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U.S. Dept. of State
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Welcome to the February 2009 newsletter!

Here are the topics for this month

Services

Upcoming Holidays and ACS Office Closures

The Embassy and Consulates will be closed for the following days:

National Foundation Day Feb. 11 (Wednesday)
President's Day Feb. 16 (Monday)

Note also:

In Tokyo, the Consular Section will be closed to the public on Wednesday, Feb. 4. It will be open again on Thursday, Feb. 5.

In Naha, the Consular section will be closed to the public on Friday, Feb. 6. It will be open again on Monday, Feb. 9.

Please remember that the days just before and just after a holiday are often extremely busy and you can expect significantly longer waiting times. If you visit us outside of these times, you should have a shorter wait.

A full list of all of our holiday closings is online here. American citizens who require emergency assistance during holidays should contact the office serving their part of Japan.

If you do come to see us at the Embassy in Tokyo, note that we have two lines to enter the building; a (usually) longer line for visa applicants and a much shorter line for customers coming for American Citizen Services help. Check the signs by the Embassy entrance, which will direct you to the appropriate line. We use a computerized customer ticketing system; upon entering the Consular section, you can select the type of service you require (e.g. Passport, Notary, etc.) and wait in the ACS Waiting Room for your number to be called.

Occasionally, the U.S. Department of State experiences a worldwide credit card outage; please be prepared to pay any fees in cash if necessary.

To view the business hours for the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and all of the U.S. Consulates in Japan, check this page.


Security Situation

Security reminder: While there is no specific threat information aimed at Americans at this time, it is prudent for you and your family to review your personal security profile and to be aware of your surroundings at all times.

On Feb. 2, 2009, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Worldwide Caution Public Announcement. It supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated July 16, 2008. Please view the full text online here.

Since our previous ACS Newsletter, the U.S. Department of State has issued Travel Warnings for the following countries:

Burundi1/8/2009
Haiti1/28/2009
Israel, the West Bank and Gaza1/15/2009
Philippines1/27/2009

Travel Warnings are issued to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.

The U.S. Department of State also has issued the following new Travel Alerts:

Fiji1/15/2009
Israel, the West Bank and Gaza1/6/2009
Madagascar1/28/2009
Mali1/28/2009

Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, generally within a particular country or region, that pose imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sports events are examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert. This and other information regarding travel abroad is available at http://travel.state.gov.

The most up-to-date information regarding permitted and prohibited items on flights can be viewed online here.

For additional information, please visit "Americans Traveling Abroad" on the U.S. Department of State website. Students traveling abroad may wish to visit the State Department site designed for them: http://studentsabroad .state.gov/. To obtain up-to-date information on security conditions, please call 1-888-407-4747 (toll free in the United States), or +1-202-501-4444 if you are outside the United States.


U.S. State Department Online Travel Registration

The U.S. State Department launched a secure online travel registration website which will allow you, as an American citizen, to record foreign trip and residence information that the U.S. Department of State can use to communicate with you and assist you in case of an emergency. U.S. citizens around the world who travel or reside abroad can register at http://travelregistration.state.gov.

We invite you to register yourself and your family and get acquainted with travel registration. If you are already registered with the Embassy or one of our Consulates in Japan, please re-register on line to update your records. Millions of Americans live/travel abroad every year and encounter no major difficulties. However, U.S. embassies and consulates assist nearly 200,000 Americans each year who are victims of crime, accident, or illness, or whose family and friends need to contact them in an emergency. When an emergency happens, or if natural disaster, terrorism, or civil unrest strikes during your foreign travel, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate can be your source of assistance and information. By registering your trip, you help the embassy or consulate locate you when you might need their help the most. Registration is voluntary and costs nothing, but it should be a big part of your travel planning.

Travel registration is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country, and is easily accomplished online here. If you encounter any difficulties or have any questions about our travel registration website, please send an e-mail to CAIbrs@state.gov

Tax Payer Alert: IRS Updates

The IRS Home Page, www.irs.gov, provides useful information for taxpayers overseas and should be your first stop for tax questions and forms. In particular, IRS Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad is an invaluable resource for anyone living abroad or with income from a foreign source.

The IRS office at the American Embassy in Tokyo closed in 2004 and IRS will not be sending representatives overseas for visits during 2009. Embassy Tokyo and the U.S. Consulates in Japan cannot answer tax-related questions; however, IRS information and a separate list of tax preparers is also on our Embassy website.

Taxpayers located outside the U.S. may also contact the IRS by mail at:

Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 920
Bensalem, PA 19020

Taxpayers may telephone or FAX the IRS Philadelphia Service Center office at:

Tel: 215-516-2000 (not toll-free)
Fax: 215-516-2555

Please note that phone service is available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

New IRS Regulations - Disclosure or Use of Tax Information by Preparers of Returns

New regulations under Internal Revenue Code Section 7216, Disclosure or Use of Tax Information by Preparers of Returns, became effective January 1, 2009.

