follow guidance in paragraph 11 in emergency situations where payment is required immediately. For medical services funding requests the post should cable MED and CGFS – USOFFICE Global Financial Services (not the regional bureaus).

Speech-Making and Media Engagement

As a general rule, all speeches to public audiences should be cancelled and no invitations to give speeches to public audiences should be accepted during the shutdown period. If you believe there are exceptional reasons to honor an existing speech commitment or to accept a speaking invitation, you should contact the Public Affairs (PA) Special Assistants at 202-647-6607 for guidance. No speeches to public audiences may be made during the shutdown period without explicit approval from the PA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary.

The Bureau of Public Affairs may need to communicate with the media, via on-camera or off-camera briefings and/or the release of statements via traditional or social media means, for events and issues involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, or those necessarily related to national security, including the conduct of foreign affairs essential to the national security (“excepted activities”). This would include direct support to the Secretary of State for travel related to national security-related issues, and any news media and transcription support that would entail. Approval for such activities will rest with the Bureau Assistant Secretary or Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary.

Non-emergency social media operations outside of flagship social media accounts must cease. Department flagship accounts managed by the Bureau of Public Affairs may operate in support of excepted activities.

Representation Events

Domestic Representation: As a general rule, no domestic representation events should be held during the shutdown period. Events already scheduled should be cancelled and no new events planned until the shutdown is over. If you believe there are truly exceptional circumstances that merit a representation event being held during the shutdown period, you should contact M/EDCS for approval.

Representation Abroad: As a general rule, no representation events should be held abroad during a shutdown period. Chiefs of Mission (COMs) may authorize a representational event abroad only if it is necessary to support excepted activities. COMs should consider the perception of a representational event during a Department shutdown.

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Ex-FSO Michael Sestak Released From Prison on January 4, 2018

Posted: 2:33  am ET

 

In August 2015, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Michael T. Sestak, 44, was sentenced to 64 months in prison on federal charges in a scheme where he accepted more than $3 million in bribes to process visas for non-immigrants seeking entry to the United States. The Federal Bureau of Prisons locator indicates that he was scheduled to be released from prison on January 4, 2018. The 2015 USDOJ announcement notes that following his prison term, Sestak will be placed on three years of supervised release.

See this piece on the Sestak case. See below our posts on this case with some unanswered questions.

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@StateDept Spox Talks “No Double Standard Policy” and 7 FAM 052 Loudly Weeps

Posted: 2:58 am ET

 

So we asked about the State Department’s “no double stand policy” on December 5 after media reports say that classified cables went out  in the past 2 weeks warning US embassies worldwide to heighten security ahead of a possible @POTUS announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

On December 7, the State Department press corps pressed the official spokesperson about a cable that reportedly asked agency officials to defer all nonessential travel to Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Note that the security messages issued by multiple posts on December 5 and 6 with few exceptions were personal security reminders, and warnings of potential protests.  The Worldwide Caution issued on December 6 is an update “with information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions, political violence, and criminal activity against U.S. citizens and interests abroad.

None of the messages released include information that USG officials were warned to defer non-essential travel to the immediate affected areas. When pressed about this apparent double standard, the official spox insisted that “unfortunately, just as State Department policy, we don’t comment on official – whether or not there was an official communication regarding — regarding this.”

Noooooooooooooooooo!

The spox then explained  what the “no double standard” policy means while refusing to comment on official communication that potentially violates such policy. And if all else fails, try “hard to imagine that our lawyers have not gone through things.”  

Holy moly guacamole, read this: 7 FAM 052  NO DOUBLE STANDARD POLICY

In administering the Consular Information Program, the Department of State applies a “no double standard” policy to important security threat information, including criminal information.

Generally, if the Department shares information with the official U.S. community, it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals.

If a post issues information to its employees about potentially dangerous situations, it should evaluate whether the potential danger could also affect private U.S. citizens/nationals living in or traveling through the affected area.

The Department’s “No Double Standard” policy, provided in 7 FAM 052, is an integral part of CA/OCS’s approach to determine whether to send a Message.  The double standard we guard against is in sharing threat-related information with the official U.S. community — beyond those whose job involves investigating and evaluating threats — but not disseminating it to the U.S. citizen general public when that information does or could apply to them as well.

Also this via 7 FAM 051.2(b) Authorities (also see also 22 CFR 71.1, 22 U.S.C. 2671 (b)(2)(A), 22 U.S.C. 4802, and 22 U.S.C. 211a):

…The decision to issue a Travel Alert, Travel Warning, or a Security or Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens for an individual country is based on the overall assessment of the safety/security situation there.  By necessity, this analysis must be undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations.  Accordingly, posts must not allow extraneous concerns to color the decision of whether to issue information regarding safety or security conditions in a country, or how that information is to be presented.

