Immigration: Alien Registration
CRS Report for Congress
Received through t he CRS W e b
Upda ted Janua ry 6, 2004
Analys t in American Na tional Go ve rnment
Domestic Social Policy Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Immigration: Alien Registration
Since t he September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, many U.S. officials and others
have ex pressed concerns that the U.S. government is unaware of the addresses and
whereabouts o f m any foreign nationals in the country. The Immigr a t i o n and
Nationality Act (INA) contai ns provisions for t he regi stration of aliens, i ncluding the
requirement that aliens provi de notification o f any change of address within 10 days .
Fo r m any ye ars, however, t his address reporting requirement was general l y not
The INA al so aut hori z es t h e A t t o rney General t o p rescri be speci al regu l at i ons
for t he regi stration and fingerpri n t i n g o f any class o f aliens who are not U.S. legal
perm anent resi d ent s (LP R s). T he At t o rn e y G e n e ral h as ex erci sed t hi s aut hori t y at
various times b y requiring that nonimmigrant a liens (legal temporary residents) from
design ated countries be regi stered, photographed, and fingerpri n t ed at the port o f
A rule, which t ook eff e c t o n September 11, 2002, applies ex p anded s pecial
regi stration requirements t o certain newly arriving nonimmigrants as part of t he
National S ecurity Entry-Ex it Regi stration S ys tem (NSEERS). NSEERS covers
arriving nonimmigrants from des ignat e d c o u ntries, as well as other arriving
nonimmigrants who are d et ermined to pose an elevated national security risk.
Among other requirements, aliens subject to special regi stration under t his rule are
regi ster e d , fingerprinted, photographed, and checked against d atabases of known
criminal s and terrorists at t he port of entry. Under t he original rule, which has s ince
been am ended, t hose w ho rem ai n ed for at l east 3 0 d ays h ad t o report t o an
immigration office to complete thei r registration and those rem ai ning for m ore t han
1 year had t o reaffi r m t h e i r registra tion i nformation annually. A series of Federal
Register notices published i n l ate 2002 and early 2003 s imilarly required certain
nonimmigr a n t males i n t he United S tates fro m d esignated countries to report t o an
immigration o ffice to be regi stered, fingerprinted, and photographed. A s ubsequent
rule, which became effective o n D ecember 2 , 2003, amended t he NS EERS
regu lations. Among other changes, i t s uspended t he automatic 30-day and annual re-
regi stration requirements.
A p roposed rule, published i n J uly 2002, w ould give notice t o aliens, i ncluding
LP Rs, of t heir obligation t o provide the government with a current address, including
any change of addres s within 10 days , and the consequences of failing t o do s o.
C ongress has act ed on al i en regi s t rat i on-rel at ed m easures i n recent years. The
107 th C ongress enact ed t h e E nhanced Border S ecuri t y and V i s a E nt ry R eform Act o f
2002 (P.L. 107-173), which directs t he General Accounting Offi c e to study the
feasibility and utility of requiring nonimmigrants t o s ubmit a current addres s and,th
where applicable, t he name and address o f an e m p loyer every year. In t he 108
Congress, the FY2003 Consol i d at ed Appropr i at i ons R es o l u t i o n ( P . L. 108-7) contains
language requiring the Attorney General, in consultation with the S ecret ary of
Homeland Security, t o p ro v i de Congress with NSEERS-related documents and
materials. This report will be updated as related developments occur.
In troduction ......................................................1
Current RegistrationProvisions .......................................1
Special RegistrationRequirements ....................................3
2002 Regi stration-Related R ules ......................................4
Entry-Exit RegistrationSystem ...................................4
Aliens in theUnitedStates ...................................6
Reactions to theRules .........................................10
2003 Changes t o t he Special Regi stration S ys tem ....................11
Legi slation i n t he 107th Congress .....................................12
Legi slation i n t he 108th Congress .....................................13
Immigration: Alien R egistration
The S eptember 11, 2001 terrorist attacks called attention t o t he fact that the U.S.1
government is unaware of the addresses and whereabouts o f m any foreign nationals
in the United S tates. In the aftermath of the attacks, Congress sought to improve the
tracking o f one subgroup of foreign n ationals: t emporary l egal residents. To better
track these t emporary residents, also known as nonimmigrants, the 107 th Congress
revived efforts t o implement an entry-ex it control s ys tem and a s ys tem for monitoring
foreign s tudents.2 In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) i s using
the registration provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act t o t rack fo reign
nationals in the United S tates.3 As detailed b elow, t hat act requires t hat m ost aliens
in t h e U n i t e d S tates for 30 days or longer be regi st ered and p rovi de not i fi cat i o n o f
each change of address. The alien registration issue has also been considered t o ath th
limited ex t ent i n t he 107 and 108 Congresses.
