Friday, April 8, 2011

State Dept Shutdown Details: Non-Emergency Consular Services To Stop, Routine Visa Services to be Suspended

The State Department has issued guidance to posts overseas in preparation for the government shutdown that may/may not happen at 12:01 AM on April 9. Below are excerpts from an unclassified cable STATE 00031768 (via AFSA):

C. The Bureau of Consular Affairs, as well as other areas in the Department, undertake a combination of excepted and non-excepted activities related to consular services. For the most part, visa and passport functions are not excepted activities, nor do fees entirely cover them. Instead, the Department relies on a mix of fee-funded and appropriation- funded employees and is dependent on support services that would be scaled back or eliminated during a shutdown. Therefore, the Department will not operate these non-excepted functions in the absence of appropriated funding.

D. Consular Operations Domestically: For all practical purposes, passport offices will be closed for the acceptance of new applications. Emergency passport services will be provided. As part of an orderly shutdown, domestic passport agency staff will remain on the job to process expedited applications already in the system. Domestic Bureau of Consular Affairs offices that must remain operational to support overseas excepted services are themselves engaged in excepted activities and will remain staffed at the appropriate minimal level.
Expedited passports will be processed immediately. Following the rescission of the furlough, non- expedited passports will be processed in the order of date received. In order to advance the safety of human life and in order to carry out authorized functions, CA will support the provision of emergency services for U.S. citizens overseas, including but not limited to those detailed in section D below; staff and support, as necessary, task forces related to U.S. citizens in crisis situations; and take urgent action to prevent international parental child abductions.

E. Consular Operations Overseas: Consular sections should cease the provision of routine consular services.

i. Routine services to U.S. citizens will be suspended; posts should provide only those services related to U.S. citizen emergencies necessary for the safety of human life or otherwise to carry out excepted activities, which include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Emergency passport issuance;
  • Deaths;
  • Arrests and detentions;
  • Welfare and whereabouts requests related to in-process parental child abduction cases and other instances where refusal to act would result in the endangerment of a U.S.citizen;
  • Emergency repatriation, Emergency Medical and Dietary Assistance (EMDA), and medical evacuation loans;
  • Continued payment to overseas beneficiaries of federal benefits already received by posts;
  • Assistance in extraditions and prisoner transfers that are in their final stages;
  • Support for in-process emergency adoption cases (such as when the child's health or safety is at risk) that are at the point of visa issuance, when the adoptive parents are in country to pick up the child to return to the United States;
  • Assistance in returning abducted children to the United States from abroad or from the United States to the child's home country;
  • All necessary consular functions at posts involved in crisis management activities, until the Department determines the crisis to have passed;
  • Support for consular systems, including software, fobs, Blackberries, and laptops that are essential to support emergency consular functions; and
  • Other exceptional or compelling circumstances that affect U.S. citizens, as determined by Overseas Citizens Services (CA/OCS) management.
ii. Posts abroad would process to conclusion any passport applications on hand at the time of shutdown. Excepted service would also include truly compelling emergency visa services (i.e., the issuance of a non-immigrant visa to an individual with a critically ill family member in the United States, diplomatic emergencies, adoption cases as described above, and immigrant visa cases in which the applicant will turn 21 and lose the claim to immigrant status). Posts should continue to review and pass to the Department urgent Visa Viper information. Routine visa services would be suspended. Posts should bear in mind that the Bureau of Consular Affairs will be minimally staffed during a shutdown.

Via AFSA | Guidance from the State Department Regarding Possible 2011 Shutdown

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