@StateDept Projects Over $1.4Billion Loss in Consular Fees This Fiscal Year, Plus Comparable Losses Next FYs

HFAC/Oversight and Investigations Committee
July 212020 10:00 AM
Witnesses

Ian Brownlee
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs
U.S. Department of State

Karin King
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Overseas Citizen Services
U.S. Department of State

The State Department projected a $1.4 billion loss which is about 50 percent of Consular Affair’s revenue this fiscal year (ending September 30, 2020). It is also facing comparable losses in FY2021 and FY2022.
This is a big deal.
PDAS Brownlee told the committee that CA is looking at $359M savings from FY2020  — he talked about significant reduction in this year’s spending but only cited contractors in visa waiting rooms, and a number other unspecified projects domestic and overseas that would be impacted. He did say that services for American citizens “will not be put out of business.”
Where are we going to see funding cuts?
The reality though is consular fees do not just fund visa operations overseas but also passport operations domestic and overseas. It also funds various parts of the State Department. And most notably, it funds 4,859 U.S. Direct Hire personnel under Consular Affairs and “partner bureau positions.” A $1.4 billion loss this fiscal year and in each of FY2021 and FY2022 will have a cascading effect in various parts of the organization.
Revenues from Department-retained consular fees and surcharges fund Consular and Border Security Program (CBSP) activities. The State Department’s congressional justification in FY 2020 for CBSP funding includes the following:
  • Consular Systems and Technology: $453.4 million
  • Domestic Executive Support: $34.3 million
  • Fraud Prevention Programs: $5.4 million
  • Visa Processing: $237.5 million
  • Passport Directorate: $810.3 million
  • American Citizen Services: $16.2 million
  • Consular Affairs Overseas Support: $964.6 million
  • FSN Separation Liability Trust Fund: $4.9 million

CBSP SUPPORT/DEPARTMENT OF STATE PARTNERS: $524.3 million

  • Bureau of Administration: $53.8 million
  • Bureau of Diplomatic Security: $66.3 million
  • Foreign Service Institute: $25.9 million
  • Bureau of Information Resource Management: $58.3 million
  • Office of the Legal Advisor: $0.3 million
  • Bureau of Overseas Building Operations: $264.4 million
  • Repatriation Loans: $0.8 million
  • Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS): $1.0 million
  • Confidential Investigations: $0.2 million
  • Post Assignment Travel: $39.1 million
  • Bureau of Human Resources: $13.9 million
CBSP STAFF / AMERICAN SALARIES: $703.5 million

Human resources are a vital component of CBSP 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. The FY 2020 Request of $703.5 million, a $58.7 million increase from the FY 2019 Request, supports 4,859 U.S. Direct Hire personnel. These positions are primarily in the Bureau of Consular Affairs but also include CBSP-funded partner bureau positions. This increase restores the eight percent reduction included in the FY 2019 President’s Budget Request and annualizes costs associated with the Department’s FY 2018 and proposed FY 2019 Strategic Hiring Plans.

 

 

 

Guatemala Gets a New Health Alert System, Movement Restrictions, Suspension of Services, Mandatory Masks, Curfew

 

The US Embassy in Guatemala issued a new Message for U.S. Citizens Regarding New Restrictions and Updates by Government of Guatemala in Response to COVID-19 on 14 July, 2020.

On Sunday, July 12, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei announced the following updates to restrictions in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

New health alert system: Guatemala will launch a tiered system of health alerts on July 27, providing updated information on levels of health risk in the country based on locality and time.  The threat ranking will be as follows:

TYPE OF ALERT   THREAT LEVEL
Green                     Normal
Yellow                    Moderate
Orange                   High
Red                         Maximum

The Embassy advises U.S. citizens in Guatemala to familiarize themselves with changes to the threat level in their areas.  For the next two weeks before the official launch, these alerts are meant to be informational only.  Following the official launch, Guatemalan authorities may impose specific restrictions to travel or activities in a given area based on its threat level.  Current health alerts and additional information can be found on the Ministry of Health’s website, via the following link: https://mspas.gob.gt.

Restrictions on Vehicular Mobility: In the departments of Guatemala, Escuintla, Sacatepequez, Suchitepequez, Izabal, El Progreso, Zacapa, Santa Rosa and Quetzaltenango, all personal vehicles with license plates that end in an odd number (for example P001AAA) are permitted to circulate Monday, July 13; Wednesday, July 15, Friday, July 17; Tuesday, July 21; Thursday, July 23, and Saturday, July 25.  All personal vehicles with license plates that end in an even number (for example P002AAA) are permitted to circulate on Tuesday, July 14; Thursday, July 16; Saturday, July 18; Monday, July 20; Wednesday, July 22; and Friday, July 24.  Motorcycles, pedestrians, and other modes of non-vehicular transportation are exempt from these restrictions.  All private vehicular mobility will be restricted on Sunday, July 19 and Sunday, July 26. 