Current Registration Provisions
Alien registration requirements, which dat e t o t he Alien R egistration Act of
They generally do not apply t o, or can be waived in, t he cas e of n o nimmigrants
entering under INA §101(a)(15)(A) (am bassadors and diplomats) or INA
1 The terms foreign nationals , aliens ,andnoncitizens are synonymous and refer to all
foreign-born i ndivi duals who are not U.S. citizens.
2 For i nformation on entry-exi t c ontrol, see CRS Report RL31727, Border Security:
Immi gration I ssues in the 108th Congress , by Lisa M. Seghetti. For i nformation on f oreign
student monitoring, s ee CRS Report RL31146, Fo r e i gn Students i n t he United States:
Policies and Legislation, by Ruth Ellen Wasem. For an overvi ew of the U.S. s ys tem of
temporary a dmissions, s ee RL31381, U.S. Immigration Policy on Temporary Admissions ,
by Ruth Ellen Wasem.
3 P r i or t o M ar. 1, 2003, alien r egistration was being administered by t he Immi gr ation a n d
Naturalization Servi ce (INS) of t he Department of J ustice. T he Homeland Security Act of
2002 (P.L. 107-296, Nov. 25, 2002) abolished INS and t ransferred most of its functions to
4 Act o f J une 27, 1952, ch. 477; 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq. T he INA i s t he basis of c ur r e nt
§101(a)(15)(G) (representatives to, and o fficials and e m p l oyees of, i nternational
organiz ations). In their current form, t hese requirements i nclude the following: 5
! No vi sa can be i ssued t o an al i en unl ess t he al i en h as been regi st ered
in connection with the visa application.6
! Every alien who is age 14 or older, rem ai ns in the United S tates for
30 days o r l o nger, and has not been regi stered must apply for
regi stration and b e f i ngerprinted b efore d ay 30. The Attorney
General m ay waive t he fingerprinting requirement in the cas e of any
! The A t t o rney General i s aut hori z ed t o prescri b e s peci al regu l at i ons
and forms fo r t he regi stration and fingerprinting of certain
enumerated groups, i ncluding aliens of any class who are not legal
permanent res idents (LPRs) of the United S tates. 8
! The Attorney General and the S ecr et ary of S tate are authorized to
prepare fo r m s f o r t he regi stration o f aliens. These forms are to
contain questions about the d a t e a n d place of the alien’s entry into
the United S tates; activities i n which the alien has been and i ntends
to be engaged; ex pect ed length of stay; any police or criminal record;
and any additional m atters.9
! Aliens required t o b e registered m us t notify t he Attorney General i n
writing o f each change of address within 10 days of the change and
provide such additional i nformation as t he Attorney General m ay
require. S imilarly, the Attorney Ge neral, upon 10 days notice, may
r e q u i re t h e n at i v es of any forei gn st at e w ho are requi red t o b e
regi stered to provide notification o f t heir current addresses and such
additional i nformation as t he Attorney General m ay require. 10
! A n alien required t o apply for regi stration and to be fingerp r i n t e d
who willfully fails to do so is guilty of a m isdemeanor, and upon
conviction, may b e fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for u p t o 6
months, o r both. An alien who fails to notify t he Attorney General
of a change o f ad d r ess i s guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon
conviction, may b e fined up to $200 or imprisoned for up to 30 days ,
or both. Regardless of whether s uch an alien i s convic t e d o r
punished for failing t o p rovide the address notification, the alien will
be taken i nto custody and removed from t he country unless t he alien
5 T he Homeland S e c u r i t y Act t ransferred most i mmi gr ation-related f unctions from t he
Department of J ustice ( DOJ ) t o DHS. It i s uncertain as of this wr iting whether any of t he
authorities enumerated here remain, i n whole or i n part, with DOJ and t he Attorney General.
