CUSTOMS

Q: What imported items require the submission of a Form DS-1504 “Request for Customs Clearance of Merchandise?”

A: With the exception of properly labeled diplomatic pouches, all imports consigned to a foreign mission, international organization or their members are required to use Form DS-1504 as the sole means for securing entry of such shipments through U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Q. Where can I find Form DS-1504 “Request for Customs Clearance of Merchandise?”

A. Please click here to obtain Form DS-1504.

Q. How do I complete Form DS-1504 “Request for Customs Clearance of Merchandise?”

A. Please click here for the detailed instructions for completing Form DS-1504.

Q. How far in advance may I submit the Form DS-1504 “Request for Customs Clearance of Merchandise?”

A. Missions may submit the Request for Customs Clearance of Merchandise as soon as they have a photocopy of the Air Waybill or Bill of Lading and the Arrival Notice associated with the import. However, OFM is unable to certify such requests until after the shipment has physically arrived at the U.S. port of clearance.

Q: How long does it take for a Form DS-1504 “Request for Customs Clearance of Merchandise” to be processed?

A: OFM reserves a period of 10 work days to adjudicate properly completed submissions of Form DS-1504 “Requests for Customs Clearance of Merchandise.” However, when requests are properly completed, OFM is generally able to complete its review within 2 to 3 business days. Subject to reciprocity, OFM may impose reciprocal restrictions on the timeframe in which it will complete its adjudication of such requests.

Q: What documents must I attach to a Form DS-1504 “Request for Customs Clearance of Merchandise?”

A: In general, foreign missions are only required to submit photocopies of the Air Waybill or Bill of Lading and the Arrival Notice associated with the import request.

DMV

1. How do I obtain a letter from the Department of State permitting me to seek a license from a local Department of Motor Vehicles (“Non-Eligibility Letter”)?

Individuals requesting a Non-Eligibility Letter must submit the following information to the Office of Foreign Missions, marked “Attention: Driver’s Services,” 3507 International Place, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008 (If you are outside the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, please send this request to the appropriate OFM Regional Office):

a. A request on letterhead from the sponsoring organization, mission, or agency;

b. The individual’s name and date of birth as it appears on the visa and on the I-94;

c. The current address of the individual;

d. Certification from the sponsoring organizaton of the individual’s position at the mission and a statement that the individual is not entitled to Department of State programs;

e. A copy of the I-566 (change in visa status), if applicable, and;

f. A copy of the individual’s military orders, if applicable (for foreign military personnel only).

2. How do I obtain my Motor Vehicle Record (MVR)?

Individuals requesting an MVR must submit the following information to the Office of Foreign Missions, marked “Attention: Driver’s Services,” 3507 International Place, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008 (If you are outside the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, please send this request to the appropriate OFM Regional Office):

a. A statement requesting an MVR on mission or insurance company letterhead;

b. Applicant’s name, date of birth, driver’s license number;

c. Applicant’s Personal Identification Number, or their Diplomatic Driver’s License number.

3. How do I obtain a Driver’s License or Non-Driver Identification card?

All applications for the Department’s Diplomatic Driver’s License or Non-Driver identification card will only be accepted via the e-Gov system; please see your mission or organization’s Administrative Officer for assistance. Required supporting documentation includes:

a. E-Gov driver’s license application;

b. Visa and I-94;

c. (2) Facial view photographs 1.5” x 1.5”;

d. Photograph and Signature Card;

e. Photocopy of applicable foreign or U.S driver’s license;

f. State DMV-certified applicable testing requirements.

4. How long does it take to receive a Driver’s License or Non-Driver Identification card?

Generally, a request for a driver’s license or non-driver identification is completed in 1-5 business days. However, requests could take longer to complete during high volume periods such as summer.

5. How do I apply for the title to my vehicle?

Applications for title will only be accepted via the e-Gov system; please see your mission or organization Administrative Officer for assistance.

6. How long does it take to process a title application?

Generally, a request for vehicle title is completed in 1-2 business days. However, requests could take longer to complete during high volume periods such as summer.

7. How do I register my vehicle?

Applications for vehicle registration will only be accepted via the e-Gov system; please see your mission or organization Administrative Officer for assistance.

8. How long does it take to process a vehicle registration?

Generally, a request for vehicle registration is completed in 1-5 business days. However, requests could take longer to complete during high volume periods such as summer.

9. Why does my vehicle appear on the Vehicles with Expired Insurance Report, when I have current and valid insurance coverage?

Insurance companies do not automatically forward insurance policies to the Diplomatic Motor Vehicle (DMV) office when an insurance policy is renewed. To prevent your vehicle from appearing on the expired insurance report, you must forward a copy of the insurance declaration page to the Office of Foreign Missions, marked “Attention: Insurance Verification unit,” 3507 International Place, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008, or to the appropriate OFM Regional Office. For those in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, this information may be scanned and sent via email to ofmdmvinsurance@state.gov.

