@StateDept Projects Over $1.4Billion Loss in Consular Fees This Fiscal Year, Plus Comparable Losses Next FYs

HFAC/Oversight and Investigations Committee
July 212020 10:00 AM
Witnesses

Ian Brownlee
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs
U.S. Department of State

Karin King
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Overseas Citizen Services
U.S. Department of State

The State Department projected a $1.4 billion loss which is about 50 percent of Consular Affair’s revenue this fiscal year (ending September 30, 2020). It is also facing comparable losses in FY2021 and FY2022.
This is a big deal.
PDAS Brownlee told the committee that CA is looking at $359M savings from FY2020  — he talked about significant reduction in this year’s spending but only cited contractors in visa waiting rooms, and a number other unspecified projects domestic and overseas that would be impacted. He did say that services for American citizens “will not be put out of business.”
Where are we going to see funding cuts?
The reality though is consular fees do not just fund visa operations overseas but also passport operations domestic and overseas. It also funds various parts of the State Department. And most notably, it funds 4,859 U.S. Direct Hire personnel under Consular Affairs and “partner bureau positions.” A $1.4 billion loss this fiscal year and in each of FY2021 and FY2022 will have a cascading effect in various parts of the organization.
Revenues from Department-retained consular fees and surcharges fund Consular and Border Security Program (CBSP) activities. The State Department’s congressional justification in FY 2020 for CBSP funding includes the following:
  • Consular Systems and Technology: $453.4 million
  • Domestic Executive Support: $34.3 million
  • Fraud Prevention Programs: $5.4 million
  • Visa Processing: $237.5 million
  • Passport Directorate: $810.3 million
  • American Citizen Services: $16.2 million
  • Consular Affairs Overseas Support: $964.6 million
  • FSN Separation Liability Trust Fund: $4.9 million

CBSP SUPPORT/DEPARTMENT OF STATE PARTNERS: $524.3 million

  • Bureau of Administration: $53.8 million
  • Bureau of Diplomatic Security: $66.3 million
  • Foreign Service Institute: $25.9 million
  • Bureau of Information Resource Management: $58.3 million
  • Office of the Legal Advisor: $0.3 million
  • Bureau of Overseas Building Operations: $264.4 million
  • Repatriation Loans: $0.8 million
  • Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS): $1.0 million
  • Confidential Investigations: $0.2 million
  • Post Assignment Travel: $39.1 million
  • Bureau of Human Resources: $13.9 million
CBSP STAFF / AMERICAN SALARIES: $703.5 million

Human resources are a vital component of CBSP activities. The Department devotes a significant amount of effort and resources towards increasing efficiency and capacity in the visa and passport processes, ensuring adequate staffing levels both domestically and overseas. The FY 2020 Request of $703.5 million, a $58.7 million increase from the FY 2019 Request, supports 4,859 U.S. Direct Hire personnel. These positions are primarily in the Bureau of Consular Affairs but also include CBSP-funded partner bureau positions. This increase restores the eight percent reduction included in the FY 2019 President’s Budget Request and annualizes costs associated with the Department’s FY 2018 and proposed FY 2019 Strategic Hiring Plans.

 

 

 

@StateDept Revises Downward Its Consular Revenue Forecasts

Posted: 1:52 am ET

 

The State Department’s FY2019 Budget Proposal discusses Consular Affairs:

The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) supports U.S. national security objectives by protecting the interests of U.S. citizens overseas, strengthening border security, and facilitating legitimate travel to the United States. CA provides routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens overseas, adjudicates U.S. passport and visa applications, and undertakes fraud prevention and detection efforts. Together with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Intelligence Community, the Department of the Treasury, and the Law Enforcement Community, the Department has built a layered visa and border security screening system that rests on training, technological advances, biometric innovations, and expanded data sharing.

