@StateDept’s Immigrant Visa Processing Portal #CEAC Down For 10 Days Now

Posted: 1:15 pm PT
Update: July 31, 2:32 | It looks like the CEAC website is once again functional as of today.  

 

The State Department’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) for immigrant visas has been down since at least July 20th.  We can confirm that the service affected is specific to immigrant visa applicants and does not affect nonimmigrant visa applications.  We understand from a source that  the National Visa Center (NVC) that is using the website to allow applicants to send their paperwork to the consulates doesn’t have any information about the reasons or the possible timeframe on when it will be back on. We were told although we’re unable to confirm that “appointments have been canceled this time as well and it affected every consulate in the world that is using the new “faster” digital processing system.”

On July 26, we requested clarification from the Consular Affairs bureau if this is a scheduled maintenance and if they have a time frame when this will be completed. The following is a comment we received from a State Department official on background in response to our inquiry:

The Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) Immigrant Visa web portal is currently unavailable due to maintenance. During this time, IV applicants will be unable to access/login to the CEAC Immigrant Visa Agent (DS-261), Online Immigrant Visa Application (DS-260), or the Immigrant Visa Fee Payment portal. The CEAC Immigrant Visa application Status Check and Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) are not impacted by this maintenance. For urgent cases that are already at an overseas post, applicants may be asked to complete a paper-based immigrant visa application (DS-230), which will be provided by the local consulate or embassy. We regret the inconvenience to travelers and recognize the hardship for those waiting for visas, and in some cases, their family members or employers in the United States, during this maintenance period.

A quick scan of a few u.s. embassies’ visa webpages indicate no announcement of the system’s unavailability, however, travelstate.gov does have a highlighted announcement at the top of its page that says:

Immigrant visa forms and fee payments are currently unavailable in the Consular Electronic Application Center. We apologize for the inconvenience. We’re working to resolve this and hope to have the system fully functional as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.

Apparently, some attorneys who made inquiries were told that a planned weekend update to the system resulted in an unexpected “catastrophic failure.” On July 27, travel.state.gov tweeted the following but we’re nowhere near in learning if this was a regularly scheduled update that gone bad, if there are other technical issues, or what is the time frame for bringing this system back online.

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Trump UK Visit: Spectacular Protests, #BabyBlimp, Cartoons 😧

 

AND THEN THIS —

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Heather Nauert: From Spox to Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

Posted: 3:21 am  ET

 

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert assumed her position on April 25, 2017 (see Heather Nauert: From Fox News Channel to State Department Spokesperson). On the same day that Secretary Tillerson and Under Secretary Goldstein (see Steve Goldstein Assumes Charge as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs) were both fired, the White House also publicly designated  Heather Nauert as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R). Her official bio notes that “She will continue to serve as State Department Spokesperson.”

Ms. Nauert may not get any sleep for the next six months (must see story of the day also has a State/GEC connection). Or if as the White House told a reporter, “Heather is the only one at State we trust” what’s the likelihood that this acting position becomes a permanent appointment subject to Senate confirmation, of course?

She just skipped over her new boss at Public Affairs, and she will be dual-hatted as “R” and as spokesperson until a new nominee is confirmed. How long is that going to take? Goldstein was announced as “R” nominee in September 2017 but did not get through the confirmation process and assume office until December 2017. We have seen PA dual hatted as spox, but we don’t think we’ve ever had an R dual hatted as spox (Margaret D. Tutwiler did serve as R and Public Affairs but not concurrently, though she was dual hatted as PA/spox).

If the online details of the R bureau are current, of the fourteen senior positions currently under Ms. Nauert, five are currently vacant, five are encumbered by career officials, and four are recent political appointments from Trump campaign/connections that include Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michelle Giuda (Gingrich), DAS for Digital Strategy in the Bureau of Public Affairs Len Khodorkovsky (campaign), DAS for Strategic Communications in the Bureau of Public Affairs Adrienne Ross (?) and Senior Advisor for Public Engagement in the Bureau of Public Affairs Kathryn Wellner (campaign).

Six bureaus and offices report to the Acting Under Secretary:Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA-nominee pending)Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP-no nominee announced))Bureau of Public Affairs (PA-filled)Office of Policy, Planning and Resources (R/PPR)Expo Unit (EXPO) and the Global Engagement Center (GEC-no nominee announced).

One senior R adviser who recently left State notes the potential fallout from the Goldstein firing (see The Other Firing At State And What That Means).

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Tillerson’s COS Margaret Peterlin, and D/COS Christine Ciccone to Leave on 3/31

Posted: 2:50 am  ET

 

CNN reported late on March 13 that Tillerson’s chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, and deputy chief of staff, Christine Ciccone, also submitted their resignations on Tuesday, according to two senior State Department officials. Both are expected to serve until Tillerson leaves on March 31.

