Almost everyone recognizes the trademark of the Office of Foreign Missions--the red, white, and blue license tag on the diplomatic vehicles negotiating the streets and roadways of the United States. These tags represent just one of the many functions of the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM), which provides services to, and regulates the activities of, 1,700 foreign government missions to the United States and about 55,000 foreign mission members and their dependents. Services are provided to foreign missions in the United States as a reciprocal means of obtaining better treatment by other governments for U.S. missions and personnel overseas. OFM manages five major programs: Diplomatic Motor Vehicles, Travel, Real Property, Customs, and Tax. OFM regional offices in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, and Miami are often the local face of the State Department in their respective regions.
To help achieve its goals, OFM and its regional offices collaborate with other offices and bureaus in the Department, as well as other outside organizations. OFM has long conducted outreach programs to disseminate information to local law enforcement agencies on the protections that immunity gives diplomats and consular officials, and what they can do legally with a foreign mission member who breaks the law.
OFM explains foreign missions' privileges and responsibilities at seminars for local governments and business communities in partnership with representatives from the Office of Protocol and DS Protective Liaison Division.
Taxes on goods and services can dramatically increase the operating costs of American embassies and affect the morale of our personnel. OFM has broadly attacked the imposition of such taxation, arguing that it violates the spirit of the Vienna Conventions of Diplomatic and Consular Relations and a number of bilateral treaties. For those countries that do not provide tax relief, OFM will balance the inequity by withdrawing or restricting their tax exemption privileges in the United States.
Similarly, OFM works to improve other working and living conditions of the Department's overseas missions. OFM encourages posts to let it know of unwarranted restrictions, delays, or costs imposed by foreign governments on real property transactions, customs procedures, vehicle procurement and operation, and in-country travel. OFM provides these same conditions for foreign missions in the United States and thereby persuades foreign governments to improve their treatment of U.S. missions.
For more information, please visit the Office of Foreign Missions on the internet.
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