INTRODUCTION

As part of our Fiscal Year (FY) 1999 work planning process, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) sent a memorandum to the various Department of Justice components requesting potential review topics. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) response contained several suggestions, including reviewing the effects of the user fee exemption for cruise ship passengers [8 U.S.C. 1356(e)]. We chose to focus our review on the issue of whether INS is justified in continuing its effort to remove the exemption. This review does not address how INS calculates the amount of the immigration user fee or how INS distributes the funding resulting from the user fee. This report presents the results of our review.

The inspection team conducted its field work from October 29, 1998, through January 29, 1999. The team met with INS Headquarters officials in the Offices of Inspections, Budget, and Financial Management, attended the semiannual meeting of the Immigration User Fee Advisory Committee (November 1998), visited the sea ports-of-entry in Miami and Port Everglades, Florida (December 1998), and interviewed various port directors responsible for sea port-of-entry inspection operations. The team interviewed officials representing the cruise line industry and the airline industry to gain their perspectives on the user fee. Finally, the team analyzed data from various computerized data systems and reviewed data from other agencies to assess various aspects of the user fee.1 For a more complete discussion of our methodology see Appendix 1.

BACKGROUND

INS inspections are a security measure designed to prevent inadmissible non-U.S. citizens from entering the United States. By statute, all non-U.S. citizens must undergo an immigration inspection to determine their admissibility. Reasons why non-U.S. citizens may be denied entry into the United States include association with criminal or terrorist organizations, prior criminal convictions, prior attempts to enter the United States illegally, or simply a lack of the required entry documents. INS inspectors perform this function at land, air, and sea ports-of-entry.

The Role of User Fees in the Inspection Process

Unless exempted by law, all passengers, including U.S. citizens, are required to pay an immigration user fee for inspection services provided at an air or sea port-of-entry prior to that passenger’s entry into the United States or for preinspection services provided outside the United States. Individuals being inspected prior to entering the United States at land border ports-of-entry are not assessed an immigration user fee.2

INS does not collect this immigration user fee directly from air and sea passengers. The travel agency or commercial carrier that issues the ticket to the passenger collects and remits the user fee. The user fees collected are deposited into the Immigration User Fee Account (IUFA).3 The IUFA funds all operational, detention, administrative, and infrastructure costs related to INS inspections operations at air and sea ports-of-entry (see Appendix 2).

A Legislative History of the Immigration User Fee

Prior to 1986, all immigration inspection operations at land, air, and sea ports-of-entry were paid for by appropriated funds. With the passage of Public Laws (P.L.) 99-500 and 99-591 in 1986, Congress established the IUFA and the $5 immigration user fee that was to be assessed for passenger inspection services provided at U.S. air and sea ports-of-entry.4 Initially, the user fee was to be collected from all passengers arriving at U.S. air and sea ports-of-entry, except for those passengers specifically exempted in 8 U.S.C. 1356(e)(1). Passengers who were exempt from payment of the user fee were those whose journey originated in the following:

  1. Canada,

  2. Mexico,

  3. a territory or possession of the United States, or

  4. any adjacent island within the meaning of 1101(b)(5).

In addition, airline passengers passing through the United States enroute to destinations outside the United States were exempt from paying the fee.5

By 1990, passengers at most large U.S. air ports-of-entry were encountering significant INS inspection delays. These delays were causing passengers to miss connecting flights resulting in the airlines incurring significant expenses. Although the number of INS inspectors at airports rose from approximately 550 in FY 1986 to just over 1,100 in early FY 1989, this growth did not allow INS to adequately respond to the 40 percent increase in airline traffic during this same period.

INS presented to Congress three options to provide funding to help alleviate the imbalance between workload and staffing: (1) increase the $5 immigration user fee, (2) remove the exemption for the remaining passengers who were not required to pay the immigration user fee, or (3) extend payment of the user fee to the land borders. In 1990, Congress passed P.L. 101-515, which removed the exemption for virtually all remaining airline passengers and required them to pay the $5 immigration user fee. The additional revenue generated from the user fee allowed INS to hire additional inspectors for air ports-of-entry. This action was designed to lessen the burden associated with inspecting the increasing number of airline passengers. We found no reference in the legislative history regarding seaport inspections.

