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

Update: March 16, 4:58 PDT US Embassy Seoul, South Korea still doing routine visa services (see below)
From a March 14 message from State/M Brian Bulatao:
“We may never have experienced a situation exactly like this before, but the Department has plenty of experience dealing with emergencies. We know that we have to make good decisions for ourselves, for our families, for our colleagues, and are actively taking into account the needs and challenges of individual team members who may be at a higher risk if they contract COVID-19.
This means, if you are sick, please stay home. If a member of your household is sick, please stay home. If you think you may have been exposed, it is best to stay home – you do not have to take annual leave if you are set up to telework. Reducing contact with other people is our best defense against the spread of the virus.”
If your routine visa services are still open during this pandemic, we’d like to know why.
If your post is able to do social distancing for visa applicants while continuing full services, we’d like to know how.
At the US Embassy in Israel, a COVID19-positive individual visited the Embassy Branch Office Non-Immigrant Visa Section waiting room in Tel Aviv on March 5, the Embassy announced that it directed its affected staff to quarantine on March 12.
US Embassy Seoul: We’re told that despite being a Level 3 COVID-19 country with very active community spread for the past few weeks, has continued to do routine NIV visa services and is still doing routine NIV visa services. “Those from epicenter areas are able to walk in like anyone else. No temp checks or additional screenings! Guards are not allowed to turn visibly sick people away. Visa appointments are only down because people aren’t traveling as much. However you can still get an appointment easily for (F, M, J, B) This is also a visa waiver country.”  (Note: South Korea is a CDC Level 3 country, and a State Department Level 3: Reconsider Travel country as of this writing).

Updated: 5:30 PDT, March 18, 2020

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U.S. Embassy Vienna Partners With McDonald’s to Assist U.S. Citizens in Need, Cue the McJokes

U.S. Embassy Vienna Partners With McDonald’s to Assist U.S. Citizens in Need, Cue the McJokes

 

 

 

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Vienna (@usembvienna) announced on FB that the U.S. Ambassador to Austria Trevor D. Traina signed a Memorandum of Agreement with McDonald’s Austria that would allow the Golden Arches to assist Americans in need. McDonald’s staff will reportedly assist Americans in distress if they need consular assistance but have no way to contact the U.S. Embassy.

It looks like this FB post is actually their most popular one with over 200 comments though with varied reactions from the public.

“Come on! It sounds so ridiculous!”

“Great idea!”

“Happy meal for the distressed Americans in Austria 🍔

“One McPassport to go, please”

“Can I get uh….. a… diplomatic assistance meal please?”

“Would you like to supersize your passport? “

“I will have small coffee, egg mcmuffin and a passport, on the side please”

“The land of the fries and the home of Big Mac.”

“Can you help me find the McEmbassy?”

“As a U.S. citizen, I find it odd that this seems to be an endorsement for a specific corporation.”

One commenter asked if “this in lieu of a staffed embassy?” and US Embassy Vienna set that right with “Certainly not. Our Embassy is fully staffed and ready to assist American citizens in need. This partnership is only one extra way for Americans to connect to the Embassy when they are in an emergency situation.”

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US Embassy El Salvador: Peace Corps Suspends Program in World’s New Murder Capital

Posted: 12:42 am EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

On January 11, Peace Corps announced the suspension of its program in El Salvador where there were 58 volunteers assigned.  The program was previously suspended in 1980 amid increasing violence prior to the civil war.  The government of El Salvador invited the Peace Corps to return to El Salvador in 1993 after the signing of the Peace Accords that ended the civil war.  In 1994, Peace Corps El Salvador invited new two-year Volunteers to serve in the project areas of Water Sanitation and Health, Agroforestry and Soil Conservation, and Small Business Development.  Volunteers have worked in El Salvador since then until this year’s program suspension. Below is the announcement:

The Peace Corps today announced the suspension of its program in El Salvador due to the ongoing security environment. The agency will continue to monitor the security situation in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador to determine when the program can resume.

The Peace Corps has enjoyed a long partnership with the government and people of El Salvador and is committed to resuming volunteers’ work there in a safe and secure environment.

Volunteers’ health, safety and security are the Peace Corps’ top priorities. More than 2,300 Peace Corps volunteers have worked on community and youth development projects in communities throughout El Salvador since the program was established in 1962.

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USA Today recently called El Salvador the world’s new murder capital:

Government data show 6,657 people were murdered in the small country last year, a 70% increase from 2014. The homicide rate of 104 people per 100,000 is the highest for any country in nearly 20 years, according to data from the World Bank.

“Keep in mind, you’re talking about the national average,” Adriana Beltrán of the Washington Office on Latin America said about El Salvador’s homicide rate. “If you start looking at where the pockets of violence are, it’s shocking.”

A June 22, 2015 Travel Warning  continues to warn U.S. citizens that crime and violence levels in El Salvador remain high, and U.S. citizens traveling to El Salvador should remain alert to their surroundings.  The Travel Warning notes that there is no information to suggest that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted by criminals; however, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country.” Since January 2010, 34 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador including a nine-year-old child in December 2013. During the same time period, 419 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen, while others were victims of violent crimes.”

Last summer, the Guardian reported that “With one killing on average every hour, August is on course to be the deadliest month since the 1992 peace accord. On current trends, the homicide rate will pass 90 per 100,000 people in 2015, overtaking that of Honduras as the highest in the world (not including battlegrounds like Syria). This would make El Salvador almost 20 times deadlier than the US and 90 times deadlier than the UK.”

El Salvador has been a 15% COLA and 15% hardship differential since September 7, 2014. It  is not designated as a danger pay post.

The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador is headed by Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte, a noncareer appointee  who assumed charged in 2010. She has been nominated in July 2015 to be the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States(OAS). That nomination is currently pending in the SFRC.  Her second in command is career FSO, Michael Barkin who was previously the Deputy Director of the Office of Canadian Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) and served as Principal Officer and Consul General in Matamoros, Mexico.

 

Related itms:

El Salvador Travel Warning | June 22, 2015

El Salvador 2015 Crime and Safety Report | May 20, 2015

 

More posts:

 

 

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Burn Bag: Gotta Get This Off My Chest Moment — “I hate serving as duty officer.”

Via Burn Bag:

“I have spent most of my adult life avoiding the crazy, the incompetent and the stupid.   But, once a year when I have the duty officer tour, they are funneled directly to me. I hate serving as duty officer.”

Via

Via Foreign Service Problems: When you’re the duty officer and you get a call from an AmCit who is sure that the embassy has a helicopter and demands that you send said helicopter to pick them up from their hike because the AmCit is tired of hiking.

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