The Department of State is proposing a new rule that would specifically allow third parties (including private attorneys, interpreters, and others) to attend interviews at consulates, embassies, and passport agencies and centers for U.S. citizen services.
These services include but are not limited to appointments for passports, requests for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA), and Certificates of Loss of Nationality. The State Department wants to accommodate U.S. citizens who wish to have a third-party with them and believes that most consulates, embassies, and centers have the necessary physical capacity to handle this.
State Department guidance has permitted such third-party attendance in the past, but there have been no specific centralized regulations.
Some consulates, however, have issued detailed guidance. An example is the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Thailand, which has the following parameters for passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad appointments:
- Only one third-party per applicant;
- An attorney cannot substitute for the applicant;
- The consular official retains discretion to determine the scope and conduct of the interview;
- Attorneys are expected to provide guidance before the interview – not during the interview;
- Attorneys may not engage in legal argumentation during the interview;
- Third-parties (other than the parent or guardian or a minor child) may not answer questions, summarize, clarify or otherwise interfere with an applicant’s responses;
- No coaching is allowed;
- Attendees may not object to questions or instruct the applicant not to answer;
- Attendees may take written notes, but recording is not allowed; and, of course,
- Attendees may not be disruptive.
The State Department will be accepting comments on the proposed new rule until September 25, 2023. After the conclusion of the comment period, the Department will issue the final rule and address the submitted comments.
Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to provide advice on all types of consular appointments and services, including third-party attendance at interviews for U.S. citizen services, and will provide updates on the new rule when it is published in the Federal Register.