AMERICAN CITIZEN SERVICES NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2008 – Absentee Voting, Improved English websites in Korea, & next visit to Busan

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U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassy Seoul
Consular Section, American Citizen Services (ACS) Newsletter
September 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. Absentee Voting in the November Elections
2. Next Consular Services Visit to Busan, September 23-24
3. Scammers Use Email, Fax to Pose as IRS
4. Korean Government Launches Improved English Language Website
5. On-Line Records Checks No Longer Allowed for Teaching Visas
6. Foreign Roads Deadly
7. Travel Document Tips
8. Recent Travel Warnings and Alerts
9. Upcoming Holidays: September 1 and 15
10. Embassy Contact Information

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1. Absentee Voting in the November Elections
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New Website for Overseas Voters

We encourage you to visit the newly redesigned Federal Voting Assistance Program website at www.fvap.gov, the official U.S. government website for overseas voters.  The updated website features an automated Voter Registration and Ballot Delivery tool that will greatly improve the vote-by-mail process.

There are two options for overseas voters using the FVAP website:
Visit www.fvap.gov and click “Get Started” to be directed to an online Federal Postcard Application and instructions for your state; or
Visit www.fvap.gov and click “Use our New Automated Tool to Register/Request a Ballot” under Quick Links in the lower right-hand corner of the home page.  You will be redirected to www.fvap.com, a fully automated site that requires you to create a user account and password.

Voter Registration & Requesting an Absentee Ballot

Voters who have not yet registered to vote and requested an absentee ballot should do so now using the FVAP website.  You may also pick up a hard copy of the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) from any U.S. embassy or consulate.

You should also complete a new Federal Postcard Application if you have moved or changed your name since the last time you voted.

Voting

Your local voting officials should mail your absentee ballot 30 to 45 days before the November 4 general election.  Return your voted ballot as early as possible.  Be aware of your state’s ballot receipt deadline, as well as any postmarking requirements.

Emergency Ballots

The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) serves as an emergency ballot for voters who registered in time but fail to receive an official ballot from local election officials.  You can access the FWAB using www.fvap.gov as well.

Questions?

The Voting Assistance Officer at the U.S. Embassy Seoul is also always available to answer questions about absentee voting.  To contact the Voting Assistance Officer, call (02) 397-4448 or send an email to  VoteSeoul@state.gov.

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2. Next Consular Services Visit to Busan, September 23-24
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Officials from the Embassy’s American Citizen Services Unit will offer consular services in Busan on September 23-24.  These services will be at  the offices of the American Presence Post in Busan.  A Consular officer will be available on Tuesday, September 23, from 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. and on Wednesday, September 24, from 9:00 a.m.–noon at the American Presence Post, Lotte Gold Rose Building (also known as the Job Center Building), #150-3, Yangjung-dong, Busanjin-gu, Room No. 612.

American citizens will be able to apply for U.S. passports, additional visa pages in their current passports, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, and Social Security cards.  Consular officers will also offer notarial services and provide information regarding voting, federal benefits, and registration with the Embassy.

Any questions about requirements, particularly for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, should be directed by email to seoul_acs@state.gov.  Please allow at least three days for a response.

If you plan to visit the ACS Unit in Busan, we strongly urge you to consult the website at http://www.asktheconsul.org for more information on our consular services and to ensure that you bring the proper forms (filled out in advance) and fees with you.  In addition to bringing original supporting documents (i.e., birth certificate, passport, Certificate of Naturalization), please bring photocopies of all documents you plan to submit.  There will not be a photocopier available on-site.

If you notify us prior to 9:00 a.m. on Monday, September 22, we can add pages to your passport in Busan while you wait.  Please complete form DS-4085, which can be downloaded at:
http://foia.state.gov/FORMS/Passport/DS4085.pdf.  Write “Busan – Extra Pages” at the top of the completed form, include a copy of your passport’s personal data page (the page with your photo), and fax it to our office at (02) 397-4101.  Alternatively, you can email us your request.  Be sure to attach clearly scanned copies of both your DS-4085 form and your passport’s data page.  Email it to Seoul_ACS@state.gov and put “RESEND: BUSAN EXTRA PAGES” in the subject line.  Please note that additional pages cannot be added to one-year emergency passports or to damaged passports.  There is no charge for this service.  Additional information about adding pages is available on our website: http://korea.usembassy.gov/add_pages.html.

The Busan APP’s website is: http://busan.usconsulate.gov.

