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[Federal Register: September 7, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 174)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 54148-54150]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr07se00-6]                         

======================================================================
----------------------------------------------------------------------
DEPARTMENT OF STATE

22 CFR Part 22

[Public Notice 3407]

Schedule of Fees for Consular Services, Department of State and 
Overseas Embassies and Consulates

AGENCY: Bureau of Consular Affairs.

ACTION: Final rule
----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This final rule amends the Schedule of Fees for Consular 
Services. Specifically, it establishes a fee for the review of the 
Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), when submitted in support of an 
application for immigration to the United States.

DATES: The effective date for the new AOS fee is October 1, 2000. I-864 
forms sent to petitioners by the National Visa Center (NVC) or by posts 
overseas after October 1, 2000, will be subject to the new AOS fee as 
stated below.

ADDRESSES: Office of the Executive Director, Bureau of Consular 
Affairs, Department of State, SA-1, 10th Floor, 2401 E Street, NW., 
Washington, DC 20522-0111; telefax (202) 663-2499.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Alcy Frelick, Office of the Executive 
Director, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State, SA-1, 10th 
Floor, 2401 E Street, NW., Washington, DC 20522-0111; telefax (202) 
663-2499; email address frelickar@state.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The amendment to the Schedule of Fees was 
published as a proposed rule on March 13, 2000 (65 FR 13253-13254). 
During the 30-day public comment period, three written comments were 
received from the general public. Those comments are addressed below. 
For the reasons explained, the Department is setting the Affidavit of 
Support fee (AOS fee) at $50.00 as originally proposed, but will be 
making a change to the effective date of the rule to address concerns 
raised by the commenters.
    The public comments received by the Department focused on two 
aspects of the proposed new AOS fee: (1) That only one AOS fee should 
be charged per immigrant visa case (i.e. for all I-864 forms submitted 
in connection with an immigrant visa case comprised of a principal 
applicant and his/her eligible dependents) and (2) that the new AOS fee 
should not be charged until service to potential immigrants and their 
sponsors improves. The Department's response to the comments received 
is described below.
    Only a single fee per family should be charged: The Department 
received comments from two sources expressing concern about the 
proposal to charge the AOS fee for each I-864 form submitted in support 
of an immigration case. The commenters argue that in cases where 
multiple I-864 forms are required in order to overcome the public 
charge provision, only one AOS fee should be charged.
    Because the revenue from this fee is to be used to recover the 
costs of providing assistance to sponsors, co-sponsors and joint 
sponsors completing the I-864 form in support of an application for 
immigration to the United States, the Department cannot concur in this 
recommendation. One AOS fee will be charged for each I-864 form filed 
by the sponsor/petitioner, but no additional fee will be charged for an 
I-864a form filed by a co-sponsor. However, an additional AOS fee will 
be assessed for each I-864 form filed by any joint sponsor, as each 
individual submitting the I-864 form could potentially require 
assistance in completing the form. The services will be available to 
any party requiring assistance regardless of whether the person is a 
primary or a joint sponsor. It should also be noted that no additional 
AOS fee will be assessed when essentially duplicative I-864 forms are 
submitted on behalf of beneficiaries of separate petitions (for 
example, for parents of a US citizen for whom separate petitions must 
be filed).
    The Department initially proposed imposing a separate AOS fee for 
the primary and each joint I-864 form submitted on behalf of an 
immigrant visa applicant because each I-864 form must be reviewed 
separately for technical completeness and assessed separately when 
evaluating the applicant's eligibility vis-a-vis the public charge 
provision. The Department has reviewed this proposal in light of 
comments received and decided that averaging the costs of evaluating 
all I-864 forms into a single, uniform AOS fee per immigrant visa case 
would not be equitable for all applicants. Establishing a single AOS 
fee for an immigrant visa case would necessitate setting a higher fee 
to recover all the costs of the services provided and hence would 
result in all primary sponsors subsidizing a limited number of joint 
sponsors. Requiring payment of the AOS fee for each I-864 form 
submitted will also simplify the Department's fee collection 
procedures, thus reducing administrative costs.
    The fee should be assessed only after service improves: One 
commenter took the view that the proposed fee would simply present 
another impediment in the process and would not result in improved 
service to potential applicants. However, the Department has already 
undertaken to improve service to applicants, and the revenue from the 
AOS fee will enable the Department to expand those services and to add 
additional ones.
    In December 1998, the National Visa Center (NVC) established a 
pilot program (the AOS review program) to review the I-864 forms 
submitted for applicants applying at three posts--Ciudad Juarez, Manila 
and Santo Domingo. The Department undertook this review process to 
ensure that all I-864 forms sent to the pilot posts would be 
technically correct (the signatures properly notarized, the form 
completed, and all relevant supporting documentation attached). While 
the start-up period involved some delays, the process is now in place 
and functioning smoothly. The results of the pilot project have been 
positive with reduced refusal rates for the pilot posts. The I-864 
forms submitted in support of immigrant visa applications at those 
posts are now technically more complete than previously, resulting in a 
reduced number of repeat interviews.
    The AOS review program at NVC has recently been expanded to review 
I-864 forms submitted for immigrants processed at 10 posts. These ten 
posts (Manila, Ciudad Juarez, Santo Domingo, Guangzhou, Bogota, Port au 
Prince, Georgetown, Freetown, Tirana and Montreal) represent 
approximately 40% of the worldwide immigrant visa caseload. The I-864 
forms for these posts are now being reviewed for technical completeness 
at NVC before the files go overseas. It is anticipated that the AOS 
review program at NVC will continue to expand until all I-864 forms 
submitted to posts overseas are reviewed for technical completeness 
prior to being sent to posts.