Revenue from Department-retained consular fees and surcharges funds CBSP activities. The fees and surcharges collected and retained for consular services include: Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees, Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) surcharges, Passport Security surcharges, Immigrant Visa (IV) Security surcharges, Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery fees, Fraud Prevention and Detection (H&L) fees, and Affidavit of Support (AoS) Review fees. Each consular fee or surcharge is used to fund CBSP programs and activities consistent with the applicable statutory authority.

We understand that since the beginning of FY 2013, the Consular and Border Security programs (CBSP) was completely funded using consular fees collected and retained by CA, that is, congressionally appropriated funds were not used for CA operations.

Consular Affairs charges user fees for many of the consular services it provides to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, including fees for services associated with passport issuance and non-immigrant visa processing/issuance. Congress permits the State Department to collect and retain revenue generated from certain consular fees, but the bureau is required by law to remit other amounts collected for consular fees to the Department of the Treasury. The retained consular fees are used to fund the Consular and Border Security Program (CBSP).

Consular and Border Security Programs

During FY 2014, the State Department collected $3.7 billion in consular fees. The revenue is generated primarily from the issuance of 467,370 immigrant visas and 9,932,480 nonimmigrant (temporary) visas and border cards. Note that the State Department only releases its visa issuance number and does not provide a public accounting of the total number of visa applicants. Visa processing fees are collected from all applicants (with few exceptions), and visa issuance fees are collected from certain countries based on reciprocity. (PDF)

In FY 2015, the Department collected $4.1 billion in consular fees that came from immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants including 531,463 immigrant (permanent) visas issuance and 10,891,745 nonimmigrant (temporary) visas and border cards issuance. FY2015 is the first time, nonimmigrant visa issuances hit the 10 million mark. (PDF)

We should point out that the consular revenue came from many different fees that cover a variety of services, like fraud prevention fees that are charged to particular visa applicants to fees charged to American citizens for expedited processing of passports. Consular revenue also includes surcharges that are imposed on some services. According to State/OIG, the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee includes a legislatively imposed $2 surcharge to support programs to combat human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Trends

For the last several years until 2016, there had been an upward trend in visa demands. In 2012, the USG recognized the growth of foreign visitors from emerging economies with growing middle classes in China, Brazil and India. Then President Obama tasked the Department with increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% in 2012; and ensuring that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application (see Visa Hot Love for China and Brazil, Why No Hot Love for Mexico?).

For immigrant visas, the  issuance trend went down in FY2014, then went up in FY2015 and FY2016. In FY2017,  the issuance went down by over 58K. We don’t know at this time what function, if any, or how much, the Trump travel ban contributed to the decrease.

For nonimmigrant visas, the upward trend continued from FY2013-FY2015, then started dipping in FY2016. The decrease in number of nonimmigrant visa issuances continued in FY2017. The chart below also indicates a decrease of over 32,000 in border crossing card issuances in FY2017. To get a sense of what this means in direct U.S. dollars, check the consular fees here for visa services.

The State Department’s FY2019 Budget Proposal recognizes what could be a trend, telling Congress that “Due to new decreased revenue forecasts, the spending plans for FY 2018 have been revised downward from the FY2018 Request. Decreased spending is anticipated within the Bureau of Consular Affairs, partner bureaus, and other support activities.”

The Trump Administration has now submitted two budget proposals to Congress that include deep cuts to the State Department and USAID’s budgets. We have no reason to believe that its proposals for FY2020 and FY2021 would look anything different. But if what we’re seeing in consular workload is the start of a downward trend in revenue, the State Department could be in for a double whammy.

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Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship About to Get More Expensive: From $450 to $2,350

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

Updated 8:36 am PST, Aug 28, 2014:  The Federal Register has now published  this interim final rule online. This interim final rule becomes effective September 6, 2014. Written comments must be received on or before October 21, 2014. A note on “interim final rule” from the Federal Register: “When an agency finds that it has good cause to issue a final rule without first publishing a proposed rule, it often characterizes the rule as an “interim final rule,” or “interim rule.” This type of rule becomes effective immediately upon publication. In most cases, the agency stipulates that it will alter the interim rule if warranted by public comments. If the agency decides not to make changes to the interim rule, it generally will publish a brief final rule in the Federal Register confirming that decision.” See more here (pdf).