10. What is an insurance binder?

When applying for new insurance, the insurance company will complete a written contract, known as a binder. Included in this document will be a binder number that will be assigned for 45 days until the insurance company has had time to issue a policy number. Once an individual has received his/her copy of the declaration page with the policy number, this must be forwarded to the Office of Foreign Missions, marked “Attention: Insurance Verification unit,” 3507 International Place, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008 or to the appropriate OFM Regional Office. For those in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, this information may be scanned and sent via email to ofmdmvinsurance@state.gov.

11. What happens when an insurance policy is renewed by an insurance company?

When your policy becomes due for renewal, in six months or one year, you will receive a bill from the insurance company. Once you send your payment to the company and/or agent, you will receive an insurance identification card and declaration page in the mail. A copy of the declaration page must be forwarded to the Office of Foreign Missions, marked “Attention: Insurance Verification unit,” 3507 International Place, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008 or to the appropriate OFM Regional Office via your mission’s administrative officer to update your record. For those in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, this information may be scanned and sent via email to ofmdmvinsurance@state.gov. Updated insurance information is required to renew your annual vehicle registration card and decal.

12. When will I receive my registration renewal decal for my vehicle’s license plate?

The registration renewals are printed on the first business day of every month and distribution occurs during that week. In the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, the registration renewals and decals are available for pickup in the Office of Foreign Mission’s Customer Service Center located at 3507 International Place, NW, Washington, D.C., 20008. Outside the Washington Metropolitan Area, please see the OFM Regional Office that serves your area.

13. What is the procedure if I’ve lost my renewal decal?

All applications for lost decals are made through the e-Gov system; please see your mission or organization Administrative Officer for assistance. Note that there is a fee of $35 for a lost decal, but if the decal has been stolen, a police report must be filed and reported to OFM/DMV to get an OFM Report Number. There is no fee if the stolen decal has been reported to the police.

14. Where do I place the renewal decal on my vehicle’s license plate?

The renewal decal must be placed on the rear license plate of the vehicle in the lower left hand corner directly over the decal it replaces. The license plate may not be encased in a license plate frame as this obscures the decal and its expiration date.

15. Are foreign missions or their members exempt from parking tickets?

No. Foreign missions and mission members and their families are not exempt from resolving parking tickets. In accordance with international treaties, host government laws and regulations are to be respected. All parking tickets must either be paid or contested directly with the local jurisdiction issuing the ticket. The U.S. Department of State has no authority to intervene or dismiss tickets or fines. Failure to resolve parking tickets can result in nonrenewal of the annual vehicle registration for the offending mission or mission member.

16. Can foreign mission members be issued traffic citations by police for motor vehicle law violations?

Yes. Under international law and practice, persons enjoying immunity from the jurisdiction of the host country’s laws are nonetheless obligated to respect those laws. Police are to always treat foreign diplomatic and consular personnel with respect and due regard to the privileges and immunities to which they are entitled; however immunity is not a license for misconduct. In the interest of public safety, police may issue citations for alleged traffic violations; however, individuals possessing immunity may not be arrested or detained. The U.S. Department of State has no authority to intervene with local jurisdictions or to dismiss violations or fines, and all mission members are expected to resolve their violations with the local jurisdiction. Failure to resolve traffic violations could result in the loss of driving privileges. Policies and procedures for resolving motor vehicle violations and law enforcement matters are outlined here.

TAX

Q. How do I apply for sales tax exemption card?

A. Complete the sales tax exemption card request using the Department’s E-Government Program. Print the Transaction I.D Summary Receipt and the Photograph and Signature Card and provide one current color photograph (2”x2” in size, with a white or light background, taken within the last six months). Forward the above noted items to OFM’s Customer Service Center (Washington, DC area only) or to the appropriate OFM Regional Office. Allow five to seven business days for the tax cards to be received in the mail..

Q. Is there anything else I must do to obtain sales tax exemption?

A. As a general rule, presentation of a sales tax exemption card should be enough to obtain point-of-sale exemption from sales and use taxes throughout the United States. However, in certain states, missions and their members may be asked to complete a form at the time of purchase. In the state of New York, missions and their members are required to complete the form DTF-950 (Certificate of Sales Tax Exemption for Diplomatic Missions & Personnel”). In addition, twenty-three states participate in the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement which requires foreign missions and their members to complete a Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement–Certificate of Exemption at the time of purchase. The states participating in the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. Click here for a copy of the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement–Certificate of Exemption.

Q: How do I apply for exemption from taxes on gasoline?

