8 FAM 1304.3
Overseas Travel Letters
(Office of Origin: CA/PPT/S/A)
8 FAM 1304.3-1 Introduction
a. This section explains procedures to be utilized by posts on the rare occasions when issuance of an emergency photo-digitized passport (EPDP) passport is not possible (see 8 FAM 706.2).
b. Non-emergency after-hours passport services are not generally provided by posts. It is a post management decision whether a consular officer should be called in to issue passports after hours. Because of the technical and systems knowledge necessary to issue a passport overseas, and security issues related to opening a post after hours, this may not be feasible. This type of service is generally reserved for life and death emergencies or international crisis evacuations.
8 FAM 1304.3-2 Procedures for Issuance of a Travel Letter by U.S. Embassies and Consulates Abroad
a. Posts should issue travel letters only in rare or unusual circumstances described in this Appendix, where it is impossible to issue an EPDP (see 8 FAM 706.2). These circumstances include:
(1) Law-enforcement related travel letters in situations other than extradition: Such travel letters must be expressly authorized by Passport Services' Office of Legal Affairs and Law Enforcement Liaison, Legal Affairs Division (CA/PPT/S/L/LA), which works with the U.S. law enforcement authority on matters related to revocation of the passport of the subject of an outstanding Federal warrant (see 8 FAM 803.6);
(2) Extradition-related travel letters: In extremely rare emergency situations when it is not possible to issue a passport limited for direct return to the United States, posts may issue travel letters in extradition situations with the authorization of CA/OCS/L as liaison with the departments of Justice and Homeland Security and the Office of the Legal Adviser for Law Enforcement and Intelligence (L/LEI);
NOTE: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection has confirmed to CA/OCS/L that travel letters are sufficient for extradition related travel of a fugitive under law enforcement escort, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative notwithstanding.
(3) Crisis travel (life or death) related travel letters: Such travel letters may be authorized by post without Department approval;
(4) Catastrophic event (bombing, earthquake, etc.) which makes it impossible for the U.S. embassy or consulate to issue passports or insert a Passport Limitation Endorsement Stamp (see 8 FAM 803.9); and
(5) Travel letters issued in critical emergencies to citizens of a protected power (see 8 FAM 1306.1).
b. Travel letters should not be used in deportation situations (see 7 FAM 1625.5), or prisoner transfer situations (see 7 FAM 485.3-2), as these cases are not emergencies and there is usually sufficient time for the post to issue a limited-validity passport to the applicant. If a deportee or prisoner refuses to sign a passport application, the consular officer can sign it “without recourse,” attach an explanation, issue the passport, and furnish it to the U.S. law enforcement escort (see also 8 FAM 402.3 regarding applicant signatures).
c. Because a travel letter is neither a secure document nor proof of U.S. citizenship or identity, border security considerations require that the use of these documents be extremely rare. The travel letter facilitates departure from the host country and provides immigration officials at the port of entry (POE) with information necessary to admit the traveler. However, the bearer may still encounter difficulty on entering the United States.
d. Travel letters will not be issued on weekends to facilitate routine travel. The applicant should be instructed to visit the embassy or consulate the next business day during working hours to apply for an EPDP. In this context, extreme personal and financial hardship must involve significantly more than the inconvenience of a missed flight or expense of a lost airline ticket.
e. Before developing post procedures for issuing travel letters, consultations should be conducted with host-country and area transportation line officials to verify that departure from the host country without a passport can be used in unforeseen emergency situations.
f. The consular officer should inform the officer in charge of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the POE of the prospective arrival of the U.S. citizen/non-citizen U.S. national in need of a waiver and provide the CBP officer with the U.S. citizen’s/non-citizen U.S. national’s arrival date and time, the name of the carrier, and any other relevant travel data. If there is a U.S. CBP officer assigned to the U.S. embassy or consulate or other CBP office outside the United States, the post should coordinate with that office.
