NB_280_20_7 - NB 280-20-7 INC – Update on U.S. Department of State (DOS) requirements impacted by COVID-19
NB 280-20-7 INC – Update on U.S. Department of State (DOS) requirements impacted by COVID-19
National Bulletin: 280-20-7 Date: September 23, 2020
Subject: INC – Update on U.S. Department of State (DOS) requirements impacted by COVID-19

Purpose.  To provide employees an update for official international travel requirements by DOS. 
Expiration Date.  September 30, 2021
Background.  The International Programs Division (IPD) is responsible for supporting travel readiness of agency personnel through coordination and guidance for all NRCS foreign travel. Significant delays of passport processing and denial of country clearances are occurring due to staffing situations and border closures.   

Explanation.  The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has impacted international travel, including official passport application or renewal process and official government travel.

DOS requests that travelers applying for new official passports or renewals fill out U.S. Passport Application DS-82 or U.S. Passport Renewal Application for Eligible Individuals DS-11 online at https://pptform.state.gov/.  These applications should be completed online and printed with the barcode, but not submitted online.  Due to public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that includes USDA maximum teleworking, passport applications and passport renewals processing through the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Travel Office to DOS Passport Services are limited and moving extremely slow.  NRCS employees with expiring official passports were previously notified through their supervisory chain about the process for passport renewals after receiving their supervisor’s approval.  FAS Travel Office staff continues to maximize telework so no one is physically in the office except for critical mission essential needs.  DOS is currently only expediting passports service for customers with a qualified life or death emergency or with urgent mission critical international travel within 72 hours.  All other passport applications or renewals fall in the significant delay window.  DOS plans to resume processing passports in phases.  Normal passport processing will resume when DOS returns to normal operations.  DOS will address applications on a first in, first out basis, focusing on the oldest applications, and still expecting a delay in processing.  IPD asks all NRCS employees to hold official passport applications or official passport renewal forms until further notice.

In addition, DOS requires employees engaged in Temporary Duty (TDY) for less than 45 days in a calendar year for official travel to any country to complete the High Threat Security Online Seminar (HTSOS).  HTSOS is available in AgLearn and is a free 5-hour online course that can be taken from a computer or mobile device.  Registration for HTSOS can be completed by a supervisor assigning the course or by the employee selecting self-enrollment (found under the Administration tab on the left side of the screen in AgLearn).  After completion of the training, employees will receive a certificate valid for 5 years.  E-mail a scanned copy of the completion certificate to marita.mccree@usda.gov for IPD files.  HTSOS is an elective course in AgLearn.  You may move through the content of the course without being enrolled, but it will not track your progress or provide a certificate of completion.  Completion of this course is non-negotiable and waivers will not be granted.


Please start the process of requesting overseas travel approval as early as possible.  NRCS utilizes the International Travel Request Form to document trip approval through a Deputy Chief or Regional Conservationists.  Approval for Senior Executive Service employees is through their supervisory chain through the Deputy Under Secretary.

NRCS employees planning to travel to foreign countries are advised to individually review the DOS Travel.State.Gov website for up-to-date overseas travel information for destination countries and the Emergency Alert for Coronavirus page.  Many countries around the world currently have their borders closed to visitors.  Approval for travel to any country outside the United States is approved by the Chief of Mission for that country through the DOS “eCountry Clearance” (eCC) system.  This is usually the Ambassador or his/her designee.  Travel advisories are directly available at DOS Travel Advisories.

Employees can only travel for official business on an official passport, not on a personal passport, except to Taiwan.  IPD completes the eCC process for all NRCS employees seeking to travel overseas for official purposes.  Do not create a profile in the DOS myServices portal for eCC.  This has created problems for IPD to submit and monitor eCCs. 


Contact.  If further information is needed, please contact Marita McCree, program analyst, at (202) 720-1830.



Deputy Chief for Management and Strategy

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