American Citizens in Israel in Limbo: Urgent Action Needed to Address the Crisis at the US Embassy

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Chaim V’Chessed has reported extensively on the challenges involved in obtaining services at the US Embassy in Israel. Prior to the Pesach travel season, a sudden change in policy discontinued emergency appointments for newborns. At the time, there was a communal outcry,  which led to the involvement of numerous public officials in the matter. Several U.S. legislators, including ranking members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Senators Richard Blumenfeld (D-CT), Robert Menedez (D-NY) and Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), headed efforts with the State Department to rectify the situation.

At the time, the immediate pre-Pesach crisis was resolved. However, the overall state of affairs for American citizens in Israel remains dire. It will be recalled that back in February, the US Embassy rolled out a new appointment system. This system was aimed at streamlining the process and at weeding out fictitious appointments. It was also geared to put an end to unsavory practices which involved shadowy ‘agents’ selling appointments for money, often using bots to game the appointment system.

While at the time the new process seemed promising, we are saddened to report that it has proven to be a failure. Callers to both Chaim V’Chessed and Amudim report wait times of six months to a year for obtaining passport appointments. This impossible situation has apparently, once again, fueled those unsavory individuals who seek to profit on the difficulties of others. Seemingly, bots and ‘agents’ are back in business, charging desperate American citizens for appointments which should be available at no cost.

We are gravely concerned about the situation and disappointed that a viable solution has not been found. Chaim V’Chessed, together with Amudim, is compiling information from American citizens who have been negatively affected by this situation. We ask that you fill out this brief survey to assist us in our efforts.

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In order to best advocate on behalf of the community, even if you already received your required passports and/or CRBAs, we would appreciate if you submit your information. Please click here to participate in the survey.

A PLEA RECEIVED BY CHAIM V’CHESSED

Chaim V’Chessed has received countless pleas for assistance regarding embassy difficulties. The following is just one example:

First, a huge thank you for all of the immensely valuable services that you provide. I want to add my voice in case others are expressing the same complain, which is as follows (I am sending the same note to the US Embassy-Jerusalem email address):

As a US citizen residing in Israel, I very much appreciate the US Embassy’s efforts in trying to facilitate passport renewals and other US Citizens Services, after the Corona virus created a tremendous backlog. However, the new appointment-making system is only a partial, if not fractional, solution. For months we have kept our Wednesday afternoons, from 3 to 4pm, open in order to sit at the computer and attempt to make an appointment. It seems that we are competing with hundreds of others, and the fastest typists (or most savviest computer programmers) win. Today, about 18 appointments were opened up, at 3:06pm. Within 45 seconds they were gone. We have managed, over the course of the past year, to make two appointments for passport renewals, but for the third child who needs a renewal, we have not succeeded in winning the typing race. 

In our case, this manifests in the unfortunate inconvenience of not being able to return to the US to visit my 91-year-old father. The Israeli government made “Passport Marathon” days, which seems to have helped the problem for Israeli citizens seeking to obtain or renew Israeli passports. Perhaps the US Embassy could consider the same. Alternatively, perhaps, the US State Department could consider passport renewals by mail for children. Thank you for your attention.

Source: {Matzav.com Israel}

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