[[Page 54149]]

    The Department is also in the process of contracting for a call 
center that will be available to assist sponsors in the United States 
in answering questions arising during the completion of the I-864 form. 
Another part of the Department's efforts to improve service is the 
development of a website that will provide line-by-line information to 
clarify the I-864 form. Both the website and call center should be 
operational in early FY01.

Effective Date

    The new Affidavit of Support Fee will take effect October 1, 2000. 
When the proposed rule was published, it was anticipated that the fee 
would become effective June 1, 2000. That date has been pushed back to 
provide additional time to initiate new services for sponsors in the 
US.

Background Authority To Assess Fees

    Public Law 106-113, enacted November 29, 1999, authorizes the 
Secretary of State to charge and retain a fee for the processing of a 
sponsor's Affidavit of Support (Form I-864). The Secretary of State is 
also authorized under Executive Order 10718 of June 27, 1957, to 
exercise the President's authority under 22 U.S.C. 4219 to prescribe 
the fees to be charged for official services performed by the 
Department of State. This authority has been delegated to the Under 
Secretary for Management. The Schedule of Fees for Consular Services is 
set forth in 22 CFR 22.1, as amended on December 1, 1999 [64 FR 66769]. 
After an initial review of the costs, the AOS fee has been set 
initially at $50 per sponsor or joint sponsor filing an I-864 form.

The Affidavit of Support Processing Fee

    This rule amends the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services by 
adding a new item: ``61. Affidavit of Support Processing Fee.'' It 
establishes a fee to cover the costs of providing assistance to any 
sponsor or joint sponsor who provides an I-864 form) under section 213A 
of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1183a) for an 
immigrant visa applicant. The purpose of the assistance will be to help 
a sponsor or joint sponsor to complete such affidavit properly before 
it is forwarded to a consular post for adjudication by a consular 
officer in connection with an application for an immigrant visa. The 
AOS fee will be in addition to, and separate from, any fee imposed for 
immigrant visa application processing and issuance. The costs to be 
recovered by the AOS fee are not recovered by the immigrant visa 
application processing and issuance fees.
    This new AOS fee will be charged only once for essentially 
duplicative I-864 forms filed in support of additional members of one 
family, made up of spouse, parents and minor unmarried children; even 
if each member of the family is being processed individually for 
immigration to the United States or if the family member may have had a 
separate immigrant visa petition filed on his/her behalf.
    The Department will assess one AOS fee for each distinct I-864 form 
submitted, whether it is filed by the primary sponsor or by a joint 
sponsor. No AOS fee will be charged for co-sponsors filing I-864a 
forms. If more than one I-864 form is needed to fulfill the 
requirements of the law, the Department will assess one fee for each 
separate affidavit. A new AOS fee will be assessed if a new I-864 form 
is required in support of any application for immigration (for example, 
when a joint sponsor is needed for an application that has been 
rejected due to section 212(a)(4), inability to qualify under the 
public charge provision of the Immigration Act). The AOS fee is non-
refundable as it is a processing fee.

Regulatory Findings

Administrative Procedure Act

    The Department is publishing this rule as a final rule pursuant to 
5 U.S.C. 553(a)(2) and the ``good cause'' provisions of 5 U.S.C. 
553(b)(B); notice and comment are not necessary in light of the fact 
that this rule relates to agency management and merely establishes or 
removes visa symbols used internally by the Department. The rule makes 
no substantive regulatory changes.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Department of State, in accordance with the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 605(b)), has reviewed this regulation and, by 
approving it, certifies that this rule will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

    This rule will not result in the expenditure by State, local and 
tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $1 
million or more in any year and it will not significantly or uniquely 
affect small governments. Therefore, no actions were deemed necessary 
under the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996

    This rule is not a major rule as defined by section 804 of the 
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act of 1996. This rule will not 
result in an annual effect on the economy of $1 million or more; a 
major increase in costs or prices; or significant adverse effects on 
competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or on 
the ability of United States-based companies to compete with foreign-
based companies in domestic and export markets.

Executive Order 12866

    The Department of State does not consider this rule, to be a 
``significant regulatory action'' under Executive Order 12866, section 
3(f), Regulatory Planning and Review, and the Office of Management and 
Budget has waived its review process under section 6(a)(3)(A).

Executive Order 13132

    This regulation will not have substantial direct effects on the 
States, on the relationship between the national government and the 
States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the 
various levels of government. Therefore, in accordance with section 6 
of Executive Order 13132, it is determined that this rule does not have 
sufficient federalism implications to require consultations or warrant 
the preparation of a federalism summary impact statement.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not impose any new reporting or record-keeping 
requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. Chapter 
35.

Final Rule

List of Subjects in 22 CFR Part 22

    Passports and visas, Schedule of consular fees.

    Accordingly, this rule amends 22 CFR part 22 as follows:

PART 22--[AMENDED]

    1. The authority citation for part 22 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 8 U.S.C. 1153 note, 1351, 1351 note; 10 U.S.C. 
2602(c); 22 U.S.C. 214, 2504(a), 4201, 4206, 4215, 4219; 31 U.S.C. 
9701; E.O. 10718, 22 FR 4632, 3 CFR, 1954-1958 Comp., p. 382; E.O. 
11295, 31 FR 10603, 3 CFR, 1966-1970 Comp., p. 570.


    2. In Sec. 22.1, add item 61 as the last item under ``Visa 
Services'' to read as follows:


Sec. 22.1  Schedule of fees.

[[Page 54150]]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
                           Item No.                               Fee
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                  *                  *                  *
61. Affidavit of Support Processing Fee:..................     $50.00

                  
-----------------------------------------------------------------------


    Dated: August 2, 2000.
Bonnie R. Cohen,
Under Secretary for Management, U.S. Department of State.
[FR Doc. 00-22833 Filed 9-6-00; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4710-06-P



						


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