Newsletters and Messages for U.S. Citizens
June 2012 American Citizens Services (ACS) Newsletter
U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau
- Greetings from ACS Chief, Laurence K. Jones
- Macau Day: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
- Health News: Hong Kong Raised Pandemic Influenza Warning Status from "Alert" to "Serious"
- Summer Travel Tips: Don't Forget to Check Your Passport's Expiration Date!
- Tax News: Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets
- Voting News: Register and Request Your Ballot
Continuing Topics of Interest
- Consulate Location, Hours and Upcoming Holidays
- Department of State Travel Safety Notices and Updates
There are consular sections in American embassies and consulates in various parts of the world that consular officers refer to as "visa mills". The sections are so big and the demand for visas is so high that the visa units have to be run like factories, with highly structured work flows that make the most of the efficiencies of specialization and batch processing. The best of them are highly efficient enterprises with impressive throughput.
The American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit in Hong Kong and Macau isn't physically large, but we are serving a large community of Americans -- estimated at 65,000 within the consular district -- and we are very busy. We do have an "ACS mill" here. We can only get through our daily work if we think in terms of industrial management. We have to break our processes into parts and have specialists hand the cases from one to another as they are processed. Adam Smith would be proud!
There are parts that only American commissioned consular officers -- by law -- can do, and the officers have to specialize in those parts given the demands on their time. Most services require the payment of a fee, so there is almost always going to be trip to the cashier. (The requirement of careful handling of money would be an essay of its own.) We're constrained by the physical plant. It's not quite as bad as trying to make furniture for the world market in a hundred year old building in North Carolina, but in a perfect world our workspace would be differently shaped. Security drives the design of the interface with the public. The bullet proof glass is here to stay. Having lost a dear colleague and his son in the Nairobi Embassy bombing -- and having done three tours at extreme danger posts -- I'm not at all inclined to second guess that issue.
To make it work we have to have a highly structured process. If we're going to get our clients in and out of the building in a reasonable time, we need to meter them in, which is why we have an appointment system and why we insist that our clients use it. Appointment systems are now a world-wide requirement for consular sections. However, the ACS Unit in Hong Kong and Macau adopted one prior to the requirement because we were running slow most of the morning and getting hammered right before lunch time by busy people who thereby guaranteed that they would spend some hours with us. We aim for an hour or less in the building and the only way we can hope for that is to enforce the distribution of appointments across the morning.
We will respond to emergencies but our clients are going to have to let us define the emergency. I have had difficult telephone conversations with clients who insisted that their issue was truly, truly, emergent, but then refused to tell me why. It was too private! I have to suspect that the clients simply hadn't planned well enough in their own lives, and found themselves in a bind. Responding in such a case is anything but fair to the clients who have worked within the appointment system and made their plans a week or two ahead. And, we simply can't open the gates to walk-in services. That really would guarantee long lines and unpredictable customer service.
Hong Kong and Macau are full of busy people. That includes us! Part of our day is dedicated to back office services, which we have to do with the same crew that provides our front office services, which is why we don't offer most services in the afternoons. We do also respond to emergencies that are not visible to the clients in our waiting room, including arrests, medical emergencies and deaths involving Americans who are far from home and whose families rely on us to make arrangements for their loved ones. Some of these cases are very sad and some are very complex, and we have to have the time and the surge capacity to deal with them. We also have a range of routine but critical functions involving judicial support of various sorts… I could go on and on. We're not loud people, but it's as busy as a trading floor behind the glass.
So, please bear with us, and respect the appointment system, and plan well ahead whenever you can. If the appointment system doesn't work for you (say you have a family of six, all of whom need new passports at the same time, and you can't find six appointments in a block) please call or email us and we'll try to work it out in a way that serves us both. We are going to continue to do whatever we can to improve our workflow, and serve as many of you with the greatest efficiency and least stress possible.
On Wednesday, June 13, our staff will travel to Macau to provide limited consular services for American citizens. Services to be offered during this visit include voter registration, notarials (US$50 for each signature of the consular officer), passport application (US$105, US$110, or US$135 depending on age and type), birth registration (US$100 for each child), and adding additional visa pages (US$82 per set of pages). Please note that we will only be able to accept credit cards as payment - there are no cash transactions. Customers may pay using MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Diners Club or Discover card. Customers must present their card at the time of payment and the person whose name is listed on the card must be present to sign the payment slip. All charges will be in U.S. dollars.
Except for notary services, we will only accept applications and fees in Macau. Passports, additional pages and report of birth abroad applications will be completed at the Consulate and returned to you by post or you may make arrangements for pick up at the Consulate. If you need same day service for a passport renewal or added pages, please make an appointment online and make arrangements for your passport to be delivered to and fees paid at the Consulate.
Services will be available from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Academy of Music (see map - PDF 867 KB), located at Rua de Santa Clara, No. 19, 2/F, adjacent to City Hall and near Catholic Social Services on a first-come-first-served basis. Individuals who are physically challenged and/or require special arrangements to access this location may call (852) 2841-2211 in advance to facilitate access.
