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The Warsaw Voice » Society » October 8, 2008
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U.S. Embassy Holds Info Fair
October 8, 2008   
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United States Consul General Phillip A. Min talks to Hilary Heuler about the American Community Information Fair, held at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Warsaw Sept. 15.

This is the first time the American embassy in Poland has held an information fair for U.S. citizens. Why did you decide to do this now?
Because it's an election year-and all indications are that this will be a very interesting election-we've been getting a lot of phone calls asking about voter registration. So we thought that the timing would be good. Also, the fact that the Social Security Totalization Agreement has been signed made us think this would be a good time to preview it before it goes into effect.

What is the Social Security Totalization Agreement, and what does it mean for Americans living here?
It will end double taxation, so if you're an American working in Poland you're not paying into both the American and Polish systems. And for beneficiaries, such as family members of someone receiving social security, a lot of the restrictions will be lifted. A lot of children and widows are going to be benefiting from this legislation.

We think it will be going into effect in the first half of next year, probably sometime in April or May.

What kinds of services can the embassy provide to Americans, particularly during the election?
We're basically a resource center. We hold events. For example, we will bring in American performers or American academics to speak. We want Poles to come to learn more about America, but we encourage Americans to come participate as well.

The most important thing we do during an election is to help with absentee ballot registration. We can provide Americans with the proper forms so they can send them back to their home state and get a ballot. However, sometimes the ballots arrive late, so if that happens Americans can contact us again right before the election and they can get a special ballot that can be used in place of the one they didn't receive. Particularly in a very close election, overseas ballots have been extremely important in deciding the outcome.

There are over 100 people here today. Given the response, do you think you'll hold an information fair again next year?
Definitely. I think particularly because it's an election year there's a lot of interest, but also because Poland is a dynamic country. It's constantly changing, there's more investment and more foreigners coming. I think Americans coming to Poland are looking for a connection. They're looking for information, and this is a role that we play.
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