As to the origin of this policy, we would need to revisit the Lockerbie Bombing and Its Aftermath (this one via ADST’s Oral History).

The State Department’s official spokesperson via the Daily Press Briefing, December 7, 2017:

QUESTION: So a cable went out to all U.S. diplomatic and consular missions yesterday that asked State Department officials to defer all nonessential travel to the entirety of Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Normally when you are discouraging American officials from going to a particular area, under the no double standard rule, you make that public to all U.S. citizens so that they have the same information. I read through the Travel Warnings on Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza yesterday, both in the middle of the day and then at the end of the day after the worldwide caution, and I saw no similar warning to U.S. citizens or advice to U.S. citizens to defer nonessential travel to those areas. Why did you say one thing in private to U.S. officials and another thing – and not say the same thing in public to U.S. citizens?

MS NAUERT: Let me state the kinds of communication that we have put out to American citizens and also to U.S. Government officials. And one of the things we often say here is that the safety and security of Americans is our top priority. There are top policy priorities, but that is our overarching, most important thing, the safety and security of Americans.

We put out a security message to U.S. citizens on the 5th of December – on Monday, I believe it was. We put out a security message to our U.S. citizens that day – that was Tuesday? Okay, thank you – on the 5th of December. We put out another one on the 6th of December as well, expressing our concerns. We want to alert people to any possible security situations out of an abundance of caution. That information was put, as I understand it, on the State Department website, but it was also issued by many of our posts overseas in areas where we thought there could be something that could come up.

In addition to that, there is a Travel Warning that goes out regarding this region. That is something that is updated every six months, I believe it is. This Travel Warning for the region has been in effect for several, several years, so that is nothing new. In addition to that, we put out a worldwide caution. That is updated every six months. We had a worldwide caution in place for several years, but yesterday, out of an abundance of caution, we updated it. As far as I’m aware of, and I won’t comment on any of our internal communications to say whether or not there were any of these internal communications because we just don’t do that on any matter, but I think that we’ve been very clear with Americans, whether they work for – work for the U.S. Government or whether they’re citizens traveling somewhere, about their safety and security. This is also a great reminder for any Americans traveling anywhere around the world to sign up for the State Department’s STEP program, which enables us to contact American citizens wherever they are traveling in the case of an emergency if we need to communicate with them.

QUESTION: But why did you tell your officials not to travel to those areas between December 4th and December 20th, and not tell American citizens the same things? Because you didn’t tell that to American citizens in all of the messages that you put up on the embassy website, on the consulate website, nor did you tell American citizens that in a Worldwide Caution, nor did you tell them that in the link to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza that was put out by the State Department in the Worldwide Caution yesterday. You’re telling your people inside one thing, and you’re telling American citizens a different thing, and under your own rules, you are – there is supposed to be no double standard. Why didn’t you tell U.S. citizens the same thing you told the U.S. officials?

MS NAUERT: Again, unfortunately, just as State Department policy, we don’t comment on official – whether or not there was an official communication regarding —

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Saibo

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS NAUERT: – regarding this. But I can tell you as a general matter, I think we have been very clear about the security concerns regarding Americans. We have put out those three various subjects or types of communications to American citizens who are traveling in areas that could be affected.

QUESTION: I’m going to ask you –

MS NAUERT: In terms of the U.S. Government, when we talk about the U.S. Government deferring non-essential travel, I would hope that people would not travel for non-essential reasons just as a general matter anyway.

QUESTION: But why – I’m going to ask you a hypothetical, which I would ask you to entertain, if you’ll listen to it.

MS NAUERT: I’ll listen to it. I’d be happy to listen to it.

QUESTION: If there were such communication, and you know and every U.S. diplomat who gets an ALDAC, which means every other person who works at the State Department knows that this communication went out – so if there were such communication, why would you say one thing to your own officials and a different thing to American citizens —

MS NAUERT: As our —

QUESTION: – which is what the law and your own rules require?

MS NAUERT: As you well know, we have a no “double standard.” And for folks who aren’t familiar with what that means, it’s when we tell our staff something about a particular area or a security threat, we also share that same information with the American public. I would find it hard to imagine that our lawyers have not gone through things to try to make sure that we are all on the same page with the information that we provide to U.S. Government officials as well as American citizens. And that’s all I have for you on that. Okay? Let’s move on to something else.

