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Welcome to the October 2011 ACS newsletter!

To subscribe to the ACS Newsletter (it's free), just visit this page and enter your e-mail address.

Here are the topics for this month:

ACS All-Appointment System

The American Citizen Services Unit at U.S. Embassy Tokyo began requiring appointments for all non-emergency, routine services in August 2009. In addition, all U.S. consulates in Japan are now on an all-appointment system. This is a worldwide policy for all U.S. embassies and consulates. Routine services include passport and additional passport pages applications, requests for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, Social Security card and federal benefit applications, and notarial services.

Requiring appointments for all non-emergency, routine services enables us to serve everyone more quickly and efficiently. It has lessened considerably the long wait and crowded waiting room that we had before the appointment system was implemented. Of course, we will always assist U.S. citizens with emergencies without an appointment. Please note that notarial services are not considered emergencies. Typically, it is possible to make an appointment up to two weeks in advance of the current date. Appointment slots may fill up quickly so we strongly recommend customers plan ahead when scheduling an appointment.

On occasion, we do receive messages from customers about technical problems with scheduling appointments online. Our appointment system is part of a worldwide network maintained by the Department of State in Washington, D.C., so there may be interruptions for system maintenance. If you have difficulty making an appointment the first time, please try again at least a second time. If you still encounter problems after trying to make an appointment a second time, then please notify us using this online form.

To make an appointment for routine consular services, please see our website.

 

New USCIS Procedures for Filing I-130 Petitions for Alien Relatives

Effective Aug. 15, 2011, petitioners residing in countries without United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices must file the Petition for an Alien Relative (Form I-130), with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox facility. Japan does not have USCIS offices, which means that American citizens filing the I-130 will have to send the application to Chicago for processing. Please allow ample time for processing. For specific instructions please click on the following link: I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

 

Registering with the Selective Service

All U.S. male citizens ages 18-25 must register with Selective Service in the United States. By law, a man must register with Selective Service within 30 days of his 18th birthday. A Social Security number is not required to register. Of special note to parents and students, all U.S. male citizens must obtain a Selective Service number before applying for financial aid at any institution of higher learning in the United States. This number is requested by the school financial aid office before consideration is given to financial aid eligibility. If you are a male and have a valid Social Security number, you may register online here.

Registrants are advised it may take several months to be assigned a Selective Service number. To read more about the Selective Service, please click on this link: www.sss.gov.

 

The Global Entry Program

Have you noticed the new kiosks at U.S. airport immigration checkpoints? The Global Entry Program allows U.S. citizens or U.S. lawful permanent residents to use Global Entry kiosks to speed their entry into the United States. Currently, these automated kiosks are located in 20 major airports across the United States. Participants present their machine-readable U.S. passport or permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to the baggage claim and exit.

Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry Program. There is a $100 non-refundable application fee. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and interview before enrollment.

For further details about the Global Entry Program and enrollment requirements, please check out the website.

 

West Virginia to Hold a Special Election for Governor - October 4

On Tuesday, October 4, 2011, West Virginia will hold a statewide, special general election for Governor, to fill the vacancy created when former Governor Joe Manchin won election to the United States Senate. The elected candidate will serve the remainder of the unexpired term, through January 13, 2013.

Register to Vote

To vote in this election you must register by submitting a post-marked Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) or a West Virginia Voter Registration Application. West Virginia allows you to email or fax the FPCA, but if this is your first time registering to vote in a particular West Virginia county, you must mail the original FPCA. Applications must be postmarked and sent to the local county clerk by September 13, 2011. Voter Registration Applications transmitted by other methods must be received by the county clerk no later than close of business September 13, 2011.

Request Your Ballot Now!

You will not receive a ballot automatically, even if you voted in the November 2, 2010 general election! Use the FPCA to request an absentee ballot. Go to FVAP.gov and get started! It only takes a few minutes! Alternately you may obtain an FPCA from your unit or installation voting assistance officer and at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide; but you must follow the West Virginia instructions given at FVAP.gov. Indicate on the FPCA how you would like to receive your absentee ballot: by mail, email, or fax.

If you are already registered to vote, the deadline for submitting an FPCA to request a ballot is September 28, 2011.

Send the FPCA by Email, Fax or Mail

If you choose to email your FPCA, you should send the form to the email address listed for your county clerk on this list. If you choose to fax your FPCA, fax the form to the fax number listed for the county clerk's office where you reside. You may also use the DoD Electronic Transmission Service to fax your FPCA toll free. To use the Electronic Transmission Service, use the cover sheet available in the Voting Assistance Guide, or at FVAP.gov, and fax to: (703)-693-5527, DSN 223-5527, or toll-free from the U.S., Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands to 1-800-368-8683. International toll-free numbers can be found at FVAP.gov. Voter Alert Telephone: 703-588-1584 E-mail: vote@fvap.gov.

