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Suspending the 30-Day and Annual Interview Requirements From the Special Registration Process for Certain Nonimmigrants [FR 44-03] [68 FR 67578]
FEDERAL REGISTER CITE:
68 FR 67578
DATE OF PUBLICATION:
December 2, 2003
BILLING CODE: 4410-10
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
8 CFR Part 264
[ICE No. 2301-3]
Suspending the 30-Day and Annual Interview Requirements From the Special Registration Process
for Certain Nonimmigrants
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security.
Interim rule with request for comments.
This rule amends Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations for the registration and monitoring of certain nonimmigrant aliens. This rule amends existing regulations by suspending the 30-day and annual re-registration requirements for aliens who are subject to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) Registration. Instead of requiring all aliens subject to NSEERS to appear for 30-day and/or annual re-registration interviews, the DHS will utilize a more tailored system in which i
t will notify individual aliens of future registration requirements. This rule also eliminates the requirement for those nonimmigrant aliens subject to special registration who are also enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to separately notify DHS of changes in educational institutions and addresses. Additionally, this rule clarifies how nonimmigrant aliens may apply for relief from special registration requirements and clarifies that certain alien crewmen are not subject
to the departure requirements. Finally, certain conforming amendments have been made to the existing regulations to reflect the fact that the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (Service) has been abolished and its functions transferred from the Department of Justice to DHS under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA), Public Law 107-296.
: This interim rule is effective December 2, 2003.
: Written comments must be submitted on or before February 2, 2004.
Please submit written comments to the Director, Regulations and Forms Services Division, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS, 425 I Street, NW., Room 4034, Washington, DC 20536. To ensure proper handling, please reference ICE No. 2301-03 on your correspondence. Comments may also be submitted electronically to DHS at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments submitted electronically must include the ICE No. 2301-03 in the subject box. Comments are available for public inspection at the above address by calling
(202) 514-3048 to arrange for an appointment.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Robert Schoch, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS, 425 I Street, NW., Room 1000, Washington, DC 20536, telephone (202) 353-3173.
How Does Registration of Aliens Work Under the Existing Statutory and Regulatory Provisions
Section 262(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act) provides that all aliens who have not previously been registered and fingerprinted pursuant to section 221(b) of the Act have a duty to apply for registration and to be fingerprinted if they remain in the United States for 30 days or longer. Under the existing regulations at 8 CFR 264.1(a), DHS registers nonimmigrants using Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record). Section 263(a) of the Act also authorizes the Secretary of DHS to prescribe special regu
lations and forms for the registration of special groups of aliens in the United States. As authorized by section 262(c) of the Act, the existing regulations at 8 CFR 264.1(e) contain general provisions waiving the fingerprinting requirement for many nonimmigrants. Accordingly, at the present time, most nonimmigrant aliens are admitted to the United States without being either fingerprinted or photographed.
Section 214 of the Act authorizes the Attorney General (now deemed to be the Secretary of DHS under the HSA) to prescribe conditions for the admission of nonimmigrant aliens. Section 215 of the Act provides for departure control from the United States. In addition, section 265 of the Act requires that all aliens who remain in the United States who are required to be registered under the Act must notify the Secretary of DHS of each change of address within ten days from the date of such change and furnish wi
th such notice additional information as the Secretary of DHS may prescribe.
Prior to the enactment of the HSA and the transfer of the functions of the former Service from the Department of Justice to DHS, the Service exercised the previously described registration authority to require that certain classes of aliens be specially registered while in the United States. Pursuant to section 263(a) of the Act, as well as the general registration authority under section 262 of the Act, the former Service promulgated 8 CFR 264.1(f), which required that certain nonimmigrant aliens be regist
ered, fingerprinted, and photographed by the Service at the port of entry (POE) at the time the nonimmigrant aliens apply for admission. See 67 FR 52584 (Aug. 12, 2002). Registration at the POEs shall be known as “POE registration” for the purpose of this discussion. Additionally, pursuant to section 265 of the Act, 8 CFR 264.1(f) directed that certain nonimmigrant aliens designated by the Attorney General who were already in the United States appear before the Service for special registration. Id. Registra
tion of aliens already present in the United States shall be known as “call-in registration” for the purpose of this discussion.
How Does This Rule Change the Current Special Registration Requirements
Currently, 8 CFR 264.1(f)(3) provides that aliens specially registered at a POE must appear before DHS 30 days after their admission into the United States for a continuing registration interview. This rule suspends this automatic 30-day continuing registration requirement.
As currently written, 8 CFR 264.1(f)(5) requires that all aliens who were subject to special registration appear for an annual re-registration interview. This rule also suspends the annual re-registration requirement.
The suspension of the 30-day and annual re-registration requirement applies to all aliens previously registered under the NSEERS program, whether call-in or POE registration, as well as any aliens registered subsequent to the effective date of this rule. In place of these previous requirements that all nonimmigrant aliens subject to NSEERS registration appear for additional 30-yday and annual interviews, this rule will allow DHS, as a matter of discretion, to notify nonimmigrant aliens subject to NSEERS reg
istration to appear for one or more additional continuing registration interviews in those particular cases where it may be necessary to determine whether the alien is complying with the conditions of his or her nonimmigrant visa status and admission.