g. Third-country travel: When the subject of a travel letter is traveling to a third country, the consular or duty officer should contact his or her counterpart in the U.S. embassy in the third country, prior to travel, to ascertain whether the immigration authorities of that country will permit a U.S. citizen/non-citizen U.S. national to enter on the basis of a travel letter. If third-country officials will not permit entry or transit with a travel letter, it would be inappropriate to issue one. The consular or duty officer must:
(1) Determine that a travel letter may be authorized;
(2) Establish that the applicant has documentation of identity and citizenship;
(3) Clear the applicant through Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS);
(4) Provide the U.S. consular/duty officer counterpart in the third country with the name of the traveler, the arrival date and time, name of carrier and any other relevant travel data;
(5) Modify the text of the travel letter in 8 FAM 1304.3-8 to address the third-country immigration authorities;
(6) Advise the applicant that:
(a) The passport waiver exempts him or her from U.S. law requiring the applicant to depart and enter the United States on a valid U.S. passport (8 U.S.C. 1185) and is not a waiver of the foreign entry requirements of the country to which he or she is traveling;
(b) The United States cannot guarantee that she/he will be permitted to board an airplane or enter the foreign country;
(c) She/he cannot return to the United States on the passport waiver, but must obtain a U.S. passport at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad; and
(d) The domestic NDO and U.S. consular officers overseas do not have authority to require any airline to board a passenger without a valid passport. If a passport waiver is authorized but the airline refuses to board the passenger, the NDO should make alternative arrangements for emergency passport issuance at a passport agency/center as soon as possible thereafter.
(7) Give the applicant an assessment of the destination country’s procedures for processing U.S. citizens/non-citizen U.S. nationals who arrive without proper documentation in accordance with duty guidance;
(8) Contact (call, fax, or email) the airline to inform them that the U.S. Department of State is granting the applicant a waiver of the passport requirement; and
(9) Send a fax/email to the U.S. embassy and, if applicable, the consulate with consular jurisdiction over the port of entry in the destination country asking that it contact the appropriate host country officials and notify them of the applicant’s imminent arrival.
h. Posts generally may not process requests for travel letters solely on the basis of telephone conversations with airline or immigration personnel who have an alleged U.S. citizen/non-citizen U.S. national in front of them at these points of departure. A face-to-face interview of the applicant is usually essential in making a determination to issue a travel letter. (See 8 FAM 1304.3-7 for guidance regarding what to do when there is a critical need to travel and there is no U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where the U.S. citizen/non-citizen U.S. national is located.)
8 FAM 1304.3-3 Accommodation for Use of Passport Cards in Lieu of Passport Books for Emergency Air Travel
a. Authorization to travel internationally by air on a passport card requires close coordination with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security CBP, as well as the host-government authorities, airlines, and potentially transit countries and posts.
b. Under no circumstances can a passport card holder be accommodated for air travel as a matter of convenience for routine travel, for weekend travel, or to avoid extra unforeseen expenses (e.g., lodging, meals, airfare, etc.). In such cases, the applicant must always be instructed to visit the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate the next business day during working hours to apply for a locally issued EPDP. Accommodating a passport card holder for air travel must never be considered an equal substitute for obtaining an EPDP, as the passport card is not valid for this purpose. Posts with vast consular districts are not exempt from these guidelines.
c. Overseas posts' ability to expeditiously issue EPDPs greatly diminishes the instances when this accommodation of last resort would be required. Overseas posts, however, may encounter rare situations when a passport card holder has an urgent need to depart the host country and return to the United States by air in an emergency life or death situation, when the issuance of an EPDP book or insertion of a Passport Limitation Endorsement Stamp (see 8 FAM 803.9) is not possible.
d. These circumstances include, but are not limited to:
(1) A catastrophic event (earthquake, terrorist incident, etc.), which exposes U.S. citizens/non-citizen U.S. nationals to immediate danger and which makes it impossible for the U.S. embassy or consulate to issue EPDPs. Close coordination with CA/OCS would be required in this situation; and
(2) Crisis travel that requires the U.S. citizen's/non-citizen U.S. national’s immediate presence in the United States and the traveler is unable to obtain an EPDP. This is normally confined to the death, serious illness, or serious injury of a member of the citizen's/non-citizen U.S. national’s immediate family. An immediate family member includes the citizen's parents, siblings, spouse, life partner, and children. Such facilitation may be provided by post without Department approval. Situations concerning the citizen's/non-citizen U.S. national’s extended family members, such as grandparents or other relatives, will be managed on a case-by-case basis.
e. Coordinating exit/entry with host country and POE officials:
(1) Before developing post procedures for accommodating the use of passport cards for air travel in emergency situations, consultations should be conducted with host-country officials and local airline or other transportation companies to verify that this procedure can be used in unforeseen emergency situations; and
(2) The consular officer should inform the officer in charge of U.S. CBP at the POE of the prospective arrival of the U.S. citizen/non-citizen U.S. national traveling by air with a passport card and provide the CBP officer with the citizen's/non-citizen U.S. national’s arrival date and time, the name of the carrier, and any other relevant travel data. If there is a U.S. CBP officer assigned to the U.S. embassy or consulate or other CBP office outside the United States, the post should coordinate with that office.