To find out the status of your registration/absentee ballot request, contact your local election office or refer to West Virginia's website.

Receive Your Ballot

If you request that a ballot be mailed to you, it will be sent within one day after receipt of your request. If you request a ballot to be emailed, the ballot will be sent to the email address you supplied on your absentee ballot application. If you request a ballot by fax, the ballot will be sent to the fax number you supplied on your absentee ballot application.

Please Note: Be sure you include a fax number or email address on your absentee ballot application.

If you are concerned about not receiving your ballot in time to vote, you may use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB, SF-186). The FWAB instructions are available at FVAP.gov. The FWAB is also available in embassies and consulates and military installations around the world.

Return Your Ballot

You may return the voted ballot by mail, email or fax. Your voted ballot must be postmarked by October 4, 2011 and must be received by October 11, 2011, in order to be counted. You may fax or email the ballot directly to your local election official. Include ballot, voter affirmation, and cover sheet with secrecy waiver. Fax numbers and email addresses can be found at this online site. Civilians residing outside the U.S.: Contact your closest U.S. Embassy or consulate for specific instructions on how voted ballots, with proper domestic postage attached, can be returned to the United States from any U.S. embassy or consulate. To locate your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, visit www.usembassy.gov.

Additional Information

State specific information on precincts, candidates, elections, and voting is available at the West Virginia website. FVAP can be contacted via 1-800-438-8683. Citizens may reach FVAP toll-free from 67 countries by using the toll-free numbers listed on the FVAP web portal. Questions regarding the above may also be referred to the Director, Federal Voting Assistance Program, Department of Defense, 1155 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC, 20301-1155, vote@fvap.gov, and on the World Wide Web at FVAP.gov.

 

Japanese Government Online Resources (in English)

 

Japan Changes Its Immigration Policy

Effective July 2012, the Ministry of Justice will implement an amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act with the following key changes:

1. RESIDENCE CARD (ZAIRYU CARD)
The Ministry of Justice will abolish the issuance of Alien Registration Certificate (ACR) and will put in place a new registry system for foreign nationals residing legally in Japan. Under the new system, foreigners in Japan for a medium to long term will be issued the new Residence Card.

These cards will replace the ACR and the status of residence stamped in passports of foreign residents. As a counter measure against forgery and alteration, the cards are equipped with a chip that stores the cardholder's information such as name, status of residence and term of stay, etc.

Who is Affected by the Change?

  • Foreign nationals currently holding Permanent Residence status
  • Foreign nationals who are married to, or dependents of Japanese citizens having Spouse or Child of Japanese National or Long-Term resident status
  • Foreign nationals issued with a college Student status
  • Foreign nationals issued with a working visa in various professional classification like Engineer, Specialist in Humanities/International Services, Research, Business Management, Designated Activities, etc.

Who is NOT Subject to the Change?

  • Foreign nationals whose permission to stay in Japan is for 3 months or less or have been issued Temporary Visitor status
  • Foreign nationals having Diplomat or Official status of residence
  • Foreign nationals deemed equivalent to above statuses by Japan's Ministry of Justice
  • Special Permanent Residents
  • Persons with no status of residence

2. EXTENSION OF RESIDENCE TERM
People holding a Japanese visa having a valid term of 3 years will now be extended to 5 years. Foreigners married to Japanese nationals with a Spouse or Child or Japanese National status with either 1 year or 3 years term may now extend period to 5 years.

3. INTRODUCTION OF SPECIAL RE-ENTRY PERMISSION
Foreign nationals affected by the change are no longer required to apply for a re-entry permit if the date of their return to Japan is made within a year.

However, if one decides or fails to come back to Japan after 1 year, the special re-entry permission cannot be extended abroad resulting in the loss of the status of residence. Under the new system, one has to return to Japan within 1 year.

People whose re-entry permit was issued before the change may still use it and extend validity term from 3 to 5 years.

All foreign residents are required by law to report or notify the authorities of changes related to their immigration status. Failure to do so can result in penalties including fines up to 200,000 yen, revocation of visa, or deportation.

 

Oregon to Hold a Special Election for Congress – November 8

On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Oregon will hold a special primary election for the 1st Congressional District, to fill the seat vacated by Representative David Wu. The 1st Congressional District includes parts of northwestern Oregon. This is a Special Primary election applicable only to those registered with the Democratic and Republican Parties. The General election will be held on Tuesday, January 31, 2012. In Oregon, the 1st District includes Clatsop County, Columbia County, Washington County, Yamhill County and part of Multnomah County which includes some of the Portland metropolitan area.

