President’s Budget Proposal for Increases in Customs and Immigration User Fees

ACI-NA reported that the President’s proposed FY 2014 budget calls for legislative changes to provide an increase in the customs (COBRA) and immigration user fees to support 1,877 additional CBP Officers (CBPOs) as well as increase to some other user fees.

The proposed budget calls for legislative changes:

  • Increasing the customs user fee by $2 to $7.50
  • Increasing the immigration user fee by $2 to $9
  • Allowing CBP to adjust the immigration and customs user fees annually for inflation.
  • If that flexibility is not provided, then future budget requests (beginning in FY 2015) will propose increases in line with the Consumer Price Index.

As noted in ACI-NA’s April 11 statement on the President’s proposed DHS budget (at the end of the memo), given our concern about the proposed increases in the customs and immigration user fees paid by air passengers, we are have requested additional information from CBP on the justification for the increases.  Air passengers already pay three user fees and ultimately usually pay for Federal Inspection Service facilities at airports in contrast to other modes, particularly land.  In addition, when Congress eliminated the exemption from the customs user fee for air passengers arriving from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, those revenues were not dedicated to CBP staffing/activities at airports as should have been the case, but rather were directed to cover the shortfall in duties from the US/Colombia Free Trade.

We are working to obtain additional information from CBP to get a fuller and clearer picture about the possible pros and cons of the proposed user fee increases.  ACI-NA staff also will be consulting with the members of the ACI-NA Facilitation and Government Affairs Committees about the user fee proposal in order to provide their views and insights to the Executive Committee of the ACI-NA Board for consideration and decision.

ACI-NA’s April 11 statement

ACI-NA is pleased that the Administration responded to airports’ request to address long wait times for arriving international passengers by requesting additional Customs and Border Protection officer staffing,” said Christopher Bidwell, ACI-NA Vice President of Security and Facilitation. “We also look forward to receiving information on the workforce staffing model that would respond to our long standing request for more specific information about staffing at airports with international air service.”

ACI-NA also commended the Administration for their willingness to invest in technology to enhance the efficiency of passenger facilitation.  This is critical component of a comprehensive strategy to address increasing international traffic.

However, airports are concerned about the proposed increase in customs and immigration user fees paid by air passengers. ACI-NA has requested additional information on the justification for such fee increases, given that air passengers already pay for clearance through three separate user fees.

“ACI-NA continues to oppose the use of reimbursable agreements” said Bidwell.  “Giving CBP this authority would present a pay-for-play system for CBP resources across all modes.  Since the total number of CBP officers is fixed, those with reimbursable agreements could have a greater opportunity to demand a greater share of CBP staff resources.”

“ACI-NA strongly opposes any action by the Transportation Security Administration to relinquish its responsibility for monitoring passenger exit lanes and require airport operators to perform the function,” emphasized Bidwell. “As TSA, through the Aviation Security Infrastructure Fee, collects money from aircraft operators for ‘Exit Lane Monitors,’ the agency is clearly responsible for providing exit lane staffing.”