AMERICAN CITIZEN SERVICES NEWSLETTER in South Korea MARCH 2011

U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassy Seoul
Consular Section, American Citizen Services (ACS) Newsletter
MARCH 2011

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 disseminate this message broadly to other U.S. citizens.

In this issue:

1.      Greetings from the ACS Chief
2.      Holiday Closure, March 1
3.      IRS Announces 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI)
4.      Consular Services in Busan, March 21-22
5.      Making Appointments or Using the Courier Service
6.      Questions of the Month: I have questions about taxes.  Who should I ask?  What’s the current Foreign Earned Income Exclusion amount?
7.      Travel Warnings

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1. Greetings from the ACS Chief
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The current unrest in the Middle East, and in particular the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Egypt and Libya, highlights the importance of letting the State Department know when you travel overseas.  By informing us about your trip or residence abroad, you help the applicable embassy or consulate locate you when you might need them the most.  Signing up is voluntary and costs nothing, but it should be a big part of your travel planning and security.

To sign up, go to https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.  You will create an account by clicking on the “Create an Account” link and following the instructions provided.  This allows you to select a username and password so that you can access your travel data at any time.  The account will also contain your personal information so that it can be saved and used again whenever you travel abroad.  By providing your updated travel or overseas residence information, we can contact you in the event of an emergency or crisis situation overseas.

Finally, some of you have children on school break right now, and others have children whose schools will take spring break soon.  If you plan to travel internationally, please be sure to check the passports of all family members to ensure each has at least six months validity and enough remaining blank pages.  Item number 5 below has information about how to make an appointment to obtain a new passport, or how to obtain additional pages using our courier service.

Enjoy the warmer spring weather.

Robert (Buck) Waldrop
ACS Chief

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2. Holiday Closure, March 1
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The Embassy will be closed on the following days in March:

March 1, 2011: (Monday) Sam Il Jul (Independence Movement 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 longer waits for consular services on those days, especially if you arrive during the afternoon hours when appointments are not required.

A complete list of all of Embassy holiday closings for 2011 is available on-line at http://seoul.usembassy.gov/p_holidays.html.

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3. IRS Announces 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI)
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On February 8, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service announced a special voluntary disclosure initiative designed to bring offshore money back into the U.S. tax system and help people with undisclosed income from hidden offshore accounts get current with their taxes. The new voluntary disclosure initiative will be available through Aug. 31, 2011.

The 2011 initiative has a higher penalty rate than the IRS’s previous voluntary disclosure program, which ended on Oct. 15, 2009, but offers clear benefits to encourage taxpayers to disclose foreign accounts now rather than risk IRS detection and possible criminal prosecution. In addition, the 2011 initiative includes new guidelines to provide fairness to people with smaller amounts of undisclosed assets or unusual situations.

A full news release about the 2011 OVDI may be found here: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=235695,00.html?portlet=7.  More information, including how to participate, may be found here: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=234900,00.html.

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4. Consular Services in Busan, March 21-22
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In December 2010, the Embassy began offering consular services in Busan on a monthly instead of a bimonthly basis.  Officials from the Embassy’s American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit will offer consular services in Busan on Monday, March 21, and Tuesday, March 22, 2011.  A Consular Officer will be available on March 21, from 1:00–4:00 p.m. and on March 22, from 9:00 a.m. to 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.  Directions to the APP can be found here: http://busan.usconsulate.gov/contactus.html.

U.S. 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.  A consular officer will also offer notarial services and provide information regarding voting, federal benefits, and registration with the Embassy.  Any questions about requirements should be directed by email to seoul_acs@state.gov.

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5.  Making Appointments or Using the Courier Service
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Effective August 16, 2010, U.S. Embassy Seoul’s American Citizens Services (ACS) unit began providing non-emergency citizen services by appointment only, from 8:45 to 11:15 AM every business day.  ACS customers without an appointment may walk-in to the Embassy for non-emergency services from 1:00 to 3:00 PM, every business day afternoon except Wednesdays.  Please be advised that ACS is closed on Wednesday afternoons and U.S. and Korean holidays.