To enable us to best assist you in Macau:
- Please check our website for information on what specific identification, forms, fees and supporting documents are required for each service. Download the appropriate forms and bring them with you.
- Please present your U.S. passport for all services.
- Please bring the original and one photocopy of each piece of identification and/or supporting document (such as passports, birth certificates, marriage and divorce certificates, Macau ID cards, etc.).
If you need a service not listed above, please contact us in advance at (852) 2841-2211. We may be able to bring with us what you need for that service.
On June 2, 2012, Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection (CHP) raised the Pandemic Influenza Warning Status from "Alert" to "Serious" in light of the confirmed avian influenza (H5N1) infection of a 2 year old boy who had traveled to Hong Kong with his parents from Guangzhou. Avian influenza is a type of Influenza A virus that mainly affects birds and poultry. Occasionally it can be transmitted to humans if a person has close contact with infected birds/poultry.
The boy appears to have been infected by the virus when he was exposed to live poultry at a Guangzhou wet market in mid-May. Neither the boy's parents nor his treating physicians have contracted the virus indicating that the case appears to be isolated and that human-to-human transmission appears unlikely.
Nevertheless CHP advises increased vigilance to prevent avian influenza, including heightened attention to the following measures:
- Avoid touching poultry, birds or their droppings, because they may carry the avian influenza virus; young children in particular should avoid exposure to live poultry.
- Wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and water immediately in case of contact with poultry, birds or their droppings;
- Keep hands clean and wash hands properly;
- Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing with tissue; if no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into upper sleeve or elbow. Don't use your hands. Dispose sputum or secretions wrapped in tissue paper into rubbish bins with lids. Wash hands with liquid soap and water afterwards;
- Build up good body resistance and have a healthy lifestyle. This can be achieved through a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate rest, reducing stress and no smoking;
- Poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked before eating;
- Maintain good environmental hygiene;
- Maintain good indoor ventilation;
- Avoid crowded places with poor ventilation if feeling unwell;
- Seek medical advice if fever or respiratory symptoms develop.
More information on Avian Influenza is available at the Centre for Health Protection website. The CHP has also set up a public inquiry line @ 2125 1111.
For up to date information about the influenza situation, please consult the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection's Daily Update of Influenza Situation, available on the Centre for Health Protection website.
Leaving Hong Kong on business or holiday? Here are a few tips to make your international travel smoother:
Please carefully review the validity of your current U.S. passport. Regular passports are processed in Washington and are usually received within 10-20 calendar days after the application is submitted to the U.S. Consulate General. Please see Passports for more information about the passport renewal process. Please apply early if you need a new passport or additional pages in your passport, because passport services are by appointment only. Additional page requests will be processed on the same day and are available for pick up after 3:00 p.m. The number of pages that may be added to a passport is limited, after which you will need to replace the passport, even if it has not already expired. Also, additional pages cannot be affixed to a limited-validity or a damaged passport. A passport that has been rendered soft and fragile by long residence in the back pocket of a pair of jeans may be considered damaged.
Many governments require U.S. travelers to have at least six months validity left in their passports for entry into their countries. Check our Country Specific Information Sheets to learn the Entry and Exit Requirements for your destination. These information sheets are available online at the Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Please keep in mind that if visas are required, you will need to visit the respective embassies of your destination countries. In addition, some visas make take several days or weeks to be processed, so plan ahead and make your visa appointments early.
If you are traveling abroad, register your trip online with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The registration information is used to communicate with U.S. citizens and assist them in case of an emergency.
You can find more information about international travel on the Department of State website at the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
NOTE: If your child or children will be traveling with 1) only one parent, or 2) someone who is not a parent or legal guardian, or 3) a group, and you would like to know what paperwork the accompanying adult should have, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has the answers online.
The Internal Revenue Service would like to remind U.S. taxpayers that they may need to file Form 8938 (Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets). It is important for taxpayers to determine whether they are subject to this new requirement because the law imposes significant penalties for failing to comply. More information is available on the IRS tax site.
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.
The Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) is a backup ballot. If 30 days before the election (or longer based on your geographic location) you think you will not receive your state ballot in time to vote and return it to the proper authorities, vote using the FWAB at the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) website. The FWAB is also available in embassies, consulates and military installations around the world.
If you have any questions about registering to vote overseas, please contact Consulate Hong Kong's American Citizens Services at 2841-2211 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 When the Consulate Will Be Closed:
Monday, July 2, 2012
The Day Following Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
A full list of our holiday closings is available at Hours and Holidays.
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.
The following Travel Warnings and Alerts remain in effect for the East Asia and Pacific Region:
- North Korea
- Current Travel Warnings
As you make your travel plans, don't forget to check the Bureau of Consular Affairs website for the most current safety and security information.
You may also receive travel alert tweets by joining the Twitter for Bureau of Consular Affairs.
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: email@example.com; website: American Citizens Services. Services are by online appointment only. The return address listed does not accept replies directly from this message. To contact the Consulate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: June 11, 2012
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