Curfew Hours: Guatemala’s national mandatory curfew remains in place, running from 6:00 p.m. each evening through 5:00 a.m. the following day.  In addition, an extended curfew will be in place on weekends, beginning Saturday, July 18 and Saturday, July 25 at 2 p.m., and extending through 5:00 a.m. the following Monday.  This means that a full 24-hour curfew will be in place on Sunday, July 19 and Sunday, July 26.  Every individual in Guatemala — including U.S. citizens — is required to remain inside their domicile during curfew hours (with exceptions for health and security, restaurant delivery services, certain media and legal personnel in pursuit of their duties, and patients receiving urgent treatment for chronic conditions). 

Guidance on Inter-Department Travel: The suspension on inter-departmental travel has been lifted, but government of Guatemala the urges individuals to avoid travel into, out of, or between the departments of Guatemala, Escuintla, Sacatepequez, Suchitepequez, Izabal, El Progreso, Zacapa, Santa Rosa and Quetzaltenango.

Operating Hours for Essential Businesses: Supermarkets, grocers, other markets, and essential businesses are permitted to operate from 6:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m.  Shopping malls and large commercial centers remain closed.

Mandatory Use of Masks in Public: All individuals must wear masks in public spaces, including in grocery stores and on the street, to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Failure to comply with this requirement will result in fines of up to 150,000 quetzales.

Closing of Borders: The Guatemalan government is currently barring entry to most non-Guatemalans (with specific exceptions for accredited diplomatic personnel, health and security personnel, and exceptional cases as designated by the Guatemalan government) – by its land, sea, and air borders.  Airport operations and routine commercial flights out of Guatemala have been suspended.  The U.S. Embassy continues to work with Guatemalan authorities to allow passengers manifested on outgoing commercial flights to travel to the airport in Guatemala City.  These passengers will receive letters requesting safe passage from their commercial carrier. 

Suspension of Public Transportation: Public transportation within Guatemala is suspended. 

Suspension of Public and Private Sector Labor Activities: Public and private sector labor is suspended, with the exceptions for certain essential government and health personnel, and for specific industries and utilities whose activities are essential to Guatemala’s security, food production, sanitation or infrastructure.  

Prohibitions on Alcohol: The sale and purchase of alcohol is permitted only during limited hours.   Consumption of alcohol in public areas is prohibited. 

Other Restricted Activities:  All beaches, lakes, rivers, and other tourist sites in Guatemala remain closed.  Public religious gatherings and celebrations of any size are prohibited.  Visits to individuals in hospitals or prisons are prohibited.  Academic activities at all levels are suspended until further notice.  

Additional Department and Municipality-Level Restrictions: Beyond the national-level restrictions mentioned above, different municipalities within the country may adopt additional restrictive measures on travel and outdoor activities.  Please monitor local news reports to receive the latest information. 

State of Prevention: The government of Guatemala has announced an extension of the State of Prevention, until July 30, 2020, for the municipalities of Nahualá, Santa Lucía Utatlán, and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, of the Department of Sololá. The State of Prevention is due to the ongoing security situation in the area caused by territorial disputes. Increased military and police presence can be expected in the area throughout the State of Prevention period.

We missed this, but the US Embassy in Guatemala previously suspended its routine consular services for U.S. citizens on June 22, 2020 until further notice  “due to COVID-19-related health and safety measures.”

While this suspension is in effect, the Embassy will provide passport services on an emergency basis only.  U.S. citizens with expired or soon-to-expire passports who have imminent travel plans to the United States may request an emergency appointment at the Embassy through the following email address: amcitsguatemala@state.gov.  The Embassy urges U.S. citizens to communicate all requests and confirm all appointment times through this e-mail; for health and safety reasons, the Embassy may not be able to accommodate walk-in requests.

The Embassy continues to accept adult passport renewal applications by mail. For more information on this process, please click here.  

Due to reduced operations at U.S. domestic facilities, U.S. citizens who have previously applied for routine passport or Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) services may expect delays in receiving their documents.  Applicants with documents in transit who have imminent travel plans to the United States may apply for emergency passports by scheduling an emergency appointment through the email address listed below.  As a reminder, U.S. citizen children do not require a CRBA to qualify for an emergency passport.

Also these:

@StateDept Announces “National Interest Exceptions” for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland

Via State/CA:
National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland
Last Updated: July 16, 2020

Certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students may qualify for National Interest Exceptions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9993 (Schengen Area) and 9996 (United Kingdom and Ireland). Qualified business and student travelers who are applying for or have valid visas or ESTA authorization may travel to the United States even as PPs 9993 and 9996 remain in effect.

Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.The Department of State also continues to grant National Interest Exceptions for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.

Granting national interest exceptions for this travel to the United States from the Schengen area, UK, and Ireland, will assist with the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster key components of our transatlantic relationship.

We appreciate the transparency and concerted efforts of our European partners and allies to combat this pandemic and welcome the EU’s reciprocal action to allow key categories of essential travel to continue.

Also see: Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak

@StateDept Reactions: Americans Convicted in Moscow (Outrage) and Manila (Silence Now Concern)

Updated: 10:45 am PST

 

Madam Is Back With “Your Mother Taught You Better Than This”

Via The Consuls’ Files: Your Mother Taught You Better Than This
It figures, sadly but unfortunately also predictably, that when Madam steps out for a leisurely lunch and glass of wine, the mice come out to play.
Or rather, even more sadly, the larger variety of a different species.
Consider if you will, and if you can stomach it, this recent IG comment on certain conoffs’ behavior:
“OIG found that Consular Section managers’ failure to address adequately improper conduct by two officers had a negative effect on LE staff morale. Several months before the inspection, LE staff complained to consular managers about the officers’ conduct, which involved use of abrasive language and tone with visa applicants and frequent pressure on LE staff to translate the rude comments.
“Although consular managers attempted to address the officers’ conduct and had kept the previous DCM fully informed, the officers’ conduct continued to be a problem even during the inspection. After OIG questioned their handling of the situation, consular managers worked with the Front Office and the Human Resources Officer to take further action. As a result, OIG did not make a recommendation to address this issue.”
Continue reading here: http://theconsulsfiles.blogspot.com/2020/06/your-mother-taught-you-better-than-this.html
Folks who’ve been with us for over a decade may remember that MLC went missing way back when (The Hunt for Madam le Consul).  Now says she’s over 21 and “I can write anything I feel like writing.”
Welcome back, MLC!

“Strikeforce Incursion” Announced Via Tweet Blows Up in Venezuela, Two U.S. Citizens in Custody

 

Top 10 Countries: @StateDept Repatriation of U.S. Citizens as of April 29, 2020

 

The State Department’s May 1st update notes that it has now coordinated the repatriation of 76,030 Americans on 810 flights from 126 countries and territories including  six flights from six countries in South and Central America repatriated approximately 800 U.S. citizens on April 30 and a charter flight from India carrying approximately 300 Americans arrived in the U.S. on May 1.
Based on the State Department’s data, Western Hemisphere countries based on number of U.S. citizens evacuated remain the top eight out of 10 countries.  India and Pakistan, both under the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) are the only non-WHA countries in the top 10 counties.

4/22 Proclamation Suspends Entry of Immigrants For 60 Days; @StateDept Already Suspended Routine Visa Services on 3/18

 

 

State/CA released this on April 23, 2020: Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak

On Wednesday, April 22, President Trump signed a proclamation suspending entry into the United States of certain immigrants who present risk to the U.S. labor market during the economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak.  The proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 23 and expires in 60 days, unless continued by the President.  

U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and those holding valid immigrant visas on the effective date of the Proclamation, are not subject to the proclamation.  The Proclamation is not retroactive. No valid visas will be revoked under this Proclamation.  The proclamation provides exceptions to its restrictions for certain categories of immigrants, including: certain healthcare professionals, aliens seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an EB-5 investor visa, spouses and children (categories IR2, CR2, IR3, IH3, IR4, IH4) of U.S. citizens, members of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces, and aliens seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa.  Please refer to the proclamation for a full list of exceptions.   Routine visas services have been suspended at U.S. posts worldwide, but as resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services for applicants who are not subject to this presidential proclamation. 

The full text of the presidential proclamation is available on the White House website at:  

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-immigrants-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-economic-recovery-following-covid-19-outbreak/

See immigrant visa categories here.
Per Sec 2.(b)  of the Proclamation.
The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:

(i)     any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

(ii)    any alien seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees;  and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such alien who are accompanying or following to join the alien;

(iii)   any alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;

(iv)    any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen;

(v)     any alien who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;

(vi)    any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;

(vii)   any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;

(viii)  any alien seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or

(ix)    any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

Note that the  State Department already suspended routine visa services in most countries on March 18, 2020.

If your routine visa services are still open during this pandemic, please tell us why (Updated)

Foreign Service Posts Around the World: Repatriation Flights (Photos)

According to the State Department, as of April 24, 2020, 3:00 p.m. EDT, it has coordinated the repatriation of 67,448 Americans on 716 flights from 124 countries and territories. Below are some photos from some foreign service posts who did repatriation flights in April (not an exhaustive list).
During the April 22 briefing, agency officials note that they’re “tracking something like 17,000 people who have expressed some degree of interest in maybe getting our help” but also said that the number in the thousands is “not all that meaningful” as  “there are others who have been registered by, for example, their children in the United States saying, “My aging parents are in country X,” Peru or wherever, “and they should be getting out of there,” and in fact those aging parents have no particular interest or desire to leave.”