In P.L. 101-515, Congress also established a 45-minute inspection standard at U.S. air ports-of-entry. This standard was to ensure that, once a flight’s passengers began presenting themselves for inspection at the INS processing area, inspectors would inspect all the passengers from that flight within 45 minutes. This standard was the recommended processing time recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization and used at airports outside the United States. Congress believed the additional inspectors resulting from the revenue gained from the removal of the exemption would enable INS to meet this newly imposed standard.6

Description of When a Passenger Does and Does Not Pay the User Fee

  • All airline passengers (U.S. and non-U.S. citizens) leaving from a foreign country and travelling to a U.S. port-of-entry are required to pay the $6 user fee.

  • All cruise ship passengers (U.S. and non-U.S. citizens) whose journey originates in a non-exempt port (e.g., Europe, Asia, South and Central America) and subsequently enter a U.S. port-of-entry are required to pay the $6 user fee.

  • All cruise ship passengers (U.S. and non-U.S. citizens) whose journey originates in an exempt port (Canada, Mexico, States, territories, and possessions of the United States, and adjacent islands) and subsequently enter a U.S. port-of-entry are not required to pay the $6 user fee.

In 1993, Congress raised the immigration user fee from the original $5 to $6 with the passage of P.L. 103-121. This fee increase funded enhanced enforcement efforts at air and sea ports-of-entry. The fee increase became effective December 20, 1993.

In 1996, section 302 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act stated that all passengers transiting through the United States enroute to destinations outside the United States required immigration inspection. INS is in the process of developing regulations that will initiate the collection of an immigration user fee from these passengers. INS estimated this change would generate $2.4 million yearly for the IUFA in FY 2000. According to INS, this change is not scheduled to go into effect until the last quarter of FY 2000 because of delays encountered in the publishing and implementation of the regulation.

On October 21, 1998, in section 114 of P.L. 105-277, Congress made a technical correction to 8 U.S.C. 1356(e)(1)(C) by adding the word “State” to the list of exempt origination areas (refer to page 2). The affected section now reads, “(C) a State, territory, or possession of the United States.” Although INS had not previously collected user fees from passengers whose journey originated specifically in the United States, this addition made it explicit that these passengers were included in the exemption.

The Administration’s FY 2000 budget request seeks to raise the immigration user fee from $6 to $8 for all airline and cruise ship passengers who currently pay the fee. This request is designed to offset the rising costs associated with conducting air and sea ports-of-entry inspections. The budget request also would remove the exemption for cruise ship passengers not currently paying the user fee and would institute a $3 user fee for those passengers. Since 1995, with support from the Administration, INS has sought repeatedly to remove the exemption for cruise ship passengers, first in proposals for immigration reform legislation and subsequently in annual appropriations requests.

The Seaport Inspection Process

Prior to a cruise ship’s arrival at a U.S. sea port-of-entry, cruise line personnel usually provide an advance copy of the ship’s passenger manifest to officials of the United States Customs Service (Customs) or INS inspectors. This manifest is checked against automated databases from a variety of government agencies.7 This check, which is also conducted at U.S. air ports-of-entry for airline passengers, is to identify individuals who might be inadmissible and to prevent them from being granted entry into the United States. When this passenger manifest is forwarded and the checks are accomplished, the inspection process can be expedited.

