AMERICAN CITIZEN SERVICES NEWSLETTER for South Korea – FEBRUARY 2008

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U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassy Seoul
Consular Section, American Citizen Services (ACS) Newsletter
February 2008

The U.S. Embassy is transmitting the following monthly newsletter via its warden system as a public service to U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea.  Please feel free to disseminate this message to U.S. citizens in your organizations or to other Americans you know.

In this issue:

1. Increases to U.S. Passport Fees and New Parental Signature Requirements for U.S. Minors
2. Visa Rules for Foreign Instructors
3. English-Language Resources for Americans in Seoul
4. Ten Ways to Help Ensure That Your Absentee Vote Is Counted
5. Overseas Vote Foundation
6. Recent Travel Warnings and Announcements
7. Upcoming Holidays: February 6-8, February 18
8. Embassy Contact Information

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1. INCREASES TO U.S. PASSPORT FEES AND NEW PARENTAL SIGNATURE REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. MINORS
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As of February 1, 2008, the U.S. Government is increasing fees for certain U.S. citizen passport services.  For adult applicants renewing a passport, the total fee is now $75.  For first-time applicants age 16 and over, the total fee is now $100.  The fee for minors under 16 years of age is now $85.

Effective February 1, 2008, passport applicants who are U.S. citizen minors under the age of 16 must appear personally with their parents to establish identity, proof of citizenship, and proof of relationship.   For parental application permission, both parents must appear together and sign, or one parent may appear to sign and submit the other parent’s notarized statement, or one parent may appear, sign, and submit primary evidence of sole authority.  Minors age 16 and 17 may apply in person with their own identification, but for security reasons, parental consent may be required.  If your child does not have identification of his or her own, a parent will be required to accompany the child and present identification.

Please refer to the Department of State’s website at www.travel.state.gov for complete information on all new requirements, including downloadable revised forms that must be used as of February 1.  Also please see the U.S. Embassy’s website at www.asktheconsul.org for complete U.S. passport application instructions.

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2. VISA RULES FOR FOREIGN INSTRUCTORS
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The Korean Ministry of Justice announced that as of December 15, 2007, foreigners will have to submit medical and criminal background checks when applying for a visa to become a foreign language teacher in South Korea.  The U.S. Embassy cannot provide a background check or fingerprinting service, and we cannot notarize, certify, or verify the authenticity of background checks or diplomas.

As we understand the new requirements, E-2 visa applicants who are U.S. citizens can obtain the necessary criminal background check either by submitting their fingerprints to the FBI or by applying for a local police check where they last resided in the U.S.  Procedures for obtaining criminal background checks in the U.S. are explained on our website at http://www.asktheconsul.org/E2ec07.htm.  Local police stations in the Republic of Korea are able to take fingerprints that can be sent to the FBI for a background check.  U.S. Embassies are, unfortunately, prohibited from taking fingerprints for these purposes.

As we receive updated information on the Korean visa requirements, we will post it on our website.  The U.S. Embassy website will also continue to be the best source of information about the services that we are able to provide under U.S. law and regulation, but we cannot state with full authority what the Korean regulations are.  If you have further questions, we suggest that you contact the office responsible for the new requirements, the Korea Immigration Service, Border Control Division, at 500-9116, 500-9117, or 500-9118, or consult their website at http://seoul.immigration.go.kr/HP/IMM80/index.do or the Ministry of Justice website (in Korean only) at
http://moj.korea.kr/moj/jsp/moj1_branch.jsp?_action=news_view&_property=p_sec_1&_id=155250149.

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3. ENGLISH-LANGUAGE RESOURCES FOR AMERICANS IN SEOUL
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Listed below are free resources for English speakers in Seoul:

General:  The Seoul Global Center, formerly the Seoul Help Center for Foreigners, has been greatly expanded.  The Center offers services regarding immigration affairs, foreign driver’s licenses, international marriage certificates, tax and consumer consulting, tourism information, and other subject areas.  The Seoul Global Center is located on the 3rd floor of the Press Center near Seoul City Hall.  The hotline number is 1688-0120 and the website is http://shc.seoul.go.kr.