This rule also provides that when an alien who is monitored under SEVIS notifies DHS of a change of address or educational institution through SEVIS, it also constitutes a notification for the purposes of NSEERS registration. It also clarifies that certain alien crewmen, described at section 101(a)(15)(D) of the Act, and are subject to special registration, are exempted from the departure control requirements of 8 CFR section 264.1(f) (8).
Finally, this rule reflects that the Service was abolished, and DHS now performs its functions. Thus, throughout 8 CFR 264.1(f), this rule substitutes the Secretary of Homeland Security for the Attorney General, and replaces references to the Service with references to DHS.
This rule does not eliminate or in any way limit the authority of the Secretary of DHS under section 263 of the Act, for certain types of aliens, and section 265 of the Act, for any class or group of aliens, through notice, to require such aliens to appear for special registration in the future if circumstances so require. Additionally, this rule does not limit or alter any other special registration requirement under section 263 of the Act.
What Other Changes Are Made by This Rule
This rule also clarifies how nonimmigrant aliens subject to NSEERS registration may apply for relief from registration departure requirements. Aliens subject to NSEERS registration are required to register their departure before an immigration officer at a designated port of departure and depart from that port on the same day. Aliens previously could contact the Service district director to obtain relief from these departure requirements. However, the abolition of the former Service and the distribution of
its functions to various agencies within DHS, such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), have created uncertainties for aliens as to how to seek such relief. For nonimmigrant aliens who have been NSEERS registered, this regulation clarifies how the alien may seek a waiver from the departure registration requirements.
First, under the revisions set out in this rule, a nonimmigrant alien subject to the departure registration requirements based upon NSEERS registration may seek relief from these requirements before his or her departure from an official designated by DHS or from the CBP field office director for the port from which the alien intends to depart. The alien seeking such relief must establish to the satisfaction of the field office director or designated official that exigent or unusual circumstances exist, and
that the alien warrants a favorable exercise of discretion.
Additionally, for an alien who has been registered and who makes frequent trips to the United States, based upon a showing of good cause, exigent or unusual circumstances, the CBP field office director over the port to which the alien most frequently arrives in the United States may exempt the alien from future POE registrations. The field office director or his designee will make the determination that the frequency of arrival warrants relief from the registration requirements on a case-by-case basis. In m
aking this determination, the field office director or his designee will consider the mode of travel, business and economic concerns, purpose of travel, or other factors as determined by the director. In seeking such relief, the alien bears the burden of establishing he or she warrants a favorable exercise of discretion. If granted, relief from POE registrations also shall include relief from NSEERS registration departure control requirements.
An alien alternatively may seek an exemption from the NSEERS registration requirements from the Department of State by such forms and methods as the Department of State may prescribe.
There are no specific forms to request relief from the NSEERS requirements from DHS; an individual seeking relief should direct a letter to the appropriate CBP field office director. In such a letter, the alien should provide a detailed description of the type of relief sought, their full name, date-of-birth, Fingerprint Identification Number (which is reflected on the Form I-94), a 1” x 1” passport style photograph, the alien's A-number, if one has been assigned, and any documents that support the relief r
equest. Information regarding the relief provisions will be provided to aliens upon completion of registration. Copies of these materials, known as the “walk-away” materials, are also available on the Web site http://www.ice.gov, in the special registration section.
This rule further clarifies to aliens applying for relief that, until an application for relief from the NSEERS registration requirements is granted, the alien is required to comply with the registration requirements.
The decision of any DHS officer or official to grant or deny relief from the NSEERS registration provisions is done as an exercise of discretion, and as such is final and cannot be appealed.
A DHS officer authorized to grant relief also may terminate such relief by providing notice to the alien.
Why Is This Rule Necessary
The former Service, and now DHS (as of March 1, 2003), have evaluated the utility of the 30-day and annual interviews under the current requirements for national security and immigration enforcement purposes. Additionally, DHS is under a congressional mandate set forth in various amendments to the Act to create a comprehensive entry-exit system. In carrying out this mandate through the establishment of the US-VISIT Program, DHS has reviewed the use of the special registration program for both POE and call-i
n registrations. After considering these factors, DHS has determined it is appropriate to suspend the continuing registration requirements set out in 8 CFR 264.1(f), that automatically required aliens subject to NSEERS registration to report for 30-day and/or annual re-registration interviews. Special registration of aliens at POEs has, consistent with the program's intent, provided important law enforcement benefits, which have included the identification of a number of alien terrorists and criminals. This
rule is not amending the procedures for NSEERS registration at the POE's. In addition to US-VISIT, which will soon become operational, DHS has other systems available that can help ensure that those aliens who are already subject to NSEERS registration remain in compliance with the terms of their visa and admission. For example, Congress mandated that DHS develop a student monitoring system. See Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), Public Law 104-208, section 641; “
Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” (USA Patriot Act), Public Law 107-56, section 416. This system, SEVIS, is now fully operational. Schools now must report directly to DHS when a student or exchange visitor alien changes schools, fails to appear for classes or otherwise fails to maintain his or her student status following admission into the United States.
