This article first appeared in the October issue of Groove magazine, and is part of a series of articles exploring the foreign embassies located in Seoul. Our American Citizen Services Chief highlights what your U.S. Embassy can do for you, and just as importantly, what we can’t do.
The U.S. Embassy in Seoul proudly serves more than 120,000 United States citizens visiting, living and working in South Korea. Americans in Korea reach out to our consular officers every work day, sometimes seeking help in emergency situations and, more often, to process routine but essential documents such as passports.
American citizens can visit the U.S. Embassy to apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad for a newborn U.S. citizen baby, apply for a new or replacement U.S. passport, apply for various U.S. federal benefits, or ask questions of a U.S. consular officer. Additionally, the Consular Section provides notarial services by appointment. For most routine passport renewals, you may not even need to come to the U.S. Embassy but can take advantage of our courier service instead. We offer consular services at the Embassy every work day and travel to the American Presence Post in Busan once a month to provide consular services to American citizens living in that area.
The U.S. Embassy in Seoul requires appointments for all non-emergency, routine services. This means that we now serve everyone more quickly and efficiently. Nevertheless, U.S. citizens with emergencies will always be our top priority with or without an appointment. An emergency can be any crisis situation for an American in Korea but often involves the arrest, destitution, or death of a U.S citizen. We are also contacted on an emergency basis when Americans are the victim of a crime. If your passport has been lost or stolen and you need to travel in less than two days, this also counts as an emergency, and with proper documentation we can issue a limited-validity emergency passport.
We ask for your understanding that there are some limitations inherent in our work. For example, we are prohibited by U.S. law from offering legal advice and from getting involved in personal or business disputes. However, we maintain a list of lawyers in Korea. We are not able to get U.S. citizens out of jail, but we visit all incarcerated U.S. citizens in Korea regularly to make sure that they are being treated properly.
We are frequently asked for advice on Korean visa and immigration issues. However, in most cases, there is little we can do other than direct you to the proper Korean authorities. Similarly, while we do all we can to assist Americans traveling overseas, the U.S. Embassy cannot issue visas for travel to any other country. We do have contact information for other countries’ embassies in Seoul, however, and will be happy to provide this to you. The U.S. Embassy in general keeps very few personal records on hand, so we will likely direct you to another authority if you request a copy of your marriage certificate, birth certificate, or other documents.
Planning for life’s emergencies is an important part of consular work and we encourage you to be informed and stay in touch. U.S. citizens can register their travel through the Smart Traveler Enrollment System (STEP) to stay in touch with the consular section, receive updates and messages, and let us know how to reach you in case of an emergency. Information about STEP is available at: https://step.state.gov/step/.
One of the best resources for American citizens in South Korea is our website – https://kr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/. This website contains comprehensive, updated information about all of our services for American citizens, including contact information and downloadable forms. You can also stay in touch by joining our Facebook page, “Americans in Korea,” which provides helpful information, alerts, and answers to your questions. “Like” us today at http://www.facebook.com/americansinkorea.
Assisting Americans overseas is the U.S. Embassy’s highest priority, and we look forward to serving you.