6 INA §261; INA §221(b).
7 INA §262(a), ( c).
8 INA §263(a).
9 INA §264(a).
10 INA §265(a), ( b).
satisfies the Attorney General t hat “such f a i l u re was reasonably
ex cusable or was not willful.”11
Special Registration Requirements
At various times i n t he past, t he Attorney General used t he authority granted by
the INA to pres cribe s peci al regu lations an d forms for t he regi stration and
fingerprinting o f certain groups of aliens. U n t i l i t s abolition i n M arch 2003, the
Immigration and Naturalization S ervice (INS) administ e red alien registration. In
J anuary 1991, on the eve of the P ersian Gulf W ar, INS p romulgated a rule requiring
al l nonimmigrants carrying Iraqi or Kuwaiti travel do cu m ents who applied for
admission to the United S tates, ex cept for those entering as diplomats or offici al s of
international o rganiz ations, t o b e registered, photographed, and fingerprinted at the
port o f entry. According t o t he summary of the rule i n t he Federal Register :“This
act i o n i s n ecessary t o prot ect and s afeguard t h e i nt erest s and s ecuri t y of t h e U ni t ed
S t ates as a p recaution against reprisals ...”12
In December 1993, INS pub l i s h e d a n i nterim rule that removed t hese special
regi stration requirements for Iraqis and Kuwaitis. The rule al so added a n e w
provision to the INS regu lations on regi stration.13 That provision s t a t e d that the
Attorney General m ay require, b y public notice i n t he Federal Register , t hat certain
nonimmigrants o f s pecific countries be regi st ered and fingerprinted upon arrival i n
the United S tates. The s upplementary info rmation accompanyi ng the rule d escribed
the p rovision as “ a p r ocedural change which affords t he Attorney General m ore
flex ibility in responding to specific political situations than was formerly available
[ when changes in regu lation were required] .”14 Under t he authority of the provision,
INS published a separate notice i n t he same issue of t he Federal Register requiring
al l nonimmigrants bearing Iraqi or Sudanese travel documents who a p p l i e d f or
admission to the United S tates, ex cept for those entering as diplomats or offici al s of
international o rganiz ations, t o b e registered, photographed, and fingerprinted at the
port o f entry. T he notice i ndicated t h a t such measures were necessary in light of
“recen t t errorist activities p erpetrated on United S tates s oil and the d iscovery of15
terrorist plots.” In September 1996, INS publis h ed a Federal Register notice
11 INA §266(a), ( b).
12 U.S. Department of J u s t ice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi ce, Regi stration and
Fi ngerprinting of Certain Nonimmi gr ants Bearing Iraqi and K u waiti Travel Documents;
Final Rule. Federal Register , vol. 56, no. 11, J a n. 16, 1991, p. 1566.
13 T hese r egulations are c odified at 8 CFR Part 264. T he a dded pro vi s i o n w a s 8 C FR
14 U.S. Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi ce, A d dition of
Pr ovision f or the Registration and Fi ngerprinting of Nonimmi gr ants Designated by the
Attorney General; Remova l of t he Requireme nt for t he Regi stration a nd Fingerprinting of
Certain Nonimmi gr ants Bearing Iraqi and K uwaiti T r avel Do cuments; Interim Rule.
Federal Register , vol. 58, no. 245, Dec. 23, 1993, pp. 68024-68025.
15 U.S. Departme nt of J ustice, Immi gr ation a nd Naturalization Servi ce, Requireme nt for t he
similarly p roviding for t he regi strati on, photographing, and fingerprinting o f
nonimmigrants holding Iranian or Libyan t ravel documents. 16 In J uly 1998, INS
published a notice consolidating and replacing these t wo notices covering
nonimmigrants holding Iranian, Iraqi, Li byan, or S udanese travel documents. 17
2002 Registration-Related R ules
According t o t he Department of J u stice (DOJ ), the S eptember 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks highlighted weaknesses i n t he U.S. immigration s ys tem. Under t he system
in place at that time, DOJ maintained, i t was difficult to know whether
nonimmigrants i n t he country were followi ng their s tated p lans, whether they
remained beyond their authoriz ed period of stay, and h o w to locate t hem, if
necessary. T o address t hese and o ther concerns, INS proposed two rules in 2002 that
drew on the INA’s registration provisions and other authority.
Entry- Exit Registration System
On J une 5, 2002, DOJ outlined a p roposal for a “National S ecurity Entry-Ex it
Regi stration S ys t e m ” (NSEERS). In p repared remarks on the p roposal, Attorney
General J ohn Ashcroft said:
This system will expand s u b s t a ntially America’s scrutiny of t hose f oreign
vi sitors who may pose a natio n a l s ecurity concern and enter our country. And
it will provide a vital line of defense in the war against t errorism.
The A t t o rney General d escri b ed NS EER S as t h e fi rst s t ep t oward d evel opi ng a
congressionally mandated entry-ex i t d ata s ys tem t o t rac k virtually all foreign
Regi stration and Fi ngerprinting of Certain Nonimmi gr ants Bearing Iraqi and Sudanese
T r avel Documents; Notice. Federal Register , vol. 58, no. 245, Dec. 23, 1993, pp. 68157-
16 U.S. Departme nt of J ustice, Immi gr ation a nd Naturalization Servi ce, Requireme nt for t he
Regi stration and Fi ngerprinting of Certain Nonimmi gr ants Bearing Iranian and Libyan
T r avel Documents; Notice. Federal Register , vol. 61, no. 173, Sept. 5, 1996, pp. 46829.