These regulations give taxpayers greater control over their personal tax return information by limiting tax return preparers' use and disclosure of information obtained during the return preparation process to activities directly related to the preparation of the return.

For more information on this topic, please view the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

Dollar/Yen Rate of Exchange for Tax Purposes

Taxpayers are required to express the amounts reported on U.S. tax return documents in U.S. dollars. The IRS does not post foreign exchange rates on its website. Instead, you may use the U.S. Treasury rate from Financial Management Service (FMS) or exchange rates listed on the Federal Reserve website.

For 2008, the Federal Reserve's average rate for Japanese Yen is 103.39. Please visit our website for more information.

To read more about exchange rates on the IRS web site, please visit this online site.

ESTA - The Electronic System for Travel Authorization

ESTA, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, became mandatory on January 12, 2009. All eligible travelers who wish to travel under the Visa Waiver Program must apply for authorization prior to departure. ESTA is required only for foreign travelers using the Visa Waiver Program. For more information about the VWP, visit this online website.

American citizens, Legal Permanent Residents (green card holders) and travelers who will enter the U.S. on a U.S. visa do not require ESTA. The Embassy would like to request the assistance of American citizens living in Japan to share the following information about ESTA with their Japanese colleagues, friends and neighbors who plan to travel to the United States. For more information, please see our website here.

Avian Influenza in China

U.S. Embassy Beijing recently issued a warden message regarding the death of a Beijing woman on January 6, 2009 due to highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. Read the entire message here.

Although such cases remain rare, the U.S. Government continues to pay very close attention to the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus, in case it mutates over time to become transmissible from human to human.

The following five steps are recommended when handling poultry products:

For further information about Avian Influenza, please consult the United States Centers for Disease Control web site.

The U.S. State Department's fact sheet on Avian Influenza is available online here.

Passport Expiration Dates - Reminder for Travelers in Asia

Many countries in the Asian region, including China and most Southeast Asian nations, require that a traveler's passport have at least six (6) months validity beyond the dates of the planned trip. Airlines usually will not allow travelers to board if this requirement is not met, and immigration officers will deny entry to travelers at the port of entry in these countries if a traveler arrives without the required six months validity.

It is smart to check your passport's expiration date, as well as those of family members traveling with you, at least one month prior to any planned trips. This will allow adequate time, if needed, to request appropriate passport services to make your trip a hassle-free success.

Online Passport Application Wizard

When applying for a passport at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the American Citizen Services (ACS) unit recommends that all applicants utilize the online Passport Application Wizard (https://pptform.state.gov).

The Wizard will help you determine which form you need (Form DS-11, DS-82, DS-5504 or DS-4085), then assist you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the documents to print and submit.

Also, if your passport is ever lost or stolen, you can use the Wizard to print out a Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport (Form DS-64). And if you are applying for a minor's passport and both parents are unable to sign the application together with the child at the Embassy, one of the parents may use the Wizard to print out a Statement of Consent (Form DS-3053), which must be notarized.

Hints to Streamline Your Passport Services
Ask the Consul: "Who is required to register with the Selective Service?"

Almost all male U.S. citizens, and male aliens living in the U.S., who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service. Dual nationals of the U.S. and another country are required to register, regardless of where they live, because they are U.S. nationals. Some non-citizens are also required to register. It's important to know that even though he is registered, a man will not automatically be inducted into the military.

To register online, visit this website.

If a man does not register, he could be prosecuted and fined up to $250,000 and/or be put in jail for up to five years. Registration is also a requirement to qualify for Federal student aid, job training benefits, and most Federal employment. Even if not tried, a man who fails to register with Selective Service before turning age 26 may find that some doors are permanently closed. Visit the following websites for more information:

http://www.sss.gov/FSbenefits.htm
http://www.sss.gov/QA.HTM#quest3

In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth. Then, they would be examined for mental, physical and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces. Visit this website for more information.

The New Obama Administration

For the most up-to-date information about the new Obama Administration, please visit the White House's website at www.whitehouse.gov

For information in the Japanese language about President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, please check out the Embassy's own "American View" quarterly magazine:

This Web page on the "America.gov" site provides information about President Obama in six different languages.

To read the transcript of President Obama's Inaugural Address, please click here.

Members of the 111th United States Congress
On November 4, 2008, the United States elected a new President and Vice-President, as well as 35 members of the Senate and all 435 members of the House of Representatives.

The list of the Senators and Representatives of the 111th Congress, as well as information about legislation, committees and hearings is listed on the official websites below:

www.house.gov
www.senate.gov

Visit www.fvap.gov to be informed of any scheduled and special elections that occur during 2009.