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3. Scammers Use Email, Fax to Pose as IRS
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The Internal Revenue Service cautions taxpayers to be on the lookout for a new wave of scams using the IRS name in identity theft emails, or phishing, that have circulated during recent months.  In May and June 2008 alone, taxpayers reported almost 700 separate phishing incidents to the IRS.  “Taxpayers should take steps to keep their personal information out of the hands of identity thieves,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “That includes not falling for any of the phony emails or faxes now in circulation pretending to come from the IRS.”

The most common scams involve tax refunds and, this year, economic stimulus payments.  Although most of these scams consist of emails requesting detailed personal information, the IRS generally does not send emails to taxpayers, does not discuss tax account matters with taxpayers in emails, and does not request security-related personal information, such as PIN numbers, from taxpayers.

How Scams Work:  To lure their victims, phishing scams use the name of a known institution, such as the IRS, to either offer a reward for taking a simple action, such as providing information, or threaten or imply an unpleasant consequence, such as losing a refund, for failing to take the requested action.  The goal of the scams is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers, which the scammers can use to commit identity theft.

Typically, identity thieves use a victim’s personal and financial data to empty the victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services, or benefits in the victim’s name, file fraudulent tax returns, or even commit crimes.  Most of these fraudulent activities can be committed electronically from a remote location, including overseas. Committing these activities in cyberspace allows scammers to act quickly and cover their tracks before the victim becomes aware of the theft.

What to Do:  Anyone wishing to access the IRS website should type www.irs.gov into their Internet address window, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail or opening an attachment, either of which may download malicious code or send the recipient to a phony website.
Those who have received a questionable email claiming to come from the IRS may forward it to the following address: phishing@irs.gov.  Use the instructions contained in an article on irs.gov titled “How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes.  Following the instructions will help the IRS track the suspicious email to its origins and shut down the scam.  Find the article by visiting irs.gov and entering the words “suspicious emails” into the search box in the upper right corner of the front page.

Related Information:

–FS-2008-9, Identity Theft E-Mails Scams a Growing Problem
–IR-2007-109, IRS Warns Taxpayers of New E-mail Scams
–Suspicious e-Mails and Identity Theft

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4. Korean Government Launches Improved English Language Website
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The Korean government has an English-language website specifically for foreigners: http://www.hikorea.go.kr/pt/index.html.  The website provides information on immigration (including electronic applications for many types of visas and online appointment scheduling), general employment in Korea, and investment.

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5. On-Line Records Checks No Longer Allowed for Teaching Visas
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The government of the Republic of Korea changed its immigration procedures in December 2007 to require that criminal records checks and a health certificate be submitted with E-2 visa applications or extensions.  The U.S. Embassy in South Korea does not provide a records check or fingerprinting service, nor can the Embassy authenticate records checks or health certificates.  Korean Immigration furthermore informed the Embassy on July 17, 2008, that they will no longer accept criminal records checks provided by an on-line service as some states and private companies are able to do.  Korean Immigration will only accept an FBI criminal records check or a local police letter from your city or state of residence.

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 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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6. Foreign Roads Deadly
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The following article was posted on the www.usatoday.com website.

“Foreign Roads Can Be Deadly to U.S. Travelers: Motor vehicle crashes, not crime or terrorism, are the no. 1 killer of healthy Americans in foreign countries.  And the threat to travelers is poised to increase dramatically as worldwide economic growth gives more people access to
motor vehicles…”

Please go to this site for the full article: www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2007-08-13-tourist-deaths_N.htm

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7. Travel Document Tips
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The following article was posted on the www.smartertravel.com website.

“Go beyond copies of your passport docs and medical records: In case something goes wrong on your trip, it’s always a good idea to have extra copies of your passport, itinerary, key medical records, and the like.  If your bags get lost, stolen, or are simply delayed, though, having all those extra copies stashed away in your luggage may not do you much good.  There are two solutions that involve a lot less paper…”

Please go to this site for the full article: www.smartertravel.com/travel-
advice/go-beyond-copies-of-your-passport-docs-and-medical-records.html?id=2517885
.

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8. Recent Travel Warnings and Alerts
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The U.S. Department of State has recently issued travel warnings or travel alerts for the following countries and regions:

Algeria    08/22/2008
Colombia    08/07/2008
Comoros   08/12/2008
Georgia    08/23/2008
Kenya    08/22/2008
Yemen    08/13/2008

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

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html

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9. Upcoming Holidays: September 1 and 15
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The U.S. Embassy will be closed on the following dates:

September 1 (Monday)    U.S. Labor Day
September 15 (Monday)   Chusok (Korean Thanksgiving Day)

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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10. 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

End of newsletter text.

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Filed under Communications, Expat, Korea life, Politics

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