Fees the State Department collects for processing passport and visa applications that it uses to fund consular operations dropped due to the pandemic and may not return to pre-pandemic levels for several years, GAO has reported.
It said that revenue fell 41 percent in fiscal year 2020 and that to compensate State “used supplemental and annual appropriations and temporarily expanded expenditure and transfer authorities provided by several acts of Congress. It also drew down unobligated balances that it had carried over into fiscal year 2020.”
For the future, it said, “State has requested statutory changes to its authorities to set and use some consular fees so that it can generate additional revenue or have more flexibility in how it can use revenue. However, State has not documented its analysis to support these requests. Without a plan for assessing the potential impact of the requested changes, State risks recommending statutory changes that do not align with actual needs.”
GAO ran five simulations on such revenue through fiscal 2026, finding that even under the most optimistic projected that revenue may not be sufficient to cover costs through the period. It added that even a mid-point scenario—the return of revenue to pre-pandemic levels this year—“could put State at risk of being unable to make necessary obligations at the beginning of the fiscal year” because not enough money would be carried over to that point; that revenue does not come in regularly but rather peaks in the spring and summer.
The report said the department only partly concurred with recommendations to assess what actions would allow it to cover future consular costs; measure the statistical variability of unit costs; and document its cost, demand, and revenue estimates.