Thus, DHS is now in a position to suspend the mandatory re-registration interview requirements for those aliens who are already subject to NSEERS registration, which will reduce the burden on those required to register under the current regulations, as well as to DHS. Instead, DHS will be able to schedule re-registration interviews on a more targeted and effective basis, only in those particular cases where it may be appropriate for additional scrutiny to ensure that an alien remains in compliance with the
terms of his or her nonimmigrant visa and admission.
Who Is Affected by This Rule
Aliens who have been subject to NSEERS registration, whether as a result of being registered at a POE upon arrival, or as a result of being called in to register by
notice, are affected by the rule, because it reduces their current reporting requirements by eliminating the mandatory 30-day and annual re-registration interviews. Additionally, aliens who hereafter enter the United States and are NSEERS registered at a POE are affected by this rule. Affected aliens have been or will be given a Form I-94 documenting their registration, which will reflect their Fingerprint Identification Number (FIN). DHS uses the FIN recorded on the Form I-94 to identify the records of an
alien subject to special registration. Based upon the number of aliens who have previously registered, DHS estimates that over the 6 month time span from December 2003 through May 2004, approximately 82,532 aliens will benefit from this change and will not have to report for either a 30-day or annual re-interview during that period.
How Does This Rule Affect Registration at POEs
This rule does not affect the procedures for the NSEERS registration of aliens, including fingerprinting, photographing, and provision of information, at POEs. As is obligatory under current regulations, nonimmigrant aliens subject to POE registration will still be required, utilizing the information collection system in place, to provide routine and readily available information as a condition of admission. This includes such information as is necessary to identify the alien in the United States. Lists of
information that may be required during NSEERS registration have previously been issued. See, e.g., 67 FR 40581, 40582.
Registration at POEs continues to allow DHS to determine if an alien's fingerprints match those of known terrorists or criminals, and to detain for removal or refuse admission of the alien if such an identity match is established.
How Will DHS Provide Notice to Individual Aliens That They Must Appear for an Additional Registration Interview
In place of the automatic re-registration requirements set out in the original NSEERS registration provisions, this rule substitutes a more tailored approach to re-registration. The determination of whether an alien will be subject to additional registration requirements will be made on a case-by-case basis. The admission of any nonimmigrant alien subject to NSEERS registration is subject to the requirement that, under this rule, he or she may be required to appear for future continuing re-registration inte
rviews at the discretion of DHS. At the time of admission, DHS will advise all nonimmigrant aliens subject to special registration that they may be required to appear for additional registration interviews upon notice. DHS will separately notify those aliens selected to appear before DHS to comply with the additional re-registration requirements, which for a small number of aliens may be more frequent than the 30-day and annual re-registration requirements set out in the prior rule. However, only aliens who
are notified of the re-registration requirements will have to appear before DHS for such requirement, and the majority of individuals registered will see a reduction in the burden of additional registration as a result of this rule. Notification under these regulations may be given to the alien in a manner reasonably calculated to reach the alien, which shall include, but is not limited to, notice by publication in the
, a letter sent via standard U.S. postal mail to the last address provided by the alien to DHS using regular mail, an e-mail to the address the alien provided to DHS during a previous NSEERS registration interview, or in-person delivery. The nonimmigrant alien must appear at the designated U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office location, and on the specified date and time, unless otherwise specified in the notice. DHS will provide the alien at least ten days, measured from the date DHS publishes or
sends notice to the alien, to comply with the re-registration obligation.
Notice to an alien of registration or re-registration requirements may be issued by the ICE Assistant Secretary, his designee, or any other such individual designated by the Secretary of DHS.
How Does This Rule Affect an Alien's Obligation To Notify DHS of a Change of Address or Employment
This rule reiterates, for this distinct group of nonimmigrant aliens who are subject to NSEERS registration, and who remain in the United States for more than thirty days, the requirement that the nonimmigrant alien notify DHS of any change of address, employment and/or educational institution within 10 days of such change. Affected aliens may notify DHS by mail, or such other means as the Secretary of DHS may designate, of a change of address. The required form, the AR-11 for Special Registration, is avail
able at DHS offices and on the DHS Internet Web site at http://www.uscis.gov, in the special registration section.
However, this rule discontinues the requirement that student aliens monitored under SEVIS who are subject to special registration separately notify DHS of a change in their educational institution or address, if such information is provided to DHS through SEVIS. This rule provides that when an alien reports a change of address or educational institution to DHS through SEVIS, that action fulfills his or her special registration requirement to notify DHS of changes in address. However, student aliens who are
monitored under SEVIS who are subject to special registration will still be required under 8 CFR 264.1(f)(5) to notify DHS of any change of employment which is currently not captured in the SEVIS system.