Medical:  The Seoul Global Center has a 24-hour medical referral service (after hours is for emergencies only) where medically trained, English-speaking professionals can refer individuals to medical services.  All calls are confidential.  Call               010-4769-8212        or               010-8750-8212       , or email medicalreferral@seoul.go.kr.  If you need an ambulance, call 119 – preferably from a land line, so that if you cannot make yourself understood, your location can still be identified.

Language assistance:  The Before Babel Brigade (BBB) is a volunteer organization for non-Korean speakers who need help communicating.  Call 1588-5644 and press “1” for an English-speaking volunteer.  Note that BBB assistance is only provided over the phone. Their website is:  www.bbbkorea.org.

Transportation:  A guide to the bus system in Seoul is available at http://bus.seoul.go.kr.  Click on “English” in the top right-hand corner to take you to the searchable map in English.

Travel in Korea: http://english.tour2korea.com/01TripPlanner/TouristInfo/1330.asp?konum=1&kosm=m1_7

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4. TEN WAYS TO HELP ENSURE THAT YOUR ABSENTEE VOTE IS COUNTED
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(1) Start by contacting your Embassy or military unit Voting Assistance Officer for help in absentee registration and voting.  The Embassy’s Voting Assistance officer is available at VoteSeoul@state.gov.
(2) Visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s website at www.fvap.gov for information on the absentee registration and voting process.
(3) Ensure that you have applied for your absentee ballot using the hard copy or on-line versions of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) form.
(4) Make sure your local election official has your current mailing address.
(5) Sign and date all election materials.
(6) Fulfill your state’s witness/notary requirements (if required).
(7) Ensure that your ballot or FPCA is postmarked.
(8) Register to vote and request your ballot in a timely manner – not later than September 2008.
(9) VOTE – mail your ballot not later than October 15th of the election year.
(10) Use the Federal Write In Absentee Ballot if you are overseas and your State absentee ballot does not arrive in time to be mailed back by your state’s deadline.

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5. OVERSEAS VOTE FOUNDATION
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The Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) helps overseas and military voters participate in federal elections by providing public access to innovative voter registration tools and services.  If you are an overseas or military voter, OVF’s goal is to make it easy for you to get your ballot and vote.  Overseas American citizens vote under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and can all register to vote from abroad using OVF’s services.
OVF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan public charity incorporated in Delaware.  Their website is  https://www.overseasvotefoundation.org/home.

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6. RECENT TRAVEL WARNINGS AND TRAVEL ALERTS
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The U.S. Department of State has recently issued travel warnings or public announcements for the following countries and regions:

Kenya           01/31/2008
Eritrea                 01/18/2008
Worldwide Caution       01/17/2008
Congo, Democratic Republic of the       01/08/2008
Chad            01/03/2008
Iran            01/03/2008

For additional information about these travel warnings and alerts, click on this link:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html

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7. UPCOMING HOLIDAYS: FEBRUARY 6-8, FEBRUARY 18
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The U.S. Embassy will be closed on the following dates:

February 6-8 (Wed.-Fri.)        Lunar New Year
February 18     (Monday)                President’s Day

In addition, American Citizen Services will be closed in the afternoon of Tuesday, February 5.

Please be advised that the days just before and after a holiday are usually exceptionally busy in the American Citizen Services Unit of the Embassy.  Do not be surprised at a significantly longer wait for consular services on those days.  If you visit us outside those times, you should have a shorter wait.

A complete list of all of our holiday closings for 2008 is available on-line at http://seoul.usembassy.gov/holidays.html.

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8. EMBASSY CONTACT INFORMATION
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American Citizen Services
U.S. Embassy Seoul
32, Sejongno, Jongno-gu
Seoul 110-710, Korea

– or –

American Citizen Services
U.S. Embassy, Seoul
Unit #15550
APO AP 96205-5550

Tel:               02-397-4114      
Fax: 02-397-4101
DSN: 721-4114
English:  http://www.asktheconsul.org/
Korean:  http://www.usavisas.org/
E-mail:  seoul_acs@state.gov

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