f. Third-country travel: When a passport card holder is traveling by air to a third country in an emergency situation or will transit a third country en route to the United States, the consular or duty officer should contact his or her counterpart in the U.S. embassy in the third country, prior to the U.S. citizen's/non-citizen U.S. national’s travel, to ascertain whether the immigration authorities of that country will permit a U.S. citizen/non-citizen U.S. national to enter or transit with a passport card. If third-country officials will not permit entry or transit with a passport card, there is no option but to issue an EPDP before travel commences. If the third country will permit use of a passport card, post should provide the U.S. consular/duty officer with the name of the traveler, the arrival date and time, name of carrier, and any other relevant travel data.
g. CA/OCS recommends that posts approach immigration authorities to ascertain whether they will permit entry or transit with a passport card and add this information to their duty books.
h. 8 FAM 1304.3-6 provides guidance regarding the passport card and crisis evacuations.
i. Questions: If posts have questions regarding the passport card and the facilitation of its use for air travel, please contact AskPPTAdjudication@state.gov.
8 FAM 1304.3-4 Format and copies of the travel Letter
a. Consular Affairs suggests that the travel letter format be similar to the one shown in 8 FAM 1304.3-9. It may be adapted for local requirements as necessary.
b. The travel letter must be prepared in quadruplicate if possible:
(1) One copy, for host country immigration officials, that complies with host-country requirements (provide translations as needed for host-country officials);
(2) One copy, for the airline official(s), that complies with carrier requirements;
(3) One copy for the applicant to present to CBP at the POE. The CBP requires that the letter contain the name, date and place of birth, photograph, a reason why the passport is not available, and that it be signed and sealed by the consular officer; and
(4) One copy for the post’s files.
c. Seal the first three copies in separate official envelopes, each addressed to the appropriate authority. Place a consular seal (wet seal) on the envelope seam and cover with a strip of clear tape to prevent tampering.
d. Photograph: The bearer’s photograph must be affixed to the lower left-hand corner of each of the four letters unless contrary to, or provided for otherwise by, host-country or carrier requirements. The U.S. embassy’s or consulate’s dry seal must be impressed over the photograph. Any photograph which presents a good likeness of the person is acceptable, including photo machine strips, other instant photos, digital photographs, etc. The photos on the letters do not need to be identical. A digital photo printed on a portable black and white printer is sufficient in emergencies. However, photographs that fulfill the requirements of 8 FAM 402.1, “Passport Photographs” are preferred.
e. If the traveler must transit other countries en route to a direct flight to the United States, or must change planes or otherwise deal with immigration officials of a third (or fourth) country, the consular or overseas post duty officer should contact his or her counterpart(s) in the country(ies) to be transited to ascertain whether the immigration authorities of such country(ies) will permit a U.S. citizen/non-citizen U.S. national to transit on the basis of a travel letter. If yes, additional copies of the travel letter should be prepared for the immigration officials of such country(ies). If not, it is inappropriate to issue a travel letter.
8 FAM 1304.3-5 Fees for passport waiver or travel letters
a. No fee is charged for the issuance of a passport waiver or travel letter.
b. After-hour surcharges and out-of-office charges (22 CFR 22.1 item 75) apply only to fee services and therefore cannot be charged.
8 FAm 1304.3-6 OVERSEAS CRISIS CASE WHEN IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO ISSUE A PASSPORT OR TRAVEL LETTER
a. In a dire emergency, such as a mass evacuation under threat of violence or natural disaster, victims may be transported from the scene of the danger and processed for evacuation in a third country. In these circumstances, while triage is conducted at the first embarkation point, the evacuees might not be issued passports, passport cards, or travel letters until they reach a safe-haven third country. CA/OCS will give authorization and guidance for this procedure.
b. Alert CA/OCS, if the destination is the United States, or the post in a safe-haven country where the evacuation flight is scheduled to land. When necessary, CA/OCS or the Consular Crisis Task Force or Working Group will assist posts in clearing names through CLASS and verifying citizenship records in the American Citizen Record Query (ACRQ) or otherwise adjudicating the case (see 7 FAM 1800, “Consular Crisis Management,” and 12 FAH-1, “Emergency Planning Handbook”).
c. The passport card and evacuations: In an emergency evacuation or a disaster of significant magnitude affecting large groups of people or areas, post may need to ask the host government to accommodate the use of passport cards for air travel in lieu of a fully valid travel document or EPDP. Such an event could involve U.S. citizens/non-citizen U.S. nationals departing the consular district, U.S. citizens/non-citizen U.S. nationals transiting the consular district from a disaster or evacuation location, or U.S. citizens/non-citizen U.S. nationals arriving in the consular district for safe haven. CA/OCS recommends that posts discuss this possibility with immigration authorities as part of routine consular planning.