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Yesterday, we got the following via the Burn Bag:

“CA [Consular Affairs] will publish a proposed rule on Thursday in the Federal Register raising the fee for renunciation of citizenship from $450 to $2,350. This will not be popular. Fee based on annual fee study and lack of common sense.”

Today, the Federal register posted online the pre-publication interim final rule for the changes in the Schedule of Fees for consular services (see full interim rule embedded below).  The percentage  increase in the renunciation fee is 422%. With an estimated 2,378 annual renunciation of citizenship cases, this increase would net the USG an estimated $4,518,200.  Using the projected FY 2014 workload, Consular Afffairs’ estimated change in annual fees collected for affected consular services is $64,003,862. Below is an extract from the interim final rule which will be published on August 28:

The interim final rule makes changes to the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services of the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. The Department sets and collects its fees based on the concept of full cost recovery. The Department completed its most recent review of current consular fees and will implement several changes to the Schedule of Fees based on the new fees calculated by the Cost of Service Model (CoSM).
[…]
The CoSM demonstrated that documenting a U.S. citizen’s renunciation of citizenship is extremely costly, requiring American consular officers overseas to spend substantial amounts of time to accept, process, and adjudicate cases. For example, consular officers must confirm that the potential renunciant fully understands the consequences of renunciation, including losing the right to reside in the United States without documentation as an alien. Other steps include verifying that the renunciant is a U.S. citizen, conducting a minimum of two intensive interviews with the potential renunciant, and reviewing at least three consular systems before administering the oath of renunciation. The final approval of the loss of nationality must be done by law within the Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, D.C., after which the case is returned to the consular officer overseas for final delivery of the Certificate of Loss of Nationality to the renunciant. These steps further add to the time and labor that must be involved in the process. Accordingly, the Department is increasing the fee for processing such requests from $450 to $2,350. As noted in the interim final rule dated June 28, 2010 (77 FR 36522), the fee of $450 was set substantially below the cost to the U.S. government of providing this service (less than one quarter of the cost). Since that time, demand for the service has increased dramatically, consuming far more consular officer time and resources, as reflected in the 2012 Overseas Time Survey and increased workload data. Because the Department believes there is no public benefit or other reason for setting this fee below cost, the Department is increasing this fee to reflect the full cost of providing the service. Therefore the increased fee reflects both the increased cost of the provision of service as well as the determination to now charge the full cost.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.45.00 AM

The Department intends to implement this interim final rule, and initiate collection of the fees set forth herein, effective 15 days after publication of this rule in the Federal Register.
[…]
Administrative Procedure Act |  The Department is publishing this rule as an interim final rule, with a 60-day provision for post promulgation comments and with an effective date less than 30 days from the date of publication, based on the “good cause” exceptions set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(3)(B) and 553(d)(3). Delaying implementation of this rule would be contrary to the public interest because the fees in this rule fund consular services that are critical to national security, including screening visa applicants.

Anybody know where we can find a copy of CA’s Cost of Service Model (CoSM) study?

Apparently, dual citizens in Canada trying to shed their U.S. citizenship have created a  backlog at the U.S. consulate in Toronto that stretches into the third week of January 2015.

In any case, Americans who will be upset by this change in renunciation of citizenship fee can  contact Congress to complain about this. Their elected representatives, presumably will be super-helpful to the soon-to-be non-voters.

We should note that interim final rule also lowers the consular time fee of $231 to $135 per hour, per employee:

The Department previously charged a consular time fee of $231 per hour, per employee. This fee is charged when indicated on the Schedule of Fees or when services are performed away from the office or outside regular business hours. The CoSM estimated that the hourly consular time charge is now lower. Accordingly, the Department is lowering this fee to $135 per hour.

See the full interim final rule below. The document posted below is a pre-publication copy. It is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on 08/28/2014 and available online at http://federalregister.gov/a/2014-20516, and on FDsys.gov

 

 

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