 

We wrote about Tillerson’s inner circle at State last June, see Rex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!

Politico’ Nahal Toosi also reported these departures on March 14 and notes that “Many State staffers say the two were widely disliked for severely limiting access to the secretary, sidelining career diplomats and slowing down an already cumbersome decision-making process.” And that’s not an exhaustive list.

We’d like to know what happens to the staffers that Tillerson’s aides brought with them to Foggy Bottom now that they’re leaving. Are they leaving, too? Any personnel conversions to Civil Service or conversions to special government service (SGEs)? Curious minds would like to know.

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Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson (February 1, 2017-March 13, 2018)

 

The 69th Secretary of State Rex Tillerson via state.gov:

Good afternoon, all. I received a call today from the President of the United States a little after noontime from Air Force One, and I’ve also spoken to White House Chief of Staff Kelly to ensure we have clarity as to the days ahead. What is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during a time that the country continues to face significant policy and national security challenges.

As such, effective at the end of the day, I’m delegating all responsibilities of the office of the Secretary to Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan. My commission as Secretary of State will terminate at midnight, March the 31st. Between now and then, I will address a few administrative matters related to my departure and work towards a smooth and orderly transition for Secretary of State-Designate Mike Pompeo.

I’m encouraging my policy planning team and under secretaries and assistant secretaries – those confirmed as well as those in acting positions – to remain at their post and continue our mission at the State Department in working with the interagency process. I will be meeting members of my front office team and policy planning later today to thank them for their service. They have been extraordinarily dedicated to our mission, which includes promoting values that I view as being very important: the safety and security of our State Department personnel; accountability, which means treating each other with honesty and integrity; and respect for one another, most recently in particular to address challenges of sexual harassment within the department.

I want to speak now to my State Department colleagues and to our interagency colleagues and partners at DOD and the Joint Chiefs of Staff most particularly. To my Foreign Service officers and Civil Service colleagues, we all took the same oath of office. Whether you’re career, employee, or political appointee, we are all bound by that common commitment: to support and defend the constitution, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and to faithfully discharge the duties of our office.

As a State Department, we’re bound together by that oath. We remain steadfast here in Washington and at posts across the world, many of whom are in danger pay situations without their families. The world needs selfless leaders like these, ready to work with longstanding allies, new emerging partners and allies, who now – many are struggling as democracies, and in some cases are dealing with human tragedy, crisis of natural disasters, literally crawling themselves out of those circumstances. These are experiences that no lecture hall in a academic environment or at a think tank can teach you. Only by people going to the front lines to serve can they develop this kind of talent.

To the men and women in uniform, I’m told for the first time in most people’s memory, the Department of State and Department of Defense have a close working relationship where we all agree that U.S. leadership starts with diplomacy. The men and women in uniform at the Department of Defense, under the leadership of Secretary Mattis and General Dunford, protect us as Americans and our way of life daily, at home and abroad. As an all-volunteer military, they do it for love of country, they do it for you, and they do it for me, and for no other reason. As Americans, we are all eternally grateful to each of them, and we honor their sacrifices.

The rewarding part of having leadership and partnerships in place is that you can actually get some things done. And I want to give recognition to the State Department and our partners for a few of their accomplishments under this administration.

First, working with allies, we exceeded the expectations of almost everyone with the DPRK maximum pressure campaign. With the announcement on my very first trip as Secretary of State to the region that the era of strategic patience was over, and we commenced the steps to dramatically increase not just the scope but the effectiveness of the sanctions. The department undertook a global campaign to bring partners and allies on board in every country around the world, with every embassy and mission raising this to the highest levels. And at every meeting I’ve had throughout the year, this has been on the agenda to discuss.

The adoption of the South Asia strategy with a conditions-based military plan is the tool to compel the Taliban to reconciliation and peace talks with the Afghan Government. Finally equipped are military planners with a strategy which they can execute as opposed to a succession of 16 one-year strategies. This clear military commitment attracted the support of allies broadly and equipped our diplomats with a whole new level of certainty around how to prepare for the peace talks and achieve the final objectives.

In other areas, while progress has been made, much work remains. In Syria, we did achieve important ceasefires and stabilizations, which we know has saved thousands of lives. There’s more to be done in Syria, particularly with respect to achieving the peace, as well as stabilizing Iraq and seeing a healthy government installed, and more broadly in the entire global campaign to defeat ISIS. Nothing is possible without allies and partners, though.

Much work remains to establish a clear view of the nature of our future relationship with China. How shall we deal with one another over the next 50 years and ensure a period of prosperity for all of our peoples, free of conflict between two very powerful nations?

And much work remains to respond to the troubling behavior and actions on the part of the Russian Government. Russia must assess carefully as to how its actions are in the best interest of the Russian people and of the world more broadly. Continuing on their current trajectory is likely to lead to greater isolation on their part, a situation which is not in anyone’s interest.