17 U.S. Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi ce, Requireme n t for
Regi stration and Fi ngerprinting of Certain Nonimmi gr ants; Notice. Federal Register , vol.
18 U.S. Departme nt of J ustice, Attorney General Prepared Remarks on t he National Security
Entry-Exit Registration System, June 6, 2002 . Available at
[http://www.usdoj .gov/ag/ speech es/2002/060502agpreparedremarks .htm] , visited J an. 6,
2004. (Hereafter c ited a s DOJ , Attorney Ge neral Prepared Remarks.) For a dditional
information on t he congressionally ma ndated e ntry-e xit s ys tem, see CRS Report RL31727,th
Border Security: I mmi gration I ssues in the 108 Congress , by Lisa M. Seghetti.
IN S p roposed a rule to implement NS EER S on J une 13, 2002, and i ssued the
final rule o n August 12, 2002.19 The rule t ook effect on September 11, 2002. Under
the rule, ex panded s peci al regi strati o n requirements apply t o nonimmigrant aliens
from d esignated countries. These requirements also apply t o i ndividual
nonimmigrants from any country who a co n s u l ar officer abroad or an inspection
officer at the port o f entry determ i n es m eet undisclosed criteria i ndicating t hat t he
alien’s presence i n t he United S tates warrants m onitoring in the i nterests of national
security or law enforcem ent. Thes e req u i rem ents do not apply t o nonimmigrants
applyi ng for a d m i s sion as diplomats o r o ffi cials o f i nternational o rganiz ations.
According t o t he supplementary informa tion accompanyi ng the rule, the covered
individuals constitute “only a smal l percentage of the m ore t han 35 million
nonimmigrant aliens who enter the United S tates each year.” DOJ estimated t hat
NSEERS would t rack about 100,000 visitors in the first year. 20
Upon arrival i n t he United S tates, aliens subject to special regi stration under t he
rule are f ingerprinted, photographed, and checked against d atabases of known
criminal s and terrorists. They al so are required t o register by providing “routine and
readily available i nformation,” such as personal i nformation and information about
their p lans in the country. The original rule, which has s inc e been amended as
described b elow, required aliens regi ster ed at a port o f entry to satisfy subsequent 30-
day and annual registration r e q u i rements. Under t he original rule, i f t hese aliens
remained in the country for 3 0 d ays o r l onger, t hey h ad to report t o an immigration
office between day 3 0 and day 4 0 t o c o m pl ete t heir regi stration b y p roviding
additional documentation o f compliance with their v i s a s , i ncluding proof of
residence, employment, and school enrollment as applicable. Those aliens remaining
for m ore t han 1 year had t o reaffirm thei r registration i nformation annually.
Aliens s u b j ect t o speci al regi stration who remain in the United S tates for 30
days or longer a l s o have to provide notification o f any change in their residential
ad d r ess, em ployment, or educational i nstitution within 10 days. Upon leaving t h e
U n ited S tates, speci al regi strants are required t o report t heir ex it at th e p o r t o f
On September 11, 2002, NSEERS was imple mented at selected ports of entry.
On October 1 , 2002, the s ys t e m went i nto effect at all remaini ng land, air, and s ea
19 U.S. Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi c e , Regi stration and
Monitoring of Certain Nonimmi gr ants; Proposed Rule. Federal Register , vol. 67, no. 114,
J u n e 1 3 , 2 002, pp. 40581-40586; U.S. Departme nt of J ustice, Immi gr ation a nd
Naturalization Servi ce, Regi stration and Monitoring of Certain Nonimmi gr ants; Final Rule.