A: Obtain and complete a gasoline business/fleet credit card application from one or more of the participating oil companies. For a list of participating oil companies, click here. Using the Department’s E-Government Program, complete a Request for Exemption from Gasoline Taxes for each oil company credit card application. Submit the completed credit card applications and the Transaction I.D. Summary Receipt to OFM’s Customer Service Center (Washington, DC area only) or the appropriate OFM Regional Office. The oil companies will not accept credit card applications for diplomatic gasoline tax exemption unless they are accompanied by documentation provided directly from OFM. Please click here for additional information concerning exemption from taxes on gasoline purchases.

Q. How long does it take to receive the tax exempt gasoline credit cards?

A. Foreign missions and their eligible members should receive tax exempt credit cards within approximately 2 months from the date the applications were submitted to OFM.

Q: How do I obtain exemption from taxes on utilities?

A: Using the Department’s E-Government Program, complete a Request for Exemption from Utility Taxes for each utility company to which a request is being made. If more than one account is held with a company (for example, with telephone service providers each phone line/number is a separate account) complete one request for each account. Please click here for additional information concerning exemption from taxes imposed on utility services.

Q. How long does it take for utility tax exemptions to take effect?

A. It may take 2-3 billing cycles for this exemption to take effect.

Q. At what age can a dependent child receive a tax exemption card?

A. Dependent children of a mission member eligible for tax exemption privileges may obtain a tax exemption card at the age of eighteen. This card will be valid until the individual's twenty-first birthday. For dependent children of a mission member eligible for tax exemption who are accredited by the Office of the Chief of Protocol as a “justified student”, the tax exemption card will be valid until their twenty-third birthday.

Q. I have lost my tax exempt card, what do I have to do to get another card?

A. In the event of a lost or stolen tax exemption card, the mission must submit a diplomatic note to OFM explaining when and where the card in question was lost or stolen, along with a request for a replacement card through the E-Government Program, and wait 30 days to allow for the lost or stolen card to be returned.

Q. How can I receive the tax exemption for Internet purchases?

A. The nature of Internet purchases does not allow for the presentation of diplomatic tax exemption card. Therefore, OFM advises those eligible for tax exemption privileges that such relief cannot be granted on purchases made through an Internet website. OFM will not provide any assistance to foreign missions or their members in obtaining an exemption or reimbursement of taxes charges on purchases made through the Internet.

Q. How do I receive the tax exemption on airline tickets?

A. There are no taxes imposed on the purchase of domestic airline tickets in the United States. Individuals who wish to claim exemption from taxes imposed on international airline tickets acquired in the United States must present to a ticketing agent evidence of the traveler’s A or G visa. Please click here for additional information concerning this topic.

TAX – FAQ for Vendors

Q: Why are diplomats/card holders allowed to receive tax exemption in the US?

A: Tax exemption privileges for foreign diplomats, consular officers, and staff members are generally based on two treaties: the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. These treaties have been ratified by the United States and are the supreme law of the land under Article VI of the Constitution. Not all foreign missions and their personnel are entitled to tax exemption. This privilege is based on reciprocity and not all foreign countries grant such privileges to U.S. Embassies and their personnel. Please carefully review the tax exempt card which details the benefits to be offered.

Q: What forms of payment are the individuals using tax exemption cards allowed to use?

A: For Personal Tax Exemption Cards, the person whose name and photo appear may pay with cash, credit cards or personal checks in the name of the bearer of the personal tax exemption card. Personal Tax Exemption Cards are non-transferable. Only the person whose photo appears on the front side of the card is permitted to use it.

For Mission Tax Exemption Cards that are issued to designated representatives of embassies, consulates, and international organizations for use when making official purchases, all purchases must be made in the name of the mission and paid for by either a mission check or credit card. Cash, credit cards or personal checks in the name of the bearer of the mission tax exemption card cannot be used as payment. The person whose name and photo appear on the card is the mission’s point of contact and is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the exemption. This individual does not need to be present when purchases are made in the name of the mission.

Q: How will I file my taxes if a person with a tax exemption card comes into my business?

A: All questions concerning bookkeeping requirements should be directed to the appropriate city or state revenue/tax authority.

Q: Am I allowed to keep records of the persons with tax exemption cards?

A: Yes. In fact, all vendors are encouraged to keep for their records a copy of the tax exemption card and a copy of the receipt for the tax-exempt transaction.

Q: Who can I call if I have questions about the tax exemption card program, or a particular tax exemption card that I am presented with?

A: Questions concerning the authenticity of a particular card, or the exact nature of the tax exemption afforded to the card holder, may be directed to (202) 895-3500, ext. 2 between 8am and 5pm EST (Monday - Friday). Such questions may also be directed to OFM’s Regional Offices in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. Please click here for contact information for these offices.



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