8 FAM 1304.3-7 Critical Need to Travel - No U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the Country or Territory Where the U.S. Citizen/Non-Citizen U.S. National is Located
a. The Department is mindful that some consular districts include jurisdictions in countries hundreds or thousands of miles away from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, which is in fact located in another country. The consular district of the U.S. Embassy in Fiji, for example, encompasses seven countries and territories scattered across four million square miles of ocean, and plane connections between these locations are often cumbersome, infrequent, indirect, and very expensive.
b. CA/OCS grants some latitude to U.S. embassies and consulates in such circumstances. However, posts’ authority to issue such travel letters (or authorize travel by passport card, see 8 FAM 1304.3-3) is limited to cases in which the applicant is boarding a flight to the United States or to the location of the U.S. embassy or consulate (Suva, Fiji, for example), where the applicant can then apply for an emergency passport for an onward destination. Posts must have explicit authorization from CA/OCS/ACS to issue travel letters under these circumstances. This general authorization (post specific, not case by case) will be provided by telegram after CA/OCS/ACS assesses the post’s proposed justification for the exception to the general policy, which must be submitted by telegram. Authorization will be provided by the director of CA/OCS/ACS.
c. Before issuing a travel letter, the post’s consular officer must be totally satisfied of the applicant’s identity and his or her claim to U.S. citizenship/non-citizen U.S. nationality. Previous passport issuance should be checked through ACRQ and the subject must clear the CLASS name check system.
d. Posts should cultivate and rely on trustworthy contacts within the local airlines security offices and the local immigration service and law enforcement community to assist with establishing identity. Whenever possible, local authorities should be asked to transmit to post a clear photo of the applicant through electronic means or fax to enable the consular officer to make a positive identification and to provide a documentary basis for establishing the subject’s identity. This may allow the consular officer to compare a photograph with imaged passport data available through the ACRQ system and Facial Recognition on Demand (see 8 FAM 402.2).
e. If distance and flight availability preclude a face-to-face interview, the consular officer may conduct an interview by phone, ideally with the participation of the local airline security official and/or immigration/law enforcement official.
f. While CA/OCS recognizes that the nature of a consular district such as Suva’s might make issuance of travel letters appropriate more frequently than in other districts, the consular officer should decide each case on its own merits, considering the urgency for the applicant’s travel and the feasibility of requiring a passport applicant to apply by mail if post is authorized to do so (see 8 FAM 1003.3) or in person. Posts should keep in mind the emergency nature of a travel letter and the Department’s strong preference for issuing an EPDP in lieu of a travel letter when at all possible.
g. Questions about this procedure should be directed to AskPPTAdjudication@state.gov.
8 FAM 1304.3-8 Sample Travel Letter
Reply to the attention of: U.S. Embassy -----, Consular Section
Subject: Waiver of U.S. Passport Requirement 22 CFR 53.2(b)((9) or (10))
To: Officer in Charge: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port of Entry (U.S. airport, city) and Immigration Authorities at (Foreign Airport) and (Air Carrier)
The bearer of this letter is (insert name), a (U.S. citizen/non-citizen U.S. national) born on (date) at (place of birth) who does not presently possess a valid passport. The bearer has a critical need to travel because:
· (He/She) is the subject of an emergency medical evacuation.
· (He/She) has a life or death situation abroad … (insert text).
· (He/She) is the subject of an extradition or deportation order, traveling under U.S. law enforcement escort.
· (He/She) is the subject of a prisoner transfer traveling, under U.S. law enforcement escort.
· (He/She) is being evacuated due to natural disaster or crisis.
· The U.S. Embassy is unable to issue a passport because (insert text)
(His/Her) name cleared the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS). Because of the bearer’s urgent need to travel to the United States before normal passport services can be provided during regular business hours of the nearest U.S. Embassy, it would be appreciated if the passport requirement in this case be waived under the regulatory guidelines of 22 CFR 53.2(b)(9). For further information about this matter contact the undersigned (or OCS Duty Officer) at (phone/email address.)
Signature of Consular Officer or Duty Officer
Typed Name of Consular Officer or Duty Officer
Title of Consular Officer or Duty Officer
Name of Post
Photo of Subject with Seal