NOTIFYING THE OFFICE OF FOREIGN MISSIONS
In addition to the prior notification regarding acquisition or disposition of property, proposals for the alteration or addition or change in use of existing properties are also considered acquisitions under the Act and must be submitted to the Office of Foreign Missions for review. “Alteration” is defined as any type of construction, repair, installation or other work on foreign mission premises that requires the issuance of permit(s) from the relevant local governmental authority. In this regard, mission are reminded that, in nearly all cases, diplomatic and consular premises, whether office or residential, are not exempt from the requirement of obtaining zoning and/or building permits with respect to any property-related activity in which they may engage.
All foreign missions must submit a written request in the form of diplomatic note to the Office of Foreign Missions. At a minimum, the note should include:
- The exact address of the property, including apartment, suite, floor number, square footage, etc.
- The current or proposed use of the property, i.e., chancery, chancery annex, consulate, consular annex, residence, MFGO, etc.
- The inclusion of the following statements: This mission acknowledges that it must notify and obtain the approval of the Department of State’s Office of Foreign Missions prior to to changing the use of this property.
- A description of the proposed alteration or expansion of an existing property, including a listing of the anticipated types of permits needed to complete the project.
- Point of Contact – The name and contact information of the mission member authorized to discuss the proposed property acquisition with OFM.
- The inclusion of one of the following statements:
- No part of this property is or will be used for commercial purposes; or
- A portion or all of this property is or will be used for commercial purposes and by doing so the mission understands that such use deprives the area used for such purposes of both its inviolability status and eligibility for exemption from property taxation.
ZONING APPROVAL PROCESS AND PERMITS (DC ONLY)
Depending on the scope of the project, the expansion or alteration of an existing chancery property may also be subject to review and approval by the Foreign Missions Board of Zoning Adjustment. Missions (FMBZA), and is required to obtain all appropriate building permits and to substantially comply with all local building codes and regulations.
Permits normally will not be issued by the Government of the District of Columbia without the written concurrence of the Office of Foreign Missions. Based on reciprocity, the Office of Foreign Missions may ask the District Government to issue the permit and waive all permit fees, other than fees required for the performance of a specific service.
Consular properties are subject to the building and land-use laws and regulations of the local jurisdiction, including permit requirements. It is the responsibility of the mission and their consular posts to be informed and be in compliance with the regulations of the jurisdiction in which they are located. Inasmuch as failure to comply with local laws could result in legal and financial complications for a consular post, missions are encouraged to notify the Department, and consult with the Office of Foreign Missions, regarding a particular project at the earliest possible date.