Federal Register , vol. 67, no. 155, Aug. 12, 2002, pp. 52583-52593. T he f inal rule amends
20 DOJ , Attorney Ge neral Prepared Remarks.
21 A notice published i n t he Federal Register lists the ports from which special r egistrants
can depart the Unit ed States. See U.S. Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and
Naturalization Servi ce, Notice Designating Additional Ports-of-Entry f or Departure of
Aliens Who Are Subj ect to Special Regi stration. Federal Register , vol. 68, no. 38, Feb. 26,
2003, pp. 8967-8968. T his notice c orrects a n earlier notice on t he same subj ect published
in Federal Register , vol. 68, no. 33, Feb. 19, 2003, pp. 8047-8048.
ports of entry. It covers nonimmigrants who are citizens or national s o f Ir an, Iraq,
Li bya, S u d a n , an d S yria, as wel l as other nonimmigrants det ermined to pose an
elevated national s ecurity risk as ex plained above. 22 An internal INS m emorandum
dated S eptember 5, 2002, which h as been reported o n b y v arious medi a outlets, s tated
that the Attorney General had determin ed t h at nonimmigrant males applyi ng for
admission who are citizens or nationals of Pakistan, S audi Arabia, or Yem en and are
bet ween t h e ages o f 1 6 and 45 warrant ed speci al regi st r at i on. Accordi n g t o t he
memorandum, t hese individuals were to b e s u b j ect to special regi stration as o f
October 1 , 2002. The m emorandum also enumerated the s even criteria t o b e u sed b y
immigration i nspect ors t o det ermine whether to require the s peci al regi stration of
arriving nonimmigrants from any country. Among these criteria were t he following:
The alien has made unex plained trips t o Iran, Iraq, Libya, S udan, Syria, Saudi Arabia,
or one of nine other s pecifi ed countries; and “The nonimmigrant alien’s b ehavior,
demeanor, o r answers indicate t hat t he a lien s hould be m onitored i n t h e i n t e r e st of
national s ecurity.” Neither DOJ nor INS would comment on this memorandum.23
Alie ns in the Unite d S ta te s . In addition t o requiring the s peci al regi stration
of certain newly arriving nonimmigrants, INS published a notice i n t he Fe deral
Register on November 6, 2002, similarly requiri ng the registration o f certai n
nonimmigrants already res iding i n t he United S tates. 24 T h e notice required
nonimmigrant males who were citizens or nationals of Iran, Iraq, Li bya, Sudan, and
Syria, were at l eas t 16 years old, and were last admitted t o t he United S tates on or
before September 10, 2002, to report t o an immigration o ffice by December 16, 2002,
to be regi stered, fingerprinted, and photograp h ed. (A Federal Register notice
published o n J anuary 16, 200 3 , r e opened t he regi stration p eriod for individuals
covered b y t he November 6, 2002 notice. It stated that those i ndividuals who h ad not
regi stered as required could d o s o b etween J anuary 27, 2003, and February 7 , 2003,
and would be considered to be in compliance.25 ) Following this initial registration,
22 U.S. Departme nt of J ustice. Attorney General Ashcroft Announces Implementation of t he
First Phase of t he National Security Entry-Exit Registration S y s tem. August 12, 2002.
[http://www.usdoj .gov/opa/pr/2002/Augus t/02_ a g_ 4 66.htm] , visited J an. 6, 2004; U.S.
Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Service, Registration and Monitoring
of Certain Nonimmi gr ants From De signated Countries; Notice. Federal Register , vol. 67,
no. 173, Sept. 6, 2002, pp. 57032-57033.
23 T he memorandu m, wr itten by INS Executive Associate Commi ssioner J ohnny N.
W i l liams, i s available i n Interpreter Releases, Sept. 30, 2002, pp. 1481-1484. It als o c a n
[ h t t p : / / www.wor l dnet d ai l y.com/ n ews/ ar t i c l e .asp?ART ICLE_ID=29019] , vi s i t e d J an. 6 ,
24 U.S. Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi ce, Regi stration of
Certain Nonimmi gr ant Aliens From Designated Countries; Notice. Federal Register , vol.
25 U.S. Depar t ment of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi ce, Permission for
Certain Nonimmi gr ant Aliens From Designated Countries T o Regi ster in a T imely Fashion;
Notice. Federal Register , vol. 68, no. 11, J a n. 16, 2003, pp. 2366-2367. According t o t he
accompanyi ng supplementary information, this notice was prompted by the f act that some
these i ndividuals were required t o regis ter annually. A December 2 , 2003 DHS rule,
described b elow, s uspended t his annual re-regi stration requirement.