@StateDept Repatriation of U.S. Citizens: Top 10 Countries (As of April 5, 2020)

 

According to the Department of State, as of April 5 2020, 3:30 p.m. EDT, it has coordinated the repatriation of 43,116 Americans from 78 countries since January 29, 2020. The agency’s repatriation page including countries, the number of Americans repatriated and number of flights are available here. Based on its data, we have put together the top 10 countries by number of American citizens repatriated, and added the regional bureaus for each country.
The top seven countries by repatriation numbers are located in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA), followed by two countries in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), and Ghana from the Bureau of African Affairs (AF). Full list of countries and evacuees are available here.

 

Via April 3 Briefing, on Peru, and the State Department “looking at about 22,000 overseas still” from SCA and WHA.

QUESTION: Great. I was hoping you could give a little bit more clarification on the situation in Peru. I thought I heard you say that the last flight out would be on Monday but that you were going to continue to try to make arrangements for charter flights. So I was wondering if you could expand on that a little bit. And also, if you are aware of any countries where the last flights out are looming. Thank you.

MR BROWNLEE: Yeah, thank you, Carol. The situation in Peru is this. We had a hiatus yesterday, April 2nd. We had – were a number of flights up through April 1st. We had a hiatus yesterday. Flights resume today, April 3rd. We have several coming out today. We will have several running through the weekend and through Monday. We are talking to the Peruvian Government about getting permissions for subsequent flights if needed. And that’s an important caveat at this point, because we are finding that demand particularly in Peru seems to be fluctuating. I’ve mentioned to you guys before that we’ve had people show up at the airport literally with suitcases in hand and then decide to stay. As we put out calls saying is anybody else out there, we find new people coming in even now saying, “Well, yeah, I thought I’d bring myself forward.” It remains a somewhat dynamic number as to how many want to come out of Peru, and if need be, we will continue.

We are also – and Hugo might be able to shed more light on this – we are talking to the commercial carriers about resuming direct bill operations into Peru in lieu of the State Department chartered flights. The bottom line: Got flights through Monday, talking about more, we might want to – we might go the commercial option. Hugo, do you want to say anything on that score?

MR YON: Absolutely. This is Hugo. Yes, in Peru that is correct. It is actually the Peruvian Government has – after we’ve done a number of these charter flights from the State Department, the Peruvian government has softened and are willing to let some limited commercial rescue flights go in, so we are in discussions actively now with our U.S. airlines to provide that lift in future days.

Let me also just give the number that Matt had asked about in terms of the commercial rescue flights, how many number. The number we’ve gotten from our airlines collectively is 166 flights that carried the over 17,000, and each day that does grow – 166 flights. Over.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks for doing this. Just a couple quick questions. First of all, Ian, when you say that you weren’t tracking the flight from Russia, that’s because it was a commercial flight, correct? And are you now going to have to start looking into different options to get Americans out?

Do you have an update to the total number of Americans still overseas who are asking for help, and then specifically on Peru, there are a lot of Americans in remote areas. Are you still doing busing or other ways of getting them to Lima or Cusco to get them out, and are you considering outside contractors to do some of that work, like Warrior Angel Rescue.

MR BROWNLEE: Sure. Let me go back to the Russia question. You’re absolutely correct, we were not tracking – I was not tracking that flight, but I’ve received an email since I was asked that question saying yes, it was a commercial plane. We don’t know – at this point know why it was literally on the tarmac taxiing when it was denied permission to take off. We don’t know why that would be. The Russian Government apparently denied it permission to take off. We will look at other options for helping U.S. citizens return from Russia now that that last commercial flight has been pulled down.

The total number we’re looking at overseas at this point is – and bear with me a moment – we are tracking approximately – we’re looking at about 22,000 overseas still. The greatest number of those – certainly the plurality of those – are in South and Central Asia, many of them in India. We’re also looking at a large number of people still in the Western Hemisphere – in WHA – and Africa. It’s really those three regions are the bulk of people who are overseas, but the total number we’re tracking is about 22,000.

In – with regard to Peru, yes, we’re still running what we call sweeper operations to bring people in from remote areas. In some cases this is by bus, in some cases we’re using the INL, the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement plane. It’s a 15-passenger plane, so we’ve sent that out to a number of remote areas to bring people into Lima for repatriation. Other people are being brought in, as you say, by NGOs such as Angel Warrior. But we’re running a pretty effective operation, I think, pulling people out of the remoter areas. Over.