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Highlights

In light of increasing congressional interest in user fee financing, GAO developed a framework for examining user fee design characteristics that may influence the effectiveness of user fees. Specifically, we examined how the four key characteristics of user fees--how fees are set, collected, used, and reviewed--may affect the economic efficiency, equity, revenue adequacy, and administrative burden of cost-based fees. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for granting or denying the millions of immigration and naturalization applications each year and charges fees to recover all processing costs. In 2007, USCIS completed a fee review to determine the level at which fees should be set to recover the full cost of its services and increased application fees by an average of 86 percent. USCIS is preparing its first fee review since the 2007 fee increase. It is critical that USCIS and the Congress have the best possible information when overseeing these fees and the operations they fund. This testimony focuses on (1) user fee design and implementation characteristics and criteria, (2) cost assignment and trade-offs identified in USCIS's 2007 fee review, and (3) additional considerations for fee-funded agencies. It is based on past GAO reports, which included recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS agreed to consider these recommendations in their next fee review.

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