Subsequent Fed e r a l Register notices, published o n November 22, 2002,
December 18, 2002, and J anuary 16, 2003, made nonimmigrant males from
additional countries who were at l east 1 6 years o l d an d were l ast admitted t o t he
United S tates o n o r b efore S eptember 30, 2002, subject to special regi stration. 26 The
November 22 notice covered citizens or nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrai n,
Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Om an, Qatar, S omalia, Tunisia, United
Arab Emirat es , o r Yem en . They were required t o report t o an immigration o ffice by
J anuary 10, 2003, to be regi stered, fingerprin t e d , and photographed. (Like t hose
covered b y t he November 6, 2002 notice, indi viduals covered b y this notice who had
not regi stered by the d eadline were given the opportunity to do so between J anuary
27, 2003, a n d F e b r u a ry 7 , 2003, under t he terms o f t he J anuary 16 notice cited
above.) The December 1 8 notice required citiz ens or nationals of Pakistan or Saudi
Arabia27 to report t o an immigration o ffice by Feb r u a r y 2 1 , 2003, to be regi stered,
f i n g erprinted, and photographed, and the J anuary 16 notice required citizen s o r
nationals of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, J o rdan, o r Kuwait t o report b y M arch 28,
2003. A February 19, 2003 F e deral Register notice ex t ended t hese regi stration
deadl i nes t o M arch 21, 2003, and April 25, 2003, respectively.28 Following thei r
initial registration, as s e t forth in the notices , t hese individuals were required t o
regi ster annually. As d escribed below, this annual re-re gistration requirement was
suspended i n December 2003.
Duri n g a n A p ril 2003 speech, S ecretar y o f Homeland S ecurity Tom R idge
sign aled the end of NSEERS registrations for alien s w i t h in the country. He
announced a n ew entry-ex it system call e d t h e U . S. Visitor and Immigration S tatus
covered i ndivi duals remained unaware of the r egistration r equirements. T he s upplementary
information characterized the provi sio n o f a n additional r egistration period as “an act of
gr ace” and “an act that is entirely within the Attorney General’s discretion.”
26 U.S. Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi ce, Regi stration of
Certain Nonimmi gr ant Aliens From Designated Countries; Notice. Federal Register , vol.
67, no. 226, Nov. 22, 2002, pp. 70525-70528; U.S. Departme nt of J ustice, Immi gr ation a nd
Naturalization Servi ce, Registration of Certain Nonimmi gr ant Aliens Fr om Designated
Countries; Notice. Federal Register , vol. 67, no. 243, Dec. 18, 2002, pp. 77641-77644; U.S.
Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi ce, Regi stration of Certain
Nonimmi gr ant Aliens From Desi gnated Countries; Notice. Federal Register , vol. 68, no.
27 T he Dec. 18, 2002 notice r escinded a notice published on Dec. 16, 2002, which a pplied
to citizens or nationals of Ar menia, as well as Paki stan and Saudi Ar abia. According to the
summary of the December 18 notice, the earlier notice “inco r r e c t ly listed Armenia as a
28 U.S. Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi ce, Regi stration of
Certain Nonimmi gr ant Aliens From Designated Countries; Notice. Federal Register , vol.
Indication Technology (US-VIS IT) S ys tem,29 which, he said, was scheduled to begi n
operat i ons by t h e end of t h e year. S ecret ary R i d ge st at ed:
I want t o s tress t hat t he phase-i n of t he new V ISIT system will provide us with
the crucial biome t r i c i nformation needed to end t he domestic regi stration of
people from certain countries, which has be e n c onducted for the past several30
months under a system known a s NSEERS.
Number of Registrants. Through S eptember 30, 2003, 177,260 individuals
had b een regi stered under NSEERS Of t his t otal, 93,741 were regi stered at a port o f
entry, and 83,519 were regi stered when they reported t o an immigration o ffice. 31 As
of December 1 , 2003, individuals from m ore than 150 countries had b een regi stered
in the NSEERS program .32
Addr ess Repor ti ng
As noted in the earlier discussion of current regi strati o n req u i rements, aliens
required t o b e registered under t he INA m us t notify t he U.S. government in writing
of each change of address within 10 days. This reporting requirement applies to
virtually al l aliens who rem ai n i n t he United S tates for 30 days or longer, i ncluding
LP Rs. These individuals number i n t he millions. 33 Fo rmer provis i o n s o f t h e INA
29 For i nforma tion on US-V ISIT , see CRS Report RL31727, Border Security: I mmi gration
Issues in the 108th Congress , by Lisa M. Seghetti.
30 U.S. Departme nt of Home land Security, Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Tom
Ridge To the National Press Club , Apr. 29, 2003. Available a t
[http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=582], visited J an. 6, 2004.
31 U.S. Departme nt of Home land Security, Changes t o N a t i o n al Security Entry/Exit
Regi st rat i on Syst e m (NSEERS), Dec. 1, 2003. T his fact sheet and other materials on s pecial
regi stration can be accessed at
[ ht t p: / / www.i c e.gov/ gr aphi cs/ e nf or ce/ i mm/ i mm_sr .ht m] , vi s i t e d J an. 6, 2004. Wi t h r e spect
to the NSEERS data, it should be noted that the port of entry regi stration number r efers t o
the number of i ndivi duals regi stered as opposed to the number of r egistrations. ( T here have
been 207,007 regi strations at a port of e ntry through September 30, 2003.) T hese numbers
differ because some indivi duals entered t he country more than once and were regi stered at
a port of entry on each vi sit.
