Americans are overcharged for new passports, analysis shows

Associated Press
Published November 3, 2007

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government has overcharged Americans by more than $100-million a year in its fee for new passports, according to cost figures uncovered by congressional investigators and analyzed by Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and the Associated Press.

The $97 fee for adults for new passports is set by the State Department, which denied Friday that it overcharges anyone. Over the past year, the government issued nearly 14-million new passports. Americans paid at least $111.4-million more in passport fees than the government's stated costs, according to calculations by the AP, using information from the State Department and the Government Accountability Office.

The $97 passport fee - $82 for children under 16 - dates back to 2005. The GAO studied whether a $30 portion of that fee was justified.

The $30 is intended to cover the cost of clerks examining and accepting passport applications at post offices, State Department passport offices, courthouses, libraries, municipal offices and universities.

The investigators found that the government's $30 fee was roughly double the actual cost when imposed in 2002. The Postal Service, which operates 5,382 locations where people can apply for passports, estimated its cost at $13.31 in 2002. The State Department, which operates 14 passport offices, said its cost was $16.20 at that time.

"This is not supposed to be a profit-making venture," Dorgan said. "They charge 30 bucks just for passing something across the counter."

The remaining $67 is spent producing the passport booklet and for related costs, such as rent at passport offices, security guards and background checks. Investigators did not look into that portion of the fee.