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#Jerusalem Recognition: Security Messages and Suspension of Services #USEmbassies

Posted: 1:46 pm PT
Updated: 9:41 pm PT

 

Update: As of 1315 EST on December 6, 2017, the State Department has established a task force to track worldwide developments following the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The task force is located in the Operations Center and will include representatives from NEA, SCA, EUR, EAP, CA, DS, PM, PA, and H.

On December 6, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel (see Trump Admin Gets Multiple Warnings That Jerusalem Recognition Could Trigger Dangerous Consequences).

Politico reported on December 4 that the State Department has warned American embassies worldwide to heighten security ahead of a possible announcement. “The warning — delivered in the past week via two classified cables described by State Department officials — reflects concern that such an announcement could provoke fury in the Arab world.”

A day before the expected Jerusalem recognition announcement, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem issued a security message informing citizens that U.S. government employees and their family members are not permitted until further notice to conduct personal travel in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the West Bank, to include Bethlehem and Jericho.  It also notes that official travel  by U.S. government employees in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the West Bank is permitted only to conduct essential travel and with additional security measures. (See Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Jerusalem, Demonstrations on December 6).

On December 6, US Embassy Amman in Jordan reminded U.S. citizens of the need for caution and awareness of personal security.  It also  temporarily suspended routine public services. As well, U.S. government personnel and their family members in Jordan are limiting public movements, including an instruction for children not to attend school on December 7, 2017.(see Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Amman (Jordan), Possibility of Demonstrations, Temporary Suspension of Routine Public Services).

As of this writing, the following posts have issued security messages related to the Jerusalem recognition, some outside the immediate region.  Some of our posts in the NEA Bureau have yet to issue similar messages.

Should we remind folks of their “no double standard policy”?

Generally, if the State Department shares information with the official U.S. community, it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals.  If a post issues information to its employees about potentially dangerous situations, it should evaluate whether the potential danger could also affect private U.S. citizens/nationals living in or traveling through the affected area.

The following security messages via DS/OSAC:

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Berlin (Germany), Personal Security Reminder

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Minsk (Belarus), Personal Security Reminder

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Ankara (Turkey), Demonstrations on December 6

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Lisbon (Portugal), White House Announcement on Jerusalem

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Rome (Italy), Personal Security Reminder

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Madrid (Spain), Personal Security Reminder

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: London (United Kingdom), Possible Protests

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Rabat (Morocco), Demonstrations

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Cairo (Egypt), President Trump’s Announcement that the United States Recognizes Jerusalem as the Capital

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U.S. Passport Identifiers For Registered Sex Offenders Went Into Effect on Oct 31, 2017

Posted: 1:34 pm PT

 

Via State/CA:

The passport identifier provision of International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders (IML) (Public Law 114-119) went into effect on October 31, 2017.

The IML prohibits the Department of State from issuing a passport to a covered sex offender without a unique identifier, and it allows for the revocation of passports previously issued to these individuals that do not contain the identifier (22 USC 212b).

The identifier is a passport endorsement, currently printed inside the back cover of the passport book, which reads: “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 United States Code Section 212b(c)(l).”  Since endorsements cannot be printed on passport cards, covered sex offenders cannot be issued passport cards.

Only the DHS/ICE Angel Watch Center (AWC) can certify an individual as a “covered sex offender.” Therefore, any questions by the applicant about such status must be directed to and resolved by AWC.

Applicants who have questions for AWC regarding their status or believe they have been wrongly identified as a covered sex offender as defined in Title 22 United States Code 212b(c)(1) should contact AWC at DHSintermeganslaw@ice.dhs.gov.

*

On February 08, 2016, President Obama signed into law H.R. 515, the “International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders,” which (1) authorizes the Department of Homeland Security’s Angel Watch Center and the Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Targeting Center to send and receive notifications to or from foreign countries regarding international travel by registered sex offenders; and (2) requires the Department of State to include unique identifiers on passports issued to registered sex offenders.

According to DHS/ICE, its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Operation Angel Watch was initially created in 2007 and is managed by the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit of the ICE Cyber Crimes Center and is a joint effort with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Marshals Service. Operation Angel Watch targets individuals who have been previously convicted of sexual crimes against a child and who may pose a potential new threat: traveling overseas for the purpose of sexually abusing or exploiting minors, a crime known as “child sex tourism.”

Through Operation Angel Watch, HSI uses publicly available sex offender registry information and passenger travel data to strategically alert foreign law enforcement partners through its HSI attaché offices of a convicted child predator’s intent to travel to their country. In Fiscal Year 2015, HSI made over 2,100 notifications to more than 90 countries.

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U.S.-Turkey Announce Reciprocal Resumption of Visa Services, Then Turkey Throws U.S. Accusation

Posted: 1:39 am ET
Follow @Diplopundit

 

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