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Messages for U.S. Citizens

January 2012 American Citizens Services (ACS) Newsletter

U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau

New Topics

Continuing Topics of Interest

Greetings from ACS Chief, Laurence K. Jones

Happy New Year, Western and Chinese, to the American Community and its friends! We look forward to serving you in the upcoming year, and wish everyone peace and prosperity.

Hong Kong and Macau are two of the safest jurisdictions in the world. Crime levels are generally very low, the abilities of local authorities very high. That said, there is no place in the world that guarantees absolute safety. Please be on the alert for minor crime. We replace a number of passports that have been lost to pickpockets, an inconvenient process for anyone, but particularly for someone who is travelling and in transit. And, of course bigger events may impact a person anywhere. To the best of our knowledge no Americans were impacted by the recent fire in the Kowloon Ladies' Market, but should you by chance find yourself in the vicinity of such a happening, remember that - no matter how interesting the fighting of a major blaze may be - the proper vector for most people without a direct professional or personal involvement is away from the event by the most direct and safest route possible.

Check your Passports: Less than Six Months Validity?

Flying off to your well-deserved vacation in Bali or Baguio? In the Asia Pacific region, many countries require that a U.S. passport have six months validity remaining on it for issuance of a visa/travel. Some airlines will not allow passengers with less than six months of passport validity to board their flights. The U.S. Consulate cannot require other countries or airlines to board you onto a flight, or permit you to enter a foreign country. Check your passport in advance to ensure you have at least six months validity. For specific details about entry and exit requirements for the country you plan to visit, please see our Country Information at Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Don't get turned away at the boarding gate!

To renew your passport, please see Less Than Six Months Validity Left on a Passport

Voting News: 2012 ELECTION CYCLE - BEGINS NOW

Be an active voter. Start thinking about your participation in the U.S. 2012 elections today!

The Consular Section staff at Consulate General Hong Kong is ready to assist with completing your Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) -- the form you need to complete this year to participate in the 2012 elections as an overseas absentee voter. Our purpose is to inform and educate you about your voting rights, to ensure you are able to exercise your right to participate in elections for federal offices (President, Vice President, Senator, and Representative), and to assist you with voting in state or local elections, if allowed by your state.

New absentee voting laws are in effect for the 2012 elections. You will no longer automatically receive ballots based on a previous absentee ballot request. All U.S. citizens outside the United States who want to vote by absentee ballot in the 2012 primary and general elections must complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) every year if they wish to vote from abroad. States are now required to send out ballots 45 days before an election. No matter what state you vote in, you can now ask your local election officials to provide your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state). You can now also confirm your registration and ballot delivery on-line. Be sure to include your email address on the form to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option. This is the fastest and most reliable way to receive your ballot on time, and we strongly recommend every overseas voter take advantage of it. Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) website.

Beginning in January 2012, presidential primaries will be held in the states of New Hampshire (January 10), South Carolina (January 21), Florida (January 31), Missouri (February 7), Wisconsin (February 21), Arizona (February 28), and Michigan (February 28). Other states will follow throughout the spring and summer. Voter registration deadlines for primaries are as early as January 3, 2012. Note: Participation in party presidential caucuses by overseas voters is not protected by federal law and requires in-person attendance in most cases. If the party you are affiliated with selects presidential nominees by caucus in your state contact state party officials for further information.

You can obtain a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) at FVAP's website. The FPCA is accepted by all local election officials in all U.S. states and territories. It allows you to register to vote and request absentee ballots for all elections for federal offices (presidential and state primaries, run-off, special, and the November general elections) during the course of the year. An online wizard will help you complete the form. Depending on your state's voting requirements, you then either send in the FPCA electronically or mail it to your local election officials. To mail it, print out the completed FPCA and the (U.S.) postage-paid envelope containing the address of your local election officials. If you bring in your forms or ballots to us we will mail them back home for you without you having to pay for international mail. If it's easier for you to use Hong Kong's postal system, be sure to affix sufficient postage and allow sufficient time for international mail del ivery.