If you are not already registered to vote, you may do so online at oregonvotes.org, or by submitting a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). Your FPCA must be received by your local Oregon Elections Office by October 18, 2011. Go to www.fvap.gov and get started! It only takes a few minutes! Alternately you may obtain an FPCA from your unit or installation voting assistance officer and at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide; but you must follow the Oregon instructions given at www.fvap.gov. Indicate on the FPCA how you would like to receive your absentee ballot, by mail, e-mail, or fax. You will not receive a ballot automatically, even if you voted in the November 2, 2010 general election.

If you are already registered to vote, the deadline for submitting an FPCA to request a ballot is November 8, 2011.

To find out the status of your registration, or your absentee ballot request you can refer to Oregon’s elections website at: www.oregonvotes.org and go to MyVote.

Free Legal Counseling for Foreigners – October 22

Saturday, October 22, 2011 from 1pm-4pm, the Kanto Federation of Bar Associations, the Tokyo Bar Association, the Dai-ichi Tokyo Bar Association, and the Dai-ni Tokyo Bar Association are sponsoring an afternoon of free legal counseling at Ichiben Hall, 12th floor, Bar Associations Building (1-1-3 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo). Free legal advice will be offered for all kinds of mental and legal problems, including those concerning visas, labor, contracts, and compensation for damages, as well as family problems related to marriage and divorce. All consultations are confidential. Service will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. No phone reservations. Languages spoken include Japanese, English, French, Spanish and Chinese, as well as other foreign languages. For more information, please call the Dai-ichi Tokyo Bar Association at 03-3595-8575.

 

Travel Warnings and Alerts

The State Department updated its Travel Alert for Japan on July 19, 2011 to note the U.S. Government assessment that health and safety risks associated with the use of Sendai Airport are low. This alert remains in effect until September 18, 2011. We recommend you review it again, even if you have already read it.

Security Reminder: On July 26, 2011, the Department of State issued a Worldwide Caution to update information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated January 31, 2011, to provide updated information on security threats and terrorist activities worldwide. This information is available at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_4787.html.

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

Turks and Caicos 08/23/2011
Libya08/23/2011
Somalia 08/19/2011
Chad08/16/2011
Haiti 08/08/2011
Pakistan 08/08/2011
Syria 08/05/2011
Niger 08/05/2011
Saudi Arabia 08/05/2011

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. A complete list of countries for which Travel Warnings have been issued can be viewed online at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html.

Currently, Travel Alerts are in effect for the following countries:

Bahrain08/19/2011
Zambia08/11/2011
Japan07/19/2011
Tunisia 07/08/2011
Pacific Typhoon Season06/02/2011
Hurricane Season 201106/01/2011
Bahrain05/13/2011
Egypt04/28/2011

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 information is available at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_1766.html

The most up-to-date information regarding permitted and prohibited items on flights can be viewed online at: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm

For additional information, please visit "Americans Traveling Abroad" on the Department of State website: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/americans/americans_1252.html

Students traveling abroad may wish to visit: http://studentsabroad.state.gov/

To obtain up-to-date information on security conditions, please call 202-501-4444. For an explanation of the types of visas or to answer any other question you might have about visas, please click here: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html


Upcoming Holidays and ACS Office Closures

The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates in Japan will be closed on the following dates:

Labor DayMonday, September 5
Autumn Equinox Day Friday, September 23

A full list of holiday closings is available at: http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-holidays.html

American citizens who require emergency assistance during holidays should contact the office serving their Consular District: http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-7123.html

To view the business hours for the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and all of the U.S. Consulates in Japan, check the following webpage: http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-7123.html

Follow Ambassador Roos on Twitter

Ambassador John V. Roos uses Twitter's real-time information network to share his experiences in Japan. He invites everyone to follow his tweets at http://twitter.com/AmbassadorRoos.

Check out "Z Notes," the official blog of the U.S. Embassy in Japan

After being published for a solid year, the official U.S. Embassy in Japan blog, "Z Notes" is still going strong. You can read the latest update online here.

Our Deputy Chief of Mission, Jim Zumwalt, welcomes blog topic suggestions from our readers. You can make suggestions or comment on items that have already been written by visiting Z Notes online.

STEP: Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

We encourage you to sign up for the U.S. State Department's free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (formerly known as "Travel Registration" or "Registration with Embassies").

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that U.S. embassies and consulates can better assist you in an emergency, including situations where your family or friends in the U.S. are having problems trying to contact you with important news. When you sign up, you will automatically receive the most current information embassies compile about the country where you will be traveling or living. You will also receive any applicable Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts.

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

If you are leaving Japan or otherwise wish to unsubscribe from this list you can unsubscribe by writing from the same e-mail 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 e-mail 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 prefectures. All American Citizen Services are by appointment only.

American Consulate General Naha
2-1-1 Toyama,
Urasoe City
Okinawa 901-2104
Tel: 098-876-4211
Fax: 098-876-4243

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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