When a cruise ship arrives in port, INS inspectors board the ship and inspect all non-U.S. citizen passengers. INS relies on cruise line personnel to identify non-U.S. citizens. In accordance with the INS Inspector’s Field Manual, U.S. citizens are not required to report for inspection if they depart and return on the same ship. Cruise line personnel assist in the inspection process by ensuring that all passengers who must be inspected report to the designated location with their documentation (i.e., a passport or visa when required). All passengers, regardless of citizenship, remain on board during the inspection process until INS completes all required passenger inspections. The passengers are then allowed to disembark from the ship, except those found potentially inadmissible, and go through the Customs processing procedures. INS inspectors then continue processing any potentially inadmissible passengers and inspect any of the ship’s crew requiring inspection.8

INS does not have a specific time standard for completing cruise ship inspections. As a general rule, INS tries to provide one inspector for every 100 to 150 non-U.S. citizen passengers listed on a ship’s passenger manifest.9 When an inspection of a cruise or cargo ship is necessary, inspectors, who are assigned to air ports-of-entry to conduct inspections, travel to the sea port-of-entry to perform the inspection service (except in Miami where a separate port director and a dedicated marine unit operate). Variables such as the number of ships and airplanes scheduled for arrival, their estimated arrival time, the ship’s last port of origin, the size and composition of the passenger population, whether it is a cargo or a cruise ship, and the number of inspectors available for duty affect the port director’s assignment of inspectors. To accommodate the cruise industry, INS inspects cruise ships upon arrival early in the morning. Cargo ship inspections occur throughout the day.

The Caribbean Market

Our review of the cruise ship passenger inspection process and the user fee exemption primarily focused on the Caribbean market. The Caribbean market is the largest in the world, accounting for approximately 50 percent of all cruise passengers worldwide. According to INS statistics, the six busiest sea ports-of-entry for passenger inspections in FY 1997 are listed below in descending order. Inspectors at five of these six ports-of-entry inspect cruise ships operating in the Caribbean market area.

1. Miami, Florida;   4. Los Angeles, California;
2. Port Everglades, Florida;   5. Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands; and
3. Port Canaveral, Florida;   6. Cruz Bay, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Passengers travelling in this market usually leave a U.S. port, travel to several ports (both U.S. and foreign), and return to the same U.S. port at the conclusion of the cruise. Such an itinerary requires INS to conduct passenger inspections at each U.S. port-of-entry following a cruise ship’s visit to a foreign port. Therefore, it is possible that INS will need to conduct multiple inspections of the same passengers during a single cruise based on the ship's itinerary.10 The Caribbean market creates a significant workload for INS seaport inspections. Virtually all passengers who take a cruise in this market are exempt by law from paying the user fee.

The Growth of the Cruise Industry

According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise industry has enjoyed an average growth rate of 7.9 percent for tickets sold annually in the North American market since 1980.11 The increase in the number, size, and capacity of cruise ships and the corresponding increase in the number of passengers has added to INS’s inspections workload. The projected growth of the industry over the next few years will make it increasingly difficult for INS to maintain a reasonable level of service to the industry.

The growth that the cruise industry has experienced is evidenced by the 36 new ships put into operation in the 1990s. These 36 ships increased the industry’s passenger capacity by 40 percent. In 1998 alone, 7 new ships became operational, adding 19,000 passenger berths while occupancy rates for the industry reached 91.6 percent. A cruise industry official reported, “...the industry experienced the best year in the history of the modern cruise industry.” Another cruise industry official stated, “…very few industries have had as consistent a growth as the cruise industry.” The cruise industry is now roughly a $13 billion business with approximately 225 cruise ships operating worldwide (see table below).

 

Ship Size and Capacity Number
Small (500 passengers or less) 78
Medium (500-1000 passengers) 63
Large (over 1000 passengers) 84

Source: Berlitz: 1999 Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships.

The growth in the industry will continue over the next several years as evidenced by the 45 new ships either under construction or on order. Over the next five years, CLIA projects the cumulative market potential for the industry to be between $54 and $97 billion.

ISSUES

INS is facing a crisis relating to its ability to properly fund inspection services at air and sea ports-of-entry. INS sees the removal of the exemption for cruise ship passengers as a source of necessary funding to cover the increasing costs of providing inspection services. Since 1995, INS has sought repeatedly to remove the cruise ship exemption, but has been unsuccessful. Our review focuses on whether INS’s position on requesting removal of the exemption is justified.

