Methodology and Scope

The inspection team conducted its field work during the period of October 29, 1998, through January 29, 1999. The team collected and reviewed background material and met with INS Headquarters officials in the Offices of Inspections, Budget, and Financial Management. In November 1998, the team attended the semiannual meeting of the Immigration User Fee Advisory Committee.25 In December 1998, in order to document the inspection process, the team visited the two busiest U.S. sea ports-of-entry for cruise ship inspections in the United States at Miami and Port Everglades, Florida. It was not the intent of the team to assess the quality or integrity of the inspection process, or determine the necessity for inspecting cruise ship passengers, which is dictated by law. The sole intent was to document and understand the inspection process at sea ports-of-entry.

We conducted telephonic interviews with INS port directors in Key West and Port Canaveral, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; San Juan, Puerto Rico; New York, New York; St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands; Los Angeles, California; and Vancouver, British Columbia, to discuss their viewpoints on seaport inspections and obtain an understanding of the policies or procedures that a particular port may employ to inspect cruise ships.

We interviewed officials in the cruise line industry (International Council of Cruise Lines, Cruise Lines International Association, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and Princess Cruise Lines) and in the airline industry (Air Transport Association of America, International Air Transport Association, Airport Association Council International, Delta Airlines, and Northwest Airlines). We also interviewed Port Authority officials in Port Everglades, Florida.

We analyzed fines and penalties data from INS’s National Fines Office, inspection workload data from INS’s Performance Analysis System, and carrier and fee remittance data from INS’s User Fee Information System. The period covered for the data collected ranged from the beginning of FY 1994 through and including FY 1998.

Our inspection did not include the testing of any of these system’s data reliability or accuracy. We did not independently test the status of the Immigration User Fee Account, the account balance, revenues, withdrawals and their purpose, ending balance, or projections for ensuing years. We did not assess factors used in determining the user fee rate, noting that Coopers & Lybrand completed a study in this area in October 1997. Finally, we did not assess how INS distributes the funding resulting from the user fee.

We spoke with attorneys in the OIG’s and the INS’s Offices of the General Counsel, the Civil Division, and Customs to discuss various interpretations of the user fee exemption law. Our inspection did not include testing the internal controls over the collection and remittance of the immigration user fee or testing compliance with laws and regulations pertaining to the immigration user fee.



The Immigration User Fee Account

The Immigration User Fee Account (IUFA) was established in 1986 with the passage of P.L. 99-500 and P.L. 99-591. The IUFA is used to fund the cost of performing all immigration inspections operations at air and sea ports-of-entry, including all related administrative and infrastructure costs and the detention and deportation of individuals found to be inadmissible. By statute, the Attorney General is required to submit a bi-yearly report to Congress concerning the status of the IUFA. This report assesses whether any adjustment in the fee is required to ensure receipts collected equal the costs of providing the service. Additionally, the IUFA must fully recover the cost of conducting all inspections (air and sea), not simply the inspection of those individuals who are required to pay the user fee. More specifically, the purpose of the IUFA is to provide funds for:

The IUFA cannot pay for any activities not provided for by law, such as:


25 The committee membership consists of officials representing INS, major air carriers and airport authorities, cruise lines, and other transportation industries or organizations subject to any fees that cover expenses incurred by INS. Issues discussed at the meetings include the performance of airport and seaport inspection services, the number and deployment of inspection officers, and the appropriateness of any current or proposed fee.