The Foreign Missions Act (22 U.S.C. 4301-4316) provides the legal foundation to facilitate secure and efficient operations of U.S. missions abroad, and of foreign missions and international organizations in the United States. Congress mandated the creation of the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) in the Act to serve the interests of the American public, the American diplomatic community abroad, and the foreign diplomatic community residing in the United States ensuring that all diplomatic benefits, privileges, and immunities would be properly exercised in accordance with federal laws and international agreements.
The Office of Foreign Missions, led by Ambassador Stephen J. Akard who serves as OFM Director, has four missions:
-Employment of reciprocity to ensure equitable treatment for United States diplomatic and consular missions abroad and their personnel through reciprocity;
-Regulation of the activities of foreign missions in the United States in a manner that will protect the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States;
-Protection of the United States public from abuses of privileges and immunities by members of the foreign missions; and
-Provision of service and assistance to the foreign mission community in the United States to assure appropriate privileges, benefits, and services on a reciprocal basis.
As an advocate for reciprocal agreements, OFM presses for fair treatment of U.S. personnel abroad while assuring foreign diplomats based in the United States receive the same treatment that each respective government provides in return. Additionally, OFM assists foreign missions in dealing with local government offices in the United States.
OFM also provides a range of services to the foreign diplomatic community, including issuance of vehicle titles, vehicle registrations, driver's licenses, and license plates; processing of tax exemption and duty-free customs requests; and facilitation of property acquisitions through local zoning law procedures.
Finally, OFM establishes and maintains relationships with U.S. law enforcement and security communities at the national, state, and local levels to educate them about diplomatic privilege and immunity issues. OFM personnel conduct outreach and training seminars with these constituencies in conjunction with other Department of State representatives, e.g., Diplomatic Security, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of the Chief of Protocol.