Integrity Legal

15th Feb 2010

A recently proposed rule would increase the fees charged by the US Department of State for services performed at Embassies and Consulates abroad. To quote the AILA website:

“This rule proposes adjustments in current fees for consular services. The Department of State is adjusting the fees in light of an independent cost of service study’s (“CoSS”) findings that the U.S. Government is not fully covering its costs for providing these services under the current fee structure. The primary objective of the adjustments to the Schedule of Fees is to ensure that fees for consular services reflect costs to the United States of providing the services.”

Although not exhaustive, the following quotes list the proposed fee increases for services that will likely have the biggest impact upon US Citizens resident abroad:

“Passport Book Application Services

The Department is increasing the application fee for a passport book for an adult (age 17 and older) from $55 to $70. The application fee for a passport book for a minor (age 16 and younger) will remain at $40. The CoSS estimated that the cost of processing first-time passport applications for both adults and minors is $105.80 based on a projected FY10 workload of 11.9 million. This cost includes border security costs covered by the passport book security surcharge, discussed immediately below. Because a minor passport book has a validity of just five years, in contrast with the ten-year validity period of an adult passport book, the Department has decided to leave the minor passport book application fee at $40, and allocate the remainder of the cost of processing minor passport book applications to the adult passport application fee.”

The proposed rule goes further as there will be further fee increases for new passport seekers:

“Passport Book Security Surcharge

The Department is increasing the passport book security surcharge from $20 to $40 in order to cover the costs of increased border security which includes, but is not limited to, enhanced biometric features in the document itself. The passport book security surcharge is the same for adult passport books and for minor passport books.”

The addition of visa pages to an American’s passport has always been a courtesy provided free of charge. However, the proposed rule would change this:

“Additional Passport Visa Pages

In the past, the Department provided extra pages in a customer’s passport, to which foreign countries’ visas may then be affixed, at no charge. The CoSS found that the cost of the pages themselves, of having the pages placed in the book in a secure manner by trained personnel, and of completing the required security checks results in a cost to the U.S. Government of $82.48 based on a projected FY10 workload of 218,000. Therefore, the Department will charge $82 for this service.”

For those American Citizens who have a child overseas a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) is necessary in order to ultimately obtain a US passport for the child. That being said, the fee for a CRBA would be increased under the newly proposed rule:

“Application for Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States

The CoSS found that the cost of accepting and processing an application for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States is $197.28 based on an FY10 workload projection of 80,000 applications. The Department has decided to raise the fee from $65 to $100, still significantly less than cost, based on its view that too high a fee might deter U.S. citizen parents from properly documenting the citizenship of their children at birth, a development the Department feels would be detrimental to national interests.”

The Immigrant visa fees associated with the processing of Immigrant family based visa applications (such as IR-1 visas and CR-1 visas) are to be decreased pursuant to the proposed rule:

“Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee

The Department is changing the fee for processing an immigrant visa from $355 for all immigrant visas, to a four-tiered fee based on CoSS estimates for each discrete category of immigrant visa, as applications for certain applications cost more to process than others. Accordingly, the application fee for a family-based (immediate relative and preference) visa (processed on the basis of an I-130, I-600 or I-800 petition) will be $330.”

This being said, employment based application fees are to rise dramatically. Immigrant visa fees should not be confused with non-immigrant dual intent visa fees (such as those payable for the obtainment of a K1 visa or a K3 Visa) which are expected to rise in the future. Finally, an often overlooked service of the American Citizen Services section of a US Embassy or a US Consulate involves document notarization and legalization:

“Providing Documentary Services

The CoSS found the cost to the U.S. Government of providing documentary services overseas is $76.36 per service based on a projected FY 2010 workload of 380,000 services. These are primarily notarial services, certification of true copies, provision of documents, and authentications. However, the Department is raising these fees only from $30 to $50, lower than cost, in order to minimize the impact on the public.”

The above changes in the fee structure for Consular services will hopefully result in increased funds which will provide Americans with better services when they need important documentation.

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