FS family members 14 and up are forcibly quarantined separately from their families in China?

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

Below from Sender A:
State is forcing teenage EFMs 14 and up to forcibly quarantine separately from their families in China. Imagine PCS’ing to a new post and being told the 14 year old child had to quarantine for two weeks alone in a hotel room separated from their parents. How did L sign off on this? This is a legal nightmare waiting to unfold. What 14 year old should be locked alone in a room for two weeks and have all their food brought to them…. no food delivery allowed. What if the child struggles from 14 days of isolation?

We’ve learned previously from a separate source that the Department is requiring employees to fulfill local quarantine rules on arrival in a country, as they apply to diplomats. That’s expected. It would not want the perception of skirting local rules amidst a global pandemic. Back in March, when Mainland China news alleged that the US staffers claimed diplomatic immunity to avoid quarantine in Hong Kong, the State Department pushed back and called it “absolutely false.”
A former ambassador pointed out that Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that “Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State.” The former official noted that under the normal course of events, an undertaking to quarantine within the embassy premises would normally be agreeable to the local authorities.
We understand that some countries have even waived them for diplomats or allowed diplomats to do it at their embassy quarters. We’re talking about quarantine at entry as opposed to an isolation required due to illness.  But not China. One source called its entry requirements, the “most onerous.” The quarantine is reportedly for all “regardless of test status.”  We were informed that this involves “something like 14 days in a hotel in the arrival city and then a stay at home for another 7 days in your destination city, with multiple tests along the way.”
The EAP bureau and Mission China were supposedly communicating to FS people relocating to China what the requirements are and what they should expect. The rules are “rigid and exacting” we were told.  We understand that a particularly egregious requirement is that couples have to quarantine separately. We were, however, told that the United States had supposedly “received earlier assurances” from the Chinese that in situation where kids are involved, at least one parent would be able to stay with the children.
So, if teens are now being quarantined alone, and separate from the parent/parents — what happened?
  • 1) Is this a case of arbitrary enforcement of local laws?
  • 2) If they’re separating 14 year olds from their parents for the quarantine, why is 14 the magic number?
  • 3) So the host country just now decided not to follow through with its prior assurances, why?
  • 4) Was this so unexpected EAP and Mission China did not get a chance to forewarn incoming FS families?
  • 5) Did State/L sign off on this? If yes, why?If not, what is it going to do about it – just let families bear it?
  • 6) USG and China must have exchanged Diplomatic Notes, what’s in it?
Excerpt from US Mission China’s COVID-19 Information updated on April 20, 2021:

All travelers, including U.S. citizens who enter China, are screened upon arrival and subject to a minimum 14-day quarantine. While restrictions around domestic travel within China have eased, local quarantine requirements can vary significantly between cities, and regulations can change very quickly. All international arrivals should be prepared to complete quarantine at a government-selected facility or hotel at their own expense, with no control over the amenities, even if they maintain a residence in China. Cities and provinces within China may also require quarantine for domestic travelers, regardless of nationality.

The US Consulate General in Hong Kong has an update dated May 10:

Starting May 12, 2012, fully vaccinated individuals will be able to reduce their quarantine by 7 days. Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States will complete 14 days in a designated quarantine hotel and then self-monitor the remaining 7 days. For full information about reduced quarantine, please see the Hong Kong government’s press release.

When we previously blogged about quarantine, the former ambassador also pointed out that our relations with the Chinese “have involved scapegoating them for their failure instantly to recognize and act to control the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, coupled with all sorts of conspiracy theories and uncouth accusations by our former secretary of state and others.  So, it would not be surprising that they would not cut us much slack.”
What else is going on between US and China the last couple of months?
On April 8, 2021, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added seven Chinese supercomputing entities to the Entity List for conducting activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.
On May 10, the SFRC approved S. 1169 Strategic Competition Act of 2021 signaling bipartisan support in “laying out a strategic approach towards Beijing – and assuring that the United States is positioned to compete with China across all dimensions of national and international power for decades to come”.