32 U.S. Departme nt of Home land Security, Changes t o National Securi t y E n t r y/Exit
Regi st rat i on Syst e m (NSEERS), Dec. 1, 2003.
33 Ac cording t o s ample data from t he 2000 census of t he U.S. population, about 19 million
noncitizens were r esiding i n t he United States i n 2000. For various reasons, however, t here
are likely t o be discrepancies between this figure and t he n u mb e r o f i ndivi duals who are
subj ect to (or wh o , even with stepped-up enforcement, would c omply with) t he address
reporting r equirement. First, all census data are self-r eported; no verification of citizenship
status is conducted. Second, Census Bureau estimates exclude indivi duals who are in the
country temporarily without c h a n gi n g t h eir usual place of r esidence. As a r esult, these
est i ma t e s exclude most nonimmi gr ants in the United States, many of whom may meet
criteria s ubj ecting t hem t o address r eporting. At the s ame time, some nonimmi gr ants, s uch
as tourists, may be unlikely t o f ile change-of-address r eports, even i f l egally subj ect to the
requirement. Finally, Census Bureau estimates of noncitizens i nclude unauthorized aliens.
required nonimmigrants t o s ubmit addres s notices every 3 months and required other
al i ens, i ncl udi ng LP R s , t o s ubm i t such not i ces every year, regardl ess o f whet h er t h ei r
addresses h ad changed. 34 Bot h of t h ese report i n g requi rem ent s were repeal ed by t h e
Immigration and Nationalit y Act Amendments of 1981 in the s tated i nterest o f
improving the efficiency of INS.35
Under current law, aliens who fail t o s ubmit change-of-address notices can be
fined and/or imprisoned, and are subject to being t aken into cu s t o d y and rem oved
from t h e country. According t o a J u ly 2002 DOJ fact sheet, however, both
compliance with and enforcem en t o f t his requirement have been lacking. 36 As a
result, the government does not have the current addresses of m an y n oncitizens
required t o b e registered.
A rule p roposed by INS o n J uly 26, 2002, would p rovide notice t o aliens of their
obligation t o s ubmit addres s notices and t he consequences of failing t o do s o. 37 The
rule would amend various immigration forms to require aliens ap plyi ng for
immigration b enefits to acknowledge h aving received notice o f t he following:
! the alien m ust provide a valid current address, including any change
of address within 10 days of the change;
! t h e m o s t r e cent address p rovided b y t he alien will be used for all
purposes, including the service of a written notice informing the
alien o f t he initiat i o n o f removal p roceedings (referred t o as a
“not i ce t o appear”); and
! if the alien has changed addresses and failed t o provide notification,
the alien will be held responsible for any communications sent to the
W hile these aliens are not legally exempt from t he address r eporting r equireme n t , a s a
practical matter t hey may be less likely t o comply t han l egal aliens.
34 T hese provi sions had been i ncluded i n INA §265.
35 P.L. 97-116, §11, De c. 29, 1981. For a dditional i nforma tion on t he act and its rationale,
see U.S. Congress, House Committee on t he J udic i a r y, I mmigration and Nationality Actth st
Amendments of 1981, r eport t o accompany H.R. 4327, 97 Cong., 1 sess., H.Rept. 97-264
(Washington: GPO, 1981).
36 U.S. Departme nt of J ustice, Obligation of Noncitizens t o Provide Current Address t o I NS ,
J u l y 2 2 , 2002 (on f ile with CRS). Among the points made i n t he fact sheet a r e t h e
followi ng: “far t oo many noncitizens f ail t o notify t h e Immi gr ation and Naturalization
S e r vice ( INS) of a c hange i n t heir address,” a nd “INS has not effectively e nforced t h e s e
existing [regi stration and address r eporting] requirements i n t he past.”
37 U.S. Department of J ustice, Immi gr ation and Naturalization Servi ce, Address Notification
to b e F i l e d With Designated Applications; Proposed Rule. Federal Register , vol. 67, no.
According t o t he J u ly 2002 DOJ fact sheet cited above, t his rule will hel p track
noncitiz ens, will enhance t he ability to initiate and complete removal p roceedings ,38
and will facilitat e co n t acting aliens in a timely fashion about their applications for
immigration b enefits. The comment period on the rule ended o n August 26, 2002.