SUPPORT FOR REMOVING THE EXEMPTION

INS’s ability to continue to provide timely inspections that do not compromise the integrity of the inspection service at air and sea ports-of-entry is dependent on charging a user fee that covers the cost of providing the inspection service. During this inspection, we examined reasons that support removing the exemption from user fees for cruise ship passengers. These included the inequity of the law concerning payment of the immigration user fee, the projected failure of user fee receipts to meet inspection service costs, and the projected growth of the cruise industry and the demands this growth will place on INS resources.

1. The exemption from payment of the user fee by cruise ship passengers creates an inequity.

We could not find any documented explanation for why selected segments of air and cruise passengers initially were exempt from payment of immigration user fees when the law was passed in 1986. We speculate that the original basis for the exemption was to promote tourism and trade with selected countries. Based on interviews with airline industry officials, we also speculate that the exemption was afforded to the cruise industry because the industry may have been experiencing financial hardships in the 1980s. Exempting cruise passengers from paying user fees may have been an attempt by Congress to provide some assistance to the industry in reversing this situation.

Before 1990, airline passengers arriving at the larger U.S. air ports-of-entry were likely to endure long waits due to immigration inspections. This would often result in the passengers missing their connecting flights. INS estimated that approximately 15 million passengers out of the 44 million passengers inspected at U.S. air ports-of-entry in FY 1990 departed from exempt areas. In 1990 Congress removed the user fee exemption for airline passengers leaving from those exempt areas and required that INS inspect all passengers on international flights within 45 minutes. In removing the exemption, Senate Report 101-515 on the FY 1991 appropriations bill for the Department of Justice stated that “the intent of this provision is to expedite airport inspections” by funding additional inspection positions at international airports with the increased revenues that would result from requiring the remaining segment of exempted airline passengers to pay the user fee. No mention was made of seaport passengers or inspections. We speculate that sea ports-of-entry were not experiencing similar delays. In the October 1990 Conference Report (101-909) on the FY 1991 appropriations bill, the House of Representatives supported the Senate’s action, which corrected a “fundamental inequity” in the existing airport inspection user fee program by “charging all [air] passengers equally” for immigration inspection services. However, we find that such an inequity still exists because (1) a small segment of cruise passengers are required to pay the user fee for inspection services provided by INS while the majority of cruise passengers receiving inspection services do not, and (2) all airline passengers are required to pay the user fee while the majority of cruise passengers do not.12

In the defeat of a 1995 bill that would have removed the cruise ship exemption, proponents for retaining the exemption expressed concerns about the potential effect adding the $6 user fee would have on tourism and the cruise industry in general. When weighed against the recent and projected growth in the industry, this concern should be lessened.

2. The user fees paid by airline passengers are funding the majority of cruise ship inspections.

According to data supplied by INS’s Office of Financial Management, from FY 1994 through FY 1998 airline industry passengers paid approximately $1.6 billion (averaging $326 million a year) in user fees. For that same time period, the cruise industry and its passengers paid a total of $9.75 million (averaging $1.95 million a year). If the exemption for cruise passengers had not been in place, INS could have collected an additional $180 million for all seaport inspections performed (based on the $6 user fee for 30 million passenger inspections).13

From FY 1994 through FY 1998 the amount that non-exempt cruise ship passengers paid into the IUFA accounted for just 0.59 percent of the total user fees paid. The remainder was paid by airline passengers. For the same time period, seaport passenger inspections accounted for 9.48 percent of the total passenger inspections INS conducted at all U.S. air and sea ports-of-entry.

INS’s Performance Analysis System (PAS) provides statistics on operational work units and resource expenditures for INS programs. According to PAS data, for the period FY 1994 through FY 1998 INS conducted 31,728,811 passenger inspections at sea ports-of-entry. Only 1,625,508 passenger inspections at sea ports-of-entry were paid through the collection of user fees. Consequently, the IUFA funded the remaining 30,103,303 (94.8 percent) seaport inspections using monies paid by airline passengers.

