Update on Fee Surcharge and NSEERS Provisions in Omnibus Budget Bill


On February 20, 2003, the President signed the omnibus budget bill, which includes funding for NSEERS and deletes the provision of law that had caused the INS to change its filing fees on January 24. The filing fees are therefore expected to revert to the prior fees, but it appears that a Federal Register notice will be needed to institute this reversion of the fees.

Congress has passed an omnibus budget bill, H.R. Res. 2, which includes a provision that pertains to the surcharge on application fees and another that has to do with NSEERS.   We will let you know when we know the date the President will sign this bill into law.  

Fee Surcharge:  A provision of the Homeland Security Act  (Section 457) includes a measure that required the INS by January 24 to remove from its processing fee structure the surcharge to cover asylum and refugee applications and fee waivers.  The sponsors included this provision in the Act to force Congress to directly appropriate funds to cover those activities.  However, the appropriation has not taken place, and INS issued a regulation on January 24 that reduces fees and terminates fee waivers and exemptions.

The omnibus remedies this situation by including a provision that restores the surcharge (by deleting Section 457 of the Homeland Security Act) but the restoration is not retroactive.  As a practical matter, the new fees that took effect on January 24 remain in effect until the President signs the legislation and a new federal register notice is published.

NSEERS:  The Senate-passed omnibus bill included a provision that would suspend funding for NSEERS, the controversial National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which includes the special registration initiative. This provision also would require the Attorney General to provide Congress with documents and other information on the creation, operation and effectiveness of NSEERS.

The final omnibus does not defund NSEERS, but preserves the reporting requirements which are as follows:

SEC. 112. The Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall provide to the Committees on Appropriations by March 1, 2003 all National Security Entry-Exit Registration System documents and materials: (1) used in the creation of the NSEERS program, including any predecessor programs; (2) assessing the effectiveness of the NSEERS program as a tool to enhance national security; (3) used to determine the scope of the NSEERS program, including countries selected for the program, and the gender, age, and immigration status of the persons required to register under the program; (4) regarding future plans to expand the NSEERS program to additional countries, age groups, women, and persons holding other immigration statuses not already covered; (5) explaining of whether the Department of Justice consulted with other federal agencies in the development of the NSEERS programs, and if so, all documents and materials relating to those consultations; (6) concerning policy directives or guidance issued to officials about implementation of NSEERS, including the role of the FBI in conducting national security background checks of registrants; (7) explaining why certain INS District Offices detained persons with pending status-adjustment applications; and (8) explaining how information gathered during interviews of registrants will be stored, used, or transmitted to other Federal, State, or local agencies.''.
(P. 44 and 45 of the Conference Report)

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03021446.