U.S. State Governors

Following is a listing of State, Commonwealth, and Territory Governors and Chief Executives, including their political party affiliation. The states and territories that conducted gubernatorial elections in 2008 are marked with an asterisk. The states holding 2009 gubernatorial races are also indicated.

AlabamaGov. Bob Riley (R)
AlaskaGov. Sarah Palin (R)
American Samoa *Gov. Togiola Tulafono (D)
ArizonaGov. Janet Napolitano (D)
ArkansasGov. Mike Beebe (D)
CaliforniaGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)
ColoradoGov. Bill Ritter (D)
ConnecticutGov. M. Jodi Rell (R)
Delaware *Gov. Jack Markell (D)
District of ColumbiaMayor Adrian M. Fenty (D)
FloridaGov. Charlie Crist (R)
GeorgiaGov. Sonny Perdue (R)
GuamGov. Felix Camacho (R)
HawaiiGov. Linda Lingle (R)
IdahoGov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R)
IllinoisGov. Rod R. Blagojevich (D)
Indiana *Gov. Mitchell Daniels (R)
IowaGov. Chet Culver (D)
KansasGov. Kathleen Sebelius (D)
KentuckyGov. Steven Beshear (D)
LouisianaGov. Bobby Jindal (R)
MaineGov. John Baldacci (D)
MarylandGov. Martin O'Malley (D)
MassachusettsGov. Deval Patrick (D)
MichiganGov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D)
MinnesotaGov. Tim Pawlenty (R)
MississippiGov. Haley Barbour (R)
Missouri *Gov. Jay Nixon (D)
Montana *Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D)
NebraskaGov. Dave Heineman (R)
NevadaGov. Jim Gibbons (R)
New Hampshire *Gov. John Lynch (D)
New JerseyGov. Jon Corzine
  Election: Nov. 3, 2009
(D)
New MexicoGov. Bill Richardson (D)
New YorkGov. David Paterson (D)
North Carolina *Gov. Beverly Perdue (D)
North Dakota *Gov. John Hoeven (R)
OhioGov. Ted Strickland (D)
OklahomaGov. Brad Henry (D)
OregonGov. Ted Kulongoski (D)
PennsylvaniaGov. Edward Rendell (D)
Puerto Rico *Gov. Luis G. Fortuno (R)
Rhode IslandGov. Don Carcieri (R)
South CarolinaGov. Mark Sanford (R)
South DakotaGov. Mike Rounds (R)
TennesseeGov. Phil Bredesen (D)
TexasGov. Rick Perry (R)
Utah *Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr (R)
Vermont *Gov. Jim Douglas (R)
Virgin IslandsGov. John deJongh Jr. (D)
VirginiaGov. Tim Kaine
  Election: Nov. 3, 2009
(D)
Washington *Gov. Chris Gregoire (D)
West Virginia *Gov. Joe Manchin III (D)
WisconsinGov. Jim Doyle (D)
WyomingGov. Dave Freudenthal (D)

For more information, please visit the National Governor's Association website at www.nga.org.

Illinois 5th District Voters - March 3, 2009 Special Primary Election

On Tuesday, March 3, 2009, there will be a special primary election in the 5th Congressional District of Illinois to determine the political parties' candidates to appear on the ballot for a special general election to be held on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 to fill the seat vacated by Representative Rahm Emanuel.

Registering to Vote and Requesting a Ballot:

All members of the U.S. Uniformed Services, their family members and citizens residing outside the U.S. who are Illinois residents from the 5th District should request a ballot for this special general election by completing and submitting a registration and ballot request, Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), SF-76, as soon as possible, if you have not done so already in calendar year 2009. The online version of the FPCA is available from the FVAP website by clicking on the appropriate citizen at www.fvap.gov The FPCA may be submitted by fax or email in addition to regular mail.

Voters who are Illinois residents from the 5th District, who requested and received a ballot for the Federal General election on November 4, 2008, and who have indicated a political party preference will automatically receive the special primary election ballot, and need not take any further action.

The Cook County Clerk or the Chicago Board of Elections must receive the request for absentee ballot not later than Tuesday, February 23, 2009.

Additional Information:

State specific information on your precinct, candidates, elections, and voting is available at the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

The FVAP can be contacted via 1-800-438-8683. Citizens may reach the FVAP toll-free from 67 countries using the toll-free numbers listed on the FVAP website.

Enter the 2009 Voting Slogan Contest

Submit Your Entries for the 2009 Voting Slogan Contest Today!

We are pleased to share the announcement regarding the kick-off of the biennial contest to promote participation in the democratic process among citizens covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act - members of the Uniformed Services, the Merchant Marine, their families, and all U.S. citizens residing outside the United States.