 

Related posts:

 

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Detained Ex-Campaign Staffer and Diplomatic Spouse Vitali Shkliarov Leaves Belarus

 

Ukraine: US Embassy Kyiv Spouse Micala Siler Killed While Jogging

Obituary: Micala “Mikey” Christie-Hicks Siler (December 19, 1978 – September 30, 2020)

@StateDept’s Rules Governing the Use of Social Media by Eligible Family Members

 

Related to D/SecState Biegun Alerts @StateDept Employees to Updated Guidance For Political Activities Restrictions, we’ found this item from the FLO’s FAQ on the use of social media by EFMs.
Via state.gov/FLO/FAQ
What are the Department’s rules governing the use of social media by eligible family members?
    • 3 FAM 4170 sets out Department policy for employees on public speaking, teaching, writing, and media engagement, including the use of social media. Social media posts pertaining to U.S. foreign policy written in an employee’s capacity as a private citizen must be reviewed/cleared by the appropriate office (3 FAM 4174.3). These provisions apply to Eligible Family Members (EFMs) when they are employed by the Department in any capacity in the United States or abroad, including those EFMs working at post under either an appointment or Personal Service Agreement (PSA) and/or who are members of the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC). EFMs who are in Intermittent No Work Scheduled (INWS) status or members of the FSFRC in Reserve Status, are employees of the Department and must abide by Department policies.
    • Where review is required, the Final Review Office for FSFRC members at post (even if not currently working in a position at post) is the Chief of Mission or his/her designee. For FSFRC members residing in the U.S., the Bureau of Public Affairs is the Final Review Office. (See 3 FAM 4174.3.)
    • The provisions of 3 FAM 4170 apply only to employees and, as such, do not apply to EFMs who are not currently employed by the Department in any capacity (i.e., not working at post or domestically for the Department or not a member of the FSFRC); however, the general provisions governing outside activities would be applicable, and the non-employee EFM should be cognizant of the general guidance provided in 3 FAM 4125 (Outside Employment and Activities by Spouses and Family Members Abroad). There is no expectation of privacy on social networking sites. Even where users have taken privacy precautions, hackers and other bad actors may still be able to access information.
Links to the Foreign Affairs Manual inserted above. Below is the specific cite linked to by D/Biegun in recent message (3 FAM 4123.3 (Employee Responsibilities Abroad/Political Activities):

3 FAM 4123.3  Political Activities

(TL:PER-491;   12-23-2003)
(Uniform State/USAID/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Foreign Service National, and Civil Service)

A U.S. citizen employee, spouse, or family member shall not engage in partisan political activities abroad, other than authorized activities pertaining to U.S. elections.  This provision shall not preclude a locally hired U.S. citizen employee, who also is a national of the country of residence, from exercising political rights deriving from that foreign nationality.

Shall not as in a commanding must not?  Or else what?
Does the recent Pompeo-approved updated guidance for political activities restrictions from the L bureau addresses 3 FAM 4123.3 order and spouses not currently employed?  Does this regs apply to all EFMs or are there exceptions? If so, what are the exceptions? Best to ask now, or later after surprises?

UK Charges USG Spouse Anne Sacoolas in Harry Dunn’s Car Crash Death

 

We previously posted in early October that an American diplomat’s wife suspected of involvement in a fatal crash that killed 19-year old Harry Dunn in Croughton, in central England has left the UK under diplomatic immunity (see U.S. Diplomatic Spouse Suspect in Fatal Traffic Collision Departs UK Under Diplomatic Immunity).
The spouse previously identified in media reports as Anne Sacoolas was charged on December 20 with “causing death by dangerous driving.”
UK Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith, said: “Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving.”  She also announced that “Now that the CPS has authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas we have started extradition proceedings.”
    • Anne Sacoolas (28/08/1977) has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving in relation to the death of Harry Dunn outside RAF Croughton on 27 August 2019. Extradition proceedings are now underway
    • Our guidance on extradition proceedings can be found here: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/extradition
The Daily Mail reports that Sacoolas, 42, the wife of a US intelligence officer (assigned to RAF Croughton) was twice interviewed by Northamptonshire Police – once on the day after the crash, and on another occasion by officers who travelled to the US.
The Dunn family’s lawyer says that their “case in the judicial review is that Anne Sacoolas never has immunity as the secret UK-US agreement for RAF Croughton did not grant it and in any case under international law/prerogative powers it is not possible to grant family members more immunities than the actual diplomat.”
The State Department and Sacoolas’ lawyer have both issued statements to the press (see below).