3. The Immigration User Fee Account will be unable to fully fund inspections in Fiscal Year 2000.

INS projects that the IUFA will have insufficient funding to cover the costs of operating air and sea port-of-entry inspections in FY 2000. The chart that is displayed below shows IUFA receipts and obligations reported by INS for FY 1994 through FY 1998, and INS’s projections for FY 1999 and FY 2000. According to these figures, the costs associated with conducting inspections at air and sea ports-of-entry exceeded IUFA receipts in FY 1998 and will exceed receipts in FY 1999. However, the residual user fee funds covered or will cover the shortfall in these two years.14 According to INS projections, this will not be the case in FY 2000.

IUFA Revenues and Obligations FY 1994 through FY2000The projected shortfall in the IUFA can be attributed, in part, to recent legislative changes. For example, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 called for additional airport inspection personnel and expanded detention and deportation operations at air ports-of-entry. Also, the FY 1997 appropriations legislation called for additional deportation personnel, increased detention capacity, expansion of interior repatriation programs, enhancements to the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, and enhancements to the institutional hearing program, all funded in large part by the IUFA. The costs borne by the IUFA have increased while the user fee has remained constant since 1993. Assuming no changes occur related to user fees (i.e., if the user fee remains at $6 and the cruise ship exemption remains in place), INS estimates that in FY 2000 inspections costs will exceed IUFA funds (FY 2000 receipts plus the residual balance from the previous year) by $54,218,000.

Congress is aware of the impending crisis faced by the INS. A Senate Committee Report on Appropriations for FY 1999 stated that, “Congress is confronted with four options to restore the financial health of the [IUFA]: (1) reduce services; (2) eliminate the cruise ship exemption; (3) raise the airport fee; and (4) charge vessel and airline crews [for inspection-related costs].” To address the projected IUFA shortfall, INS is seeking elimination of the cruise ship exemption and an increase in the current user fee in its FY 2000 budget submission. Officials with whom we spoke – INS and industry officials alike – did not indicate a desire to reduce inspection services. We also did not find any indication that INS has sought legislative change regarding charging fees for inspecting vessel or airline crews.

Removing the cruise ship exemption, by itself, will not restore the financial health of the IUFA. The FY 2000 budget proposal calls for INS to charge a fee of $3 to those cruise passengers who are currently exempt from paying the user fee. INS estimates that this would generate $10,100,000 in additional revenue for the IUFA. This amount is far less than the $54 million shortfall INS projects for FY 2000. The budget proposal also seeks to raise the user fee from $6 to $8 for all passengers who currently pay the fee. Using FY 1998 figures, this increase would generate approximately $125 million in addition to the $375 million paid into the IUFA. This $125 million should more than address the shortfall INS projects for the IUFA.

4. The projected growth of the cruise industry will increase demands on INS and affect INS’s ability to provide inspection services.

The growth of the cruise industry is projected to continue over the next several years. This growth is not restricted to just the number of ships. This growth also involves the increased passenger capacity of cruise ships, the projected increase in passengers taking a cruise, the planned expansion into additional ports, and an increase in the number of arrival and departure days at the larger sea ports-of-entry.

The size of the ships has increased to where a new cruise ship’s capacity often exceeds 2,000 passengers, compared to 1,500 for the previous generation of ships. In 1998, one cruise line put into operation the largest cruise ship ever built. It weighs 109,000 tons and has a passenger capacity of 3,200. This cruise line has ordered two additional ships with the same capacity. In 1999, another cruise line will be putting into operation a ship with a passenger capacity of 3,800. The industry envisions even larger cruise ships in the near future. With the advent of these “megaliners” (a term used to define a ship with a basic passenger capacity of over 2,000), INS will be confronted with larger passenger populations per ship, as well as the increase in the overall number of ships arriving at specific ports for inspection.