To enter just create a simple slogan (or slogans) that expresses the importance of voting and will inspire one to vote. A panel of judges will review all slogan submissions and choose the winning slogan on its originality and motivational value. This winning slogan will be featured in the FVAP's 2010/2011 outreach campaign which focuses on increasing voter awareness among U.S. citizens worldwide to include the FVAP website at www.fvap.gov, in the 2010/2011 Voting Assistance Guide, on motivational posters, and other FVAP publications.

The contest winner and runners-up will not only feel the satisfaction of knowing that their slogan is helping the FVAP in its efforts to improve voter awareness, but they will also be given a certificate of recognition from the Department for their contribution to this important endeavor.

There is no limit to the number of entries an individual may submit but each entry may only contain one slogan. All entries must be received by April 9, 2009.

All submissions must include your full name, branch of service (if military), mailing address, daytime telephone number, fax number and e-mail address (if applicable). If submitting by mail, please type or print the slogan and contact information on a regular letter size sheet of paper.

How to submit entries:

E-mail: slogan@fvap.ncr.gov. Text only (e-mail messages with attachments are deleted for information security purposes). One slogan per e-mail including contact information.

Fax: (703) 696-1352 or DSN 426-1352. Visit the FVAP website at www.fvap.gov for international toll-free fax numbers. Submit one slogan per fax including contact information. No cover sheet is necessary.

Mail:

Federal Voting Assistance Program
Attn: Voting Slogan Contest
1155 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-1155

"Be Smart, Do Your Part, Vote!" was the winning slogan for the 2007 Voting Slogan Contest. It was submitted by YNC Karen Bassingthwaite, U.S. Navy, Tampa, Florida. Many of the other exceptional slogan entries for the 2007 Voting Slogan Contest are featured in the 2008-2009 Voting Assistance Guide.

Please join the FVAP in helping to inspire others to vote by submitting your entry today and you could be one of this year's winners!

Leaving Japan?

If you are departing from Japan after a long stay here, and you formally registered your stay with the Embassy or closest U.S. consulate, please be sure to "cancel" your registration when you leave.

You can deregister yourself by visiting the travelregistration.state.gov site.

You may also want to consider unsubscribing from the newsletter mailing list. Please see the instructions on how to accomplish this below.

How to Unsubscribe

We make every attempt to include in our newsletter information of real value. We know that should world events dictate, we can use this e-mail channel to get important information to you, as we did in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

If you are leaving Japan or otherwise wish to unsubscribe from this list you can unsubscribe by writing from the same email address you used to subscribe, and send a blank e-mail to:

leave-tokyoacs@mh.databack.com

If you need to receive these newsletters at a different email address, unsubscribe first, using the old address, and subscribe again from the new address.

Contact us:

American Embassy in Tokyo
American Citizen Services
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420
Tel: 03-3224-5174
Fax: 03-3224-5856
http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/tacs-main.html

The Embassy helps Americans in Tokyo, Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Yamagata and Yamanashi.

American Consulate General Sapporo
American Citizen Services
Kita 1-jo, Nishi 28-chome
Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821
Tel: 011-641-1115
Fax: 011-643-1283

The Consulate in Sapporo helps Americans in Akita, Aomori, Hokkaido, Iwate and Miyagi. As there are times when both officers are away from the office, we ask that you make an appointment before coming to the Consulate General.

American Consulate Nagoya
Nagoya International Center Bldg. 6th floor
1-47-1 Nagono, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya 450-0001
TEL (052) 581-4501
FAX (052) 581-3190

Consulate Nagoya provides emergency consular services including death and arrest cases for Americans living in Aichi, Gifu, and Mie prefectures. Please call Nagoya or Osaka for confirmation before traveling to Nagoya if you believe you have an emergency situation. Routine American Citizen services are provided by appointment only. If an appointment is not available, American residents may also receive service at the Consulate in Osaka.

American Consulate General Osaka-Kobe
American Citizen Services
11-5, Nishitenma 2-chome
Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543
Tel: 06-6315-5912
Fax: 06-6315-5914

The Consulate in Osaka helps Americans in Osaka, Aichi, Ehime, Fukui, Gifu, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Ishikawa, Kagawa, Kochi, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Okayama, Shimane, Shiga, Tokushima, Tottori, Toyama, Wakayama.

American Consulate Fukuoka
American Citizen Services
5-26, Ohori 2-chome
Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052
Tel: 092-751-9331
Fax: 092-713-9222

The Consulate in Fukuoka helps Americans in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga and Yamaguchi.

American Consulate General Naha
2-1-1 Toyama,
Urasoe City
Okinawa 901-2104
Phone: 098.876.4211
Fax: 098.876.4243
DSN: 645-7323

The Consulate in Naha helps Americans in Okinawa and the Amami Oshima Island group (which is the southern island group of Kagoshima Prefecture).

Travel, safety and security information is also available directly from the Department of State.


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