 

 

Must Read: Divorce and Foreign Service Retirement Benefits

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Via UNCLASSIFIED CABLE: 19 STATE 53266 Date/DTG: May 20, 2019 / 201659Z MAY 19 available via afsa.org:

1. Divorce can impact the division of Foreign Service retirement benefits. This message from the Bureau of Human Resources Office of Retirement outlines the key rules that apply under the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability System (FSRDS) and the Foreign Service Pension System (FSPS).

2. Please note that the guidance outlined in this message does not apply to Civil Service employees. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reviews and administers civil service court-ordered benefits. For more information, Civil Service employees should download Pamphlet RI 84-1 titled “Court Ordered Benefits for Former Spouses” from OPM’s website (https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/pamphlets/ri84-1.pdf) or view OPM’s presentation on Court Ordered Benefits (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZIaRfUtQB4).

Default Statutory Entitlement

3. The Foreign Service Act provides a statutory entitlement, also referred to as a default entitlement, when a former spouse is a qualified former spouse. A former spouse is a qualified former spouse if the following criteria are met: a) was married to a Foreign Service retirement plan participant for at least 10 years of his/her creditable federal service, b) at least 5 of those 10 years occurred while the participant was a member of the Foreign Service, and c) the former spouse must not have remarried prior to the commencement of any benefits and while under the age of 55 (age 60 for remarriages prior to November 8, 1984, for benefits under FSRDS). If the above criteria are met, and the former spouse is qualified, the statutory default entitlement applies regardless of the employee’s wishes, unless a spousal agreement or court order otherwise governs the disposition of benefits.

4. Under the default statutory entitlement, a qualified former spouse is entitled to a pro rata (marital) share of 50 percent of the employee’s annuity and a pro rata share of the maximum survivor benefit. The pro rata share is a fraction: the numerator is the total length of time of marriage during which the annuity was earned and the denominator is the retiree’s total creditable service. For example, if a couple was married for 14 years during the participant’s creditable service and the participant retired with 20 years of creditable service, then the pro rata share would be 14/20, or 70 percent. The former spouse would therefore receive 35 percent of the participant’s retired pay (which is half of the 70 percent pro rata share) while the participant would receive the remaining 65 percent.

Deviating From Statutory Entitlement

5. The Foreign Service default statutory entitlement may be altered through a valid court order or notarized spousal agreement. For example, a valid court order or spousal agreement can provide an express waiver of the former spouse’s statutory entitlement or provide that the former spouse’s entitlement be based on a different calculation method than the default calculation provided for by statute. Additionally, a valid court order or spousal agreement can award benefits even if the former spouse was not married to the retiree during his/her creditable Foreign Service or even if the marriage lasted fewer than 10 years. For a court order to be given effect for a former spouse, the order must be issued within two years of any divorce or annulment becoming final.

6. Any spousal agreement or court order that claims to alter or waive retirement benefits that are due under the Foreign Service Act to a former spouse must do so expressly in order for the alteration or waiver to be effective. To expressly waive or alter benefits under the Foreign Service Act, any spousal agreement or court order must specifically refer to Foreign Service retirement benefits. Merely mentioning generic retirement benefits or erroneously referring to retirement benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) is insufficient to constitute a valid waiver or alteration of benefits. For example, to constitute an express waiver or alteration, the parties may specify that the relevant language in the agreement or order pertains to survivor annuities or pensions under the Foreign Service Act, under the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability System if the annuitant is a FSRDS participant, or under the Foreign Service Pension System if the annuitant is a FSPS participant.