Please be advised that paper copies of absentee ballots may submitted to the Consulate for mailing to the U.S. via pouch, however this may be result in some delay in the arrival of the absentee ballot.

Even if your state does not have a presidential primary in the early months of 2012, it is important that you submit a new Federal Post Card Application this and every January to receive all absentee ballots for which you are eligible. By applying early, you also allow enough time for election officials to contact you and resolve any questions or problems with your registration/ballot request.

Remember that your vote counts, and that many U.S. elections within the past ten years have been decided by a margin of victory of less than 0.1%. All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it's valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline.
Be an Educated Voter. Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues. Non-partisan information about candidates, their voting records, and their positions on issues are widely available and easy to obtain via numerous websites such as Project Smart Voter. You can also read national and hometown newspapers on-line, or search the Internet to locate articles and information. For information about election dates and deadlines, subscribe to FVAP's Voting Alerts (vote@fvap.gov). FVAP also shares Voting Alerts via Facebook and Twitter.

If you have any questions about registering to vote overseas, please contact Consulate Hong Kong's American Citizens Services at 2841-2211 or at acshk@state.gov

Avian Flu: Information Resources

Questions or concerns about Avian flu? Please see Pandemic Flu.

Adding Visa Pages? Apply early!

As you plan around holiday schedules and activities, please remember to book appointments early for all Consulate services, particularly adding visa pages. To avoid a visit to the Consulate, consider using our mail-in service for added visa pages. See Additional Passport Pages for further details.

PLEASE NOTE: additional passport pages will not be available for pickup until 3:00pm on the day of application. Further, current State Department regulations limit the number of extra page inserts to two, with a third set being acceptable if the passport book is in good condition, since a larger number of additional pages may break the binding of the passport. After the third set of pages are added the only option for further blank pages is a new passport.

Forms for Passport Renewal and Additional Visa Pages

When applying for passport services at U.S. Consulate Hong Kong, you can help to ensure that the process goes smoothly (and shorten your time in the Consulate Waiting Room!) by bringing your completed application forms to your appointment. (Please ignore the part of the form that instructs you to mail the form to the U.S. If you mail the form to the U.S., your application will be considerably delayed.)

Forms can be completed and printed out online at Application for U.S. Passport. Forms are also available in PDF form at Passports web page.

Shorten Your Wait Time at the Consulate: Fill Out Your Forms in Advance!

Consulate Hours and Upcoming Holidays

General Office Hours for the Consulate General Monday - Friday 8:30 - 12:30 and 1:30 - 5:30

Hours for American Citizens Services
Monday - Friday 8:30 - Noon and 1:30 to 4:00, Except Wednesdays (8:30 to Noon only)

Upcoming Holidays on which the Consulate Will Be Closed

  • Monday, January 16, 2012: Martin Luther King's Birthday
  • Monday, January 23, 2012 - Wednesday, January 25, 2012: Lunar New Year's Holiday

The Consulate is located at 26 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong. The American Citizens Services section is located on the First Floor: All of our non-emergency services are by appointment only. Please also be aware that food and cell phones are not permitted inside the building.

Travel Safety Notices and Updates

The following Travel Warnings and Alerts remain in effect for the East Asia and Pacific Region:

Warnings

  • North Korea: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5601.html
  • Philippines: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5490.html

Alerts

  • Philippines: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_5634.html
  • South Pacific Cyclone Season: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_5623.html
  • India (Potential Terrorism): http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_5582.html
  • Japan: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_5574.html

As you make your travel plans, don't forget to check the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site for the most current safety and security information.

You may also receive travel alert tweets by joining the Twitter for Bureau of Consular Affairs.

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This newsletter is published by the American Citizens Services Unit, U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau. Tel: 2841-2211; fax: 2845-4845; e-mail: acshk@state.gov; website: American Citizens Services. All services are by online appointment only. The return address listed does not accept replies directly from this message. To contact the Consulate, please email acshk@state.gov.

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Last modified: January 6, 2012