The Port Authorities for the two largest seaports also are projecting cruise industry related growth. According to the Port of Miami 1998 Official Directory, the Port just completed its best year ever in its 37-year history with regard to the cruise industry.15 Over 3.2 million passengers passed through its facility, a 6 percent increase from the previous year. The Port of Miami also saw an increase in the number of cruise ships using Miami as home port, from 13 in 1997 to 20 in 1998. According to the Port Everglades 1998 Guide, the number of passengers passing through the port increased from 2.1 million in 1996 to 2.5 million in 1997; this number is projected to increase to  3.2 million passengers by 2001.16

The cruise industry’s projected growth will mean that INS must inspect more ships with larger passenger populations. In addition, because inspectors who conduct seaport inspections are assigned to the airports (except in Miami), the steady increase in passenger inspections at the airports will place additional strains on INS’s existing inspection resources. From FY 1994 through FY 1998, passenger inspections at U.S. sea ports-of-entry increased by 537,989 (an 8.8 percent increase), of which 152,339 were inspections of non-U.S. citizens. During the same time, the passenger inspections at U.S. air ports-of-entry increased by 14,239,185 (a 26.9 percent increase). These increases in passenger inspections create competing demands for inspection resources.

Total Passenger Inspections Performed at U.S. Sea Ports-of-Entry

FY 1994 FY 1995 FY 1996 FY 1997 FY 1998
6,140,157 6,310,588 6,061,970 6,537,950 6,678,146

 

Total Passenger Inspections Performed at U.S. Air Ports-of-Entry

FY 1994 FY 1995 FY 1996 FY 1997 FY 1998
52,793,494 57,167,188 61,530,195 64,220,423 67,032,679

Source: INS Performance Analysis System (PAS) data.

 

The increased number of passenger inspections at air ports-of-entry are offset by the user fee, whereas little additional revenue is generated by the increases at sea ports-of-entry. In addition, any future rise in the number of cruise ships and the number of passengers could cause INS to either draw additional inspection resources away from the air ports-of-entry to provide additional inspectors at the sea ports-of-entry, or reduce seaport inspection services.

INS strives to be responsive to cruise industry needs by providing inspectors to meet the cruise ships as they dock so inspections can begin promptly. In spite of the growth in the number of passenger inspections at sea ports-of-entry, INS generally provides timely inspection services.17 We observed at Miami and Port Everglades that cruise ship inspections typically were completed in one hour.18 However, many of the port directors with whom we spoke acknowledged that INS inspections resources are straining to meet the timely inspections the cruise industry expects in order to clear and prepare the ship for its next scheduled departure later that day.

Further, cruise line officials told us of the industry’s efforts to expand its marketing to more non-U.S. citizens. The recent and projected increase in numbers of non-U.S. citizen passengers (see chart below) and the expanded capacity of the ships will increase the time INS will require to conduct the inspections if additional inspection resources are not available.

Annual Rate of Change for Seaport Inspections FY 1994 (base) through FY1998

Source: INS Performance Analysis System (PAS) data.

 

INS’s ability to provide inspection services to the cruise industry will also be affected by the industry’s plans to expand operations in other U.S. ports and to increase the number of days when ships will require inspection. The planned expansion of cruise ship operations is not limited to the major ports in Florida and the Caribbean, though this is where it will have the greatest effect. The growth will also affect INS inspection operations, to a lesser degree, along the eastern seaboard in seaports such as Charleston, South Carolina; Newport News, Virginia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York, New York; and Baltimore, Maryland. To provide additional inspection service to these ports INS will have to send inspectors from nearby air ports-of-entry. Also, because the ports-of-entry at Miami and Port Everglades are nearing the capacity to physically accommodate the number of cruise ships, officials with whom we spoke mentioned that some cruise lines have expanded departure and arrival dates to the middle of the week. Whereas most inspections still occur on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, the expansion of cruise dates will mean that port directors at air ports-of-entry will have to provide inspectors on a more frequent basis.

If no changes are forthcoming in available resources or in inspection requirements, we anticipate the projected increases in the number of cruise ships, the increase in passenger capacity on the cruise ships, and the resulting increase in the number of passengers to be inspected will adversely affect INS’s ability to provide the timely inspection services the cruise industry has come to expect. INS is faced with limited options in addressing this problem.


1 Since 1992, INS has reimbursed the OIG for work pertaining to INS user fee-supported programs.

2 A land border inspection fee is assessed only in instances where pilot programs, such as Dedicated Commuter Lanes and Automated Permit Ports, are operational.

