The U.S. Government shutdown has federal workers staying home or working without pay and it means that U.S. government services are limited in some areas. Americans abroad who need to renew passports or register a birth may be wondering if the consulates are open for business. Robert F. Hannan, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs/ Consul General, Embassy of the United States, Paris, reached out to AARO President Neil Kearney to clarify the impact of the shutdown on consular services.
Mr. Hannan says that emergency services for U.S. citizens abroad is and will remain available even if the shutdown continues. "This is the first duty of the Embassy and will be carried out regardless of funding circumstances. In the language of the government on the lapse in appropriations, these are “excepted” services and will continue."
Basic Services Still Available For Now
According to Mr. Hannan, basic consular services such as Passport, Citizenship, Visa, and Notarial services are all available at this time. "While the appropriation for the Department of State lapsed and many Embassy officers are furloughed, the Consular function is almost entirely funded by the fees that are collected to provide Consular services. The fees are set to recoup the provision of services on a worldwide basis. For the time being all Consular Sections are able to operate. Applicants should continue to make and attend passport, citizenship, visa, and notarial appointments. If the lapse continues for some time, the ability of the Embassy’s management section to support our work may be affected and at that time, Consular services may be altered."
However, funding is not available at this time for what are called “repatriation” loans which are allocated to destitute United States citizens abroad who wish to return to the United States. Hannan notes that this is "a rare last resort, if a destitute United States citizen can find no family member, friend, or colleague able or willing to pay for return to the United States, the United States government may loan that traveler funds sufficient to pay for transport. In practice, we use the funds to buy the ticket directly for the traveler. The passport is also limited for direct immediate return and the traveler must pay back the loan before a new passport can be issued."
AARO notes as well that some U.S. consulates are saying that their websites will not be updated during the shutdown, so we suggest that you call your local consulate directly if you have questions or need information. A list of U.S. consulates around the world and their contact information can be found here.