Those with appointments can expect to be seen by an officer usually quite a bit faster than walk-ins.  Walk-ins can expect to wait considerably longer for service.  The next time you plan to visit the Embassy, please be sure to make an appointment beforehand: http://seoul.usembassy.gov/acs_appt.html.

If you are applying for extra pages for your passport or applying for an adult passport renewal using form DS-82, we encourage you to use our convenient courier service; this will save you a trip to the Embassy.  For more information on renewing your passport via courier, click here: http://seoul.usembassy.gov/acs_renewal_for_adult.html.  For more information on adding pages to your passport via courier, click here: http://seoul.usembassy.gov/acs_add_pages.html. A full schedule of the consular fees may be found here: http://travel.state.gov/passport/fees/fees_837.html.

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6. Questions of the month: I have questions about taxes.  Who should I ask?  What’s the current Foreign Earned Income Exclusion amount?
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It’s March, which means U.S. taxes are due next month!  While the Embassy does have limited IRS information available, we are unable to answer specific tax questions.

You may submit a “general” tax question on line at www.irs.gov and receive an answer via email.  Just follow the instructions below.  IRS has a team of Tax Law Specialists standing by to take your tax-related questions online anytime.

1.      Go to www.irs.gov
2.      Click on “Individuals” (located at upper left corner)
3.      Click on “International Taxpayers”
4.      Click on “Help with Tax Questions – International Taxpayers”
5.      Scroll down to the bottom of page, enter your email address, select category, and type in your question.
6.      Click on “Submit Query”

Please note that for your protection, the IRS will NOT answer personal account questions via email and will never ask for your personal information, such as your social security number, via email.  Depending on the complexity of your question, please allow 2-7 days for an answer.

Most of you are likely aware of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), which is the amount of income earned overseas that may be excluded from U.S. income taxes if certain criteria are met.  The maximum FEIE amount for 2010 is $91,500.  However, one of the criteria to qualify for the FEIE is the “Physical Presence Test.”  This means the U.S. taxpayer must have been physically present in a foreign country for at least 330 days during CY 2010 or during a period of consecutive 12 months starting or ending in 2010.  The www.irs.gov website has Publication 54 which provides a more detailed explanation of FEIE.

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7. Travel Warnings
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The U.S. Department of State has recently issued travel warnings or travel alerts for the following countries and regions.  If you are traveling to any of these regions in the near future, please consult www.travel.state.gov for more information.

Travel Alerts:
Bahrain   02/18/2011
Tunisia   02/18/2011
ICC Cricket World Cup   02/17/2011
United Kingdom and Gibraltar (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland)   01/31/2011
Uganda   01/24/2011
South Pacific Cyclone Season   12/23/2010

Travel Warnings:
Libya    02/21/2011
Egypt    02/18/2011
Mali    02/09/2011
Pakistan    02/02/2011
Haiti    01/20/2011
Tunisia    01/16/2011
Central African Republic    01/14/2011
Niger    01/12/2011
Nepal    01/12/2011
Sudan    01/07/2011
Kenya    12/28/2010
Somalia    12/27/2010
Saudi Arabia   12/23/2010
Cote d’Ivoire   12/19/2010
Mauritania    12/08/2010
Chad    12/08/2010
Guinea    12/03/2010
Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of    08/27/2010

Worldwide Caution January 31, 2011
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_4787.html

For additional information about these travel warnings and alerts, please visit:
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html

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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: 02-397-4040  (Passport Inquiry line)
Tel: 02-397-4114 (All other services)
Fax: 02-397-4080
DSN: 721-4114
English:  http://www.asktheconsul.org/
Korean:  http://korean.seoul.usembassy.gov
E-mail:  seoulinfo@state.gov

End of newsletter text.

1 Comment

Filed under Random thoughts

One response to “AMERICAN CITIZEN SERVICES NEWSLETTER in South Korea MARCH 2011

  1. Bernard

    Is there a cheaper way to remit money from South Korea to relatives in the US ?.
    The sending banks and the receiving banks charge astronomical fees for this service

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