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house Bill H.R. 2229

Should Passport Fees be Waived for First Responders Traveling to Aid Foreign Countries During Natural Disasters?

Argument in favor

American first responders, including unpaid volunteers, often travel long distances to other countries to render aid in the wake of natural disasters. Waiving passport fees for these heroes is a small way for the federal government to express appreciation for their spirit of service. This small, but meaningful, gesture won’t cost the federal government much and is worth it to support first responders.

Argument opposed

While it might be reasonable to provide passport fee waivers to unpaid volunteer first responders, it’s not reasonable to do so for paid first responders. If someone is paid to be a first responder with the understanding that they might travel overseas in the course of their work, they should hold and personally pay for a valid passport as a necessary tool for meeting their job’s responsibilities.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Foreign Relations
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Foreign Affairs
    IntroducedApril 10th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 2229?

This bill — the First Responders Passport Act of 2019 — would allow the Secretary of State to waive passport fees for first responders traveling to provide aid to foreign countries suffering from natural disasters. The fee waiver would apply to first responders, including volunteers, operating under contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements with the U.S. government.

The Secretary of State would be required to report to Congress on the number of waivers and fees issued under this bill on an annual basis.

Impact

First responders; passports for first responders; passport fees for first responders; passport fee waivers for first responders; and the Secretary of State.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2229

The CBO estimates that implementing this bill would cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2024 period.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to waive passport fees for first responders responding to natural disasters overseas. In a letter to his Congressional colleagues seeking cosponsors for this bill, he wrote: 

“[The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)] contracts with elite teams of first responders who can be deployed at a moment’s notice to assist with natural disaster response efforts around the world. For example, organizations such as the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team and the Los Angeles County Search and Rescue Team can be activated during emergencies such as earthquakes in Nepal, Japan, and Mexico. So that they can be deployed immediately, they are required to have current passports. Since these first responders operate on a contract basis, however, they are not eligible for fee-free diplomatic passports. That is why we invite you to become a cosponsor of the First Responders Passport Act, which gives the Secretary of State discretion to waive passport fees for those responding to natural disasters abroad. This legislation aims to reduce the costs incurred by first responders as they assist U.S. government efforts and represent America’s generous spirit to those in need.”

This legislation passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee by voice vote with the support of 21 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 14 Democrats and seven Republicans. In the 115th Congress, then-Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced this legislation with the support of 23 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 14 Republicans and nine Democrats, and didn’t receive a committee vote.


Of NotePassport renewals for adults are $30 for a passport card, $110 for a passport book, and $140 for both a passport card and passport book. Around a quarter of these fees are recorded as revenues, and the remainder is retained by the State Dept. for consular and border security programs without further appropriation. 

First-time passport applicants pay a $35 execution fee that is retained by either the facility accepting the application (such as a post office, clerk of court, public library, or other local government office) or deposited in the Treasury as revenue when the application is made at a State Dept. facility. 

There are about 430 first responders in the Fairfax County, Virginia and Los Angeles County, California USAID search and rescue teams. The people in these teams are required to hold current passports and be able to deploy within a few hours. Currently, their passport fees aren’t waived — so fees for the issuance of new passports or renewal of existing passports are paid for by these individuals themselves.

USAID’s first response teams have been called to serve abroad many times. In recent years, the Fairfax Team has been deployed to disasters in Nepal, Japan, and Haiti.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / wundervisuals)

AKA

First Responders Passport Act of 2019

Official Title

To waive the passport fees for first responders proceeding abroad to aid a foreign country suffering from a natural disaster.

    First Responders deserve your full support!!!
    Like (4)
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    Why wouldn’t they be???
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    ANYTHING TO ALLOW FIRST REPONDERS TO GET TO THEIR DESTINATIONS FASTER IS A GOOD THING!
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    Agree with the idea. Oppose the concept that it requires House action. Where is our president who oversteps his authority at every turn. The State Department should be able to make this happen with the stroke of an administrative pen.
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    American first responders, including unpaid volunteers, often travel long distances to other countries to render aid in the wake of natural disasters. Waiving passport fees for these heroes is a small way for the federal government to express appreciation for their spirit of service. This small, but meaningful, gesture won’t cost the federal government much and is worth it to support first responders.
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    A bill that’s generous and is about helping people outside the United States... and not just Israel?? Wow! I’m very pleasantly surprised to see it’s coming from a Republican! What will be an even bigger surprise is if my three Republican representatives vote for it. Will they? Or won’t that? I’ll be waiting in suspense....
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    This is an easy one. It is honorable to help our fellow human beings in crisis. Waiving passport fees for first responders facilitates this virtue.
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    We must honor our first responders.
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    Make it as easy as possible to help
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    If this bill will help the magnificent first responders, all for it, I would however, like to know if there is something untoward included in this bill.
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    Sadly, the least we could do.
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    And for humanitarian aid workers & volunteers - Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, World Central Kitchen, Team Rubicon, animal welfare, ...
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    American first responders, including unpaid volunteers, often travel long distances to other countries to render aid in the wake of natural disasters. Waiving passport fees for these heroes is a small way for the federal government to express appreciation for their spirit of service. This small, but meaningful, gesture won’t cost the federal government much and is worth it to support first responders.
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