So to my colleagues in the State Department and in the interagency, much remains to be done to achieve our mission on behalf of the American people with allies and with partners. I close by thanking all for the privilege of serving beside you for the last 14 months. Importantly, to the 300-plus million Americans, thank you for your devotion to a free and open society, to acts of kindness towards one another, to honesty, and the quiet hard work that you do every day to support this government with your tax dollars.

All of us, we know, want to leave this place as a better place for the next generation. I’ll now return to private life as a private citizen, as a proud American, proud of the opportunity I’ve had to serve my country. God bless all of you. God bless the American people. God bless America.

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U.S. Foreign Service Posts Mark the 2018 Lunar New Year #YearoftheDog

Posted: 12:46 am ET

 

Via AIT Taiwan:

AND THEN THIS —

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzM4NzI2NTE0NA

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@TheOnion Exclusive: Secretary Tillerson Having a Blast in Foggy Bottom

Posted: 1:21 am ET

 

Remember The Many Adventures of Secretary of State John Kerry (2013-2017) via The Onion?  Several months after he took office, Secretary Tillerson also got The Onion treatment (see here, here, and here)  But the latest update has the potential to make our top diplomat go viral. Given the 7th Floor’s legendary lack of humor, IMOs may soon get an IMMEDIATE instruction to keep Foggy Bottom’s eyeballs away. Hurrrry! Read it here before the Bureau of Public Affairs asks The Onion to take it down!

“Leaping out from behind a wall as Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” blared from the building’s intercom, a pantless Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slid across the waxed marble floors of the completely empty State Department, sources confirmed Wednesday.”

Bob Seger! The Onion really outdid itself with that music; too bad there’s no YouTube video! We heard that we may have to wait a while for the Gobi Desert, or the Isle of Embers adventures because he’s busy with his passion project.

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Senate Finally Confirms Brownback as Ambassador-at-Large, Kansas Sighs With Relief

Posted: 12:27 am ET

 

On January 24, the Senate finally confirmed the nomination of Governor Samuel Brownback to be the Ambassador-at-Large at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. The office resides under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) which in under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. The previous appointees to this position includes David Nathan Saperstein (2015), Suzan Denise Johnson Cook (2011–2013), John V. Hanford 3rd (2002–2009), and Robert A. Seiple (1999–2000). The office is responsible for the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

Via state.gov:

In October 1998, President Clinton signed into law the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), passed unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Act mandated the establishment of an Office of International Religious Freedom within the Department of State, headed by an Ambassador-at-Large who serves as principal advisor to the President and Secretary of State in matters concerning religious freedom abroad.

The Act has been amended a number of times over the years, most recently by the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which President Obama signed into law in December 2016. 22 U.S. Code Chapter 73.

The IRFA requires the preparation and transmittal to Congress of an Annual Report on International Religious Freedom detailing the status of religious freedom in each foreign country, violations of religious freedom by foreign governments, and United States’ actions and policies in support of religious freedom. Separately, the IRFA also requires that each year the President designate as a “Country of Particular Concern” each country the government of which has engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.

Per annual designation under IRFA, the Secretary of State designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as “Countries of Particular Concern”. On January 4, 2018, the Department of State announced that the Secretary of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on December 22, 2017. The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom.

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@JonHuntsman and @usconsvlad Jump Into Icy Water For Orthodox Epiphany

Posted: 12:02 am ET

 

The US Ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman and Consul General Michael Keays (and staffers) of US Consulate Vladivostok in separate events marked the Orthodox Ephiphany like millions of Russians by jumping into freezing waters. Take a look. We felt the polar woes just watching. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!

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Nambia Bites Back: Come Visit “Sh*thole Namibia” With Over 300 Days of Sunshine

Posted: 2:49 am ET

 

VPOTUS is on overseas travel, and during his interview with The Associated Press, the poor man defended President Trump over his recent comments “disparaging immigration from Africa and Haiti, telling the AP that the president’s “heart” is aimed at a merit-based system that is blind to immigrants’ “race or creed.”

In Haiti, Reuters reported that about a couple thousand people took to the streets of Port-Au-Prince, the capital and most populous city in the country to protest comments attributed to the U.S. President about the nation being a “shithole” country. Early Monday morning, the US Embassy in Haiti announced that it was expecting a large protests outside the embassy. “Please limit your coming and going to/from the Embassy during this time. If the protest is large and/or violent, U.S. Embassy employees will be expected to shelter in place. No one will be able to enter or depart during this time and anyone outside of the Embassy will be directed to shelter in place at an offsite location.”

Meanwhile, a tour agency in Namibia has turned Donald Trump’s slur into a sales pitch.

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