3 Many of INS’s programs depend on user fees paid by the recipients who benefit directly from these programs. The Office of Management and Budget Circular A-25, “User Charges,” establishes policy regarding fees assessed for government services. The Circular states that, as a general policy, “a user [fee]…will be assessed against each identifiable recipient for special benefits derived from Federal activities beyond those received by the general public. When the imposition of user charges is prohibited or restricted by existing law, agencies will review activities periodically and recommend legislative changes when appropriate.”

4 Because of minor clerical errors, P.L. 99-591 was signed into law to correct omissions in P.L. 99-500; the relevant sections are nearly identical.

5 According to 8 CFR 286.3, other categories of air passengers that remain exempt are persons commercially connected with the aircraft or its operation (e.g., crewmembers), foreign diplomats, or passengers on U.S. or foreign government aircraft.

6 In our March 1999 audit report entitled The Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Timeliness in Inspecting Passengers Arriving at U.S. Airports, DOJ/OIG 99-10, we found that INS is meeting this inspection standard over 95 percent of the time.

7 INS inspectors or Customs agents use the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) to conduct automated checks to determine a passenger’s admissibility. This system, maintained by Customs, provides access to law enforcement databases and other support systems including the National Automated Immigration Lookout System (NAILS), the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). These databases include records of stolen passports and of individuals who may be inadmissible to the United States.

8 At 90-day intervals, INS conducts a complete inspection of the ship’s crew. Within the 90-day waiver period, INS inspects only crew members who are joining or leaving the ship’s crew.

9 Because of the 45-minute inspection standard at U.S. air ports-of-entry, INS has established different inspector-to-passenger ratios depending on the diversity of the passenger population on arriving flights. The ratios are: 1 inspector to every 45 passengers when the passenger population is all non-U.S. citizens, 1 inspector to every 100 passengers when the population is all U.S. citizens, and 1 inspector to every 60 passengers for mixed flights.

10 An example of a cruise itinerary where multiple inspections would occur is as follows: the ship initially leaves from Miami and sails to Caldera, Costa Rico (foreign port), then the ship leaves for the U.S. port-of-entry at San Juan, Puerto Rico, where INS inspects the passengers. The ship then departs for Cartegena, Columbia (foreign port), before its final voyage back to Miami where another immigration inspection of the same passengers is required.

11 The Cruise Lines International Association is a marketing organization representing 23 cruise lines and approximately 21,000 travel agency affiliates.

12 To illustrate the inequity, if a passenger flies from the Bahamas to Miami, Florida, a user fee is assessed against the passenger for the inspection service received in Miami. If a passenger takes a ship from the Bahamas to Miami, a user fee is not assessed for the inspection service received.

13 The number of inspections conducted at sea ports-of-entry during this period does not equate to the number of passengers inspected. During certain cruises, depending on the itinerary, passengers may be inspected more than once. INS only records the number of inspections conducted, not the number of individual passengers inspected.

14 Residual funds in the IUFA have not been obligated for specific expenses at the end of the fiscal year and are carried forward for use in the following year. In addition, the funds obligated during the fiscal year and not spent may be de-obligated and used in subsequent years.

15 The Port Authority is a county agency responsible for the economic development and oversight of the port and its facilities for cruise and cargo shipping.

16 The Port of Miami is the busiest cruise port in the world, with Port Everglades ranking second, according to their respective Port Authority 1998 Official Directories.

17 According to INS Customer Service Standards, one of INS’s goals related to inspections is to “work with customers…to provide excellent customer service while enforcing the laws of the United States.”

18 The number of non-U.S. citizen passengers who were inspected on the ships where we observed the process ranged from 254 (4 inspectors assigned) to 530 (6 inspectors assigned). During the later stages of the inspection process, after the majority of the passengers had been inspected, some inspectors were assigned to assist in the inspection of other ships in the port, observe passengers as they began to disembark, start or assist with crew inspections, or, in the case of Port Everglades, return to the airport.

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