7. In cases where the Department determines that a spousal agreement or court order language is insufficient, the parties may negotiate a new agreement or, in certain circumstances, return to court to correct the problem. A notarized spousal agreement may change the amount of the pension paid to the former spouse at any time. A court order can adjust the amount of a survivor annuity to a former spouse provided it is issued before the death of an employee/annuitant.

Submit Your Divorce Documents For Review

8. Foreign Service members must submit all relevant divorce documentation to the Bureau of Human Resources Office of Retirement (HR/RET) prior to retirement. HR/RET strongly encourages employees to do so prior to, or at the time of divorce, or no later than one year before retirement. In cases where years have passed since the divorce, it sometimes takes time to locate the former spouse. In other cases, state court orders may fail to meet federal standards or one party contends that the order has a different meaning than the Department’s interpretation. Thus, the parties sometimes must return to court to correct the problem. That process can take time.

9. To check in advance for such problems, Foreign Service employees should e-mail a certified copy of the entire court order and all attachments to the HR Service Center at HRSC@state.gov or e-mail that address asking for mailing instructions. HR/RET will review the documentation and provide the employee and their former spouse with a divorce determination letter addressing what, if any, retirement benefits a former spouse is entitled to.

Changes In Marital Status After Retirement

10. Foreign Service annuitants (retirees, their survivors, and former spouses) must report all changes in marital status (divorce, marriage/remarriage, or death of spouse) by notifying the HR Service Center and providing the relevant documentation.

11. Delays by annuitants in reporting a marriage/remarriage occurring after the participant’s retirement can permanently prevent a survivor election. A retiree who remarries after retirement has a limited period of time within which they may be eligible to make a survivor election for the new spouse. Under FSRDS, a retiree has only one year from the date of marriage/remarriage to elect a survivor annuity for a spouse acquired after retirement. For a FSPS retiree, there is a two-year deadline. When deciding whether to make a survivor election for a spouse acquired after retirement, it is important to consider that in order to remain eligible for FEHB benefits, a retiree’s surviving spouse must be eligible to receive a survivor annuity(whether or not the annuity would be payable in whole or in part to a former spouse).

For More Information

12. We understand this short message cannot address every conceivable situation. Therefore, additional questions may be sent to HRSC@state.gov.

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Snapshot: 3 FAM 1217 Participation of Spouse (in Representational, Charitable, or Social Activities)

 

“Unless working as an employee or contractor, participation of a spouse in the work of a post is a voluntary act of a private person, not a legal obligation which can be imposed by any Foreign Service officer (FSO) or spouse. Nonparticipation of a spouse in representational, charitable, or social activities in no way reflects on the employees effectiveness on the job.”

Cite: 3 FAM 1217
(CT:PER-924;   09-21-2018)
(Uniform State/USAID/USAGM/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees Only)

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@StateDept Shows “We Care About Diplomatic Spouses” By Creating Jobs Few Can Fill

Posted: 12:54 am PT

 

When you hear that people are besides themselves … because in the latest Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) qualifications round, posts don’t have anyone who qualified for anything because the qualifications bars are set too damn high. Is this the State Department’s way of showing “we care about spouses” so we created 400 new jobs but “don’t blame us” if you can’t qualify for these jobs (that were purposely designed to screen out just about everyone)?

For more about the EPAP program and the new qualification standards introduced under Tillerson’s tenure but now carried over under Pompeo’s watch, see below:

Oh, but if you’re a family member and have an MA/MS in Business or Public Administration with a concentration in Accounting or Finance and no specialized experience, HURRY! There is a vacancy waiting just for you at the US Embassy in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire as  a financial management professional associate (FP-03).  The good news is they’ve updated this requirement in February 2018. In January, they previously required that the financial management position at the FP-03 level must have a Ph.D. in Business or Public Administration, a requirement that they do not even ask of Financial Management Officer candidates.  But hey spouses are special, right?

Also a bonus tweet for everyone who are the “unsung heroes” of the State Department from the Acting Director General of the Foreign Service:

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