Reactions to the Rules
These regi s t rat i o n and address reporting rules h a v e been controversial.
Supporters portray the entry-ex i t registra tion s ys tem as a needed means o f reducing
the nation’s vulnerability to future terrorist attacks. In addition, they view it as a
reas onable way to begi n addressing the problem of illegal immigration by i dentifyi ng
individuals who remain i n t he country beyond their authorized period of stay. C ritics
take issue with the s ys tem’s purported national s ecurity benefits, charact erizing i t as
an inefficient and counterproductiv e a p proach that will create resentment of the
United S tates i n t he Muslim and A r a b w o rld and will undermine i nternational
support for the U.S. war on terrorism. They d escribe i t as a blatant ex ample of racial
and ethnic p rofiling, which, they maintain , runs counter to core democratic values.
Critics, as well as some supporters, also h ave q u e s t ioned whether such a s ys tem
would be effectivel y implemented.
The p roposed address reporting ru l e h a s likewise elicited s trong reactions.
Some support t he underlyi ng idea, agreein g that it is important for t he government
to have the current addresses of forei gn nationals in the United S tates. As with the
entry-ex it r e gi s t ration p roposal, however, s ome o f t hese supporters, as well as
opponents, have raised doubts about whether t he information would b e p rocessed i n
a timely fashion. In 2002, when INS h ad responsibility for p rocessing immigration
forms, it was reported i n J uly t hat t he agency had not fil e d 2 million documents
submitted b y immigrants, in cluding 200,000 change-of-address cards.39 It w a s
further reported i n early S eptember 2002 that INS h ad received 870,000 change-of-
address forms since publication o f t he proposed address reporting rule i n J uly and
38 With respect to removal proceedings, the proposed rule responds to a Board of
Immi gr ation Appeals ( BIA) d e cision in Matter of G-Y -R-, 23 I&N Dec. 181 (BIA, 2001).
In that case, BIA f ound that an in absentia order of r emoval could not be entered a ga inst an
alien who had not actually received, and could not be charged with receivi ng, a n o t i c e t o
appear. T he notice t o appea r n otifies t he alien of t he removal hearing, as well as of t he
requirement that the alien i mmediately provi de (or have provi ded) the Attorney General with
a c urrent address a nd telephone number, and t he consequences of failing t o do s o.
According t o t he supplementary information accompanyi ng the proposed address r eporting
rule, t he rule seeks t o prevent similar f actual c ircumstances from arising in future cases. See
Federal Register , vol. 67, no. 144, J uly 26, 2002, pp. 48818-48819; and “ BIA Considers In
Absentia Order Notice Requirements,” Interp r e t e r Releases , vol. 78, Oct. 29, 2001, pp.
39 See, for e xample Marcus Stern, “Mishandled Address-change Cards a Maj or Failure for
IN S , ” San Diego Union-Tribune , J une 27, 2002. Available a t
[ h t t p : / / www.si gnonsandi ego.com/ n ews/ nat i on/ 20020727-9999_1n27r ecor ds.html], visi t e d
had p rocessed s ome 100,000. 40 Moreover, some supporters have questioned whether
processing updated address i nformation would be the best use o f immigration-related
resources. In addition to questioning the feasibility of implementing large-scale
address re porting, opponents h ave voiced s ubstantive objections to the proposal.
They argu e t hat s t ri ct l y enforci n g t he chan ge-of-address reporting requirement could
subject some otherwise l aw-abiding aliens to severe punishment, possibly i ncluding
removal. Critics also fear selective enforcem ent of t he reporting requirement on the
basi s o f race, et hni ci t y, o r o t h er charact eri s t i cs.
2003 Changes t o t he Special Registration System
On December 2 , 2003, DHS published an i nterim rule in the Federal Register
to amend t he NSEERS regulations. 41 The rul e b ecam e effect i v e o n D ecem ber 2 and
provided for a 2 -month comment period, ending on February 2, 2004. The i nterim
rule suspends the requirements t h a t : (1) i ndividuals regi stered under NSEERS at a
port o f entry report after 30 days to complete t h ei r regi s t rat i on; and (2) al l N S EER S
regi strants re-regi ster annually. Instead , according t o t he summary of the rule, “DHS
will utilize a more tailored s ys tem i n which it will notify i ndividual aliens of future
regi stration requirements.” Under t he new rul e, DHS wi l l deci de on a case-by-case
basis which regi strants m ust appear at a DHS office (speci fically, a U.S. Immigration
and C ust o m s Enforcem ent o ffi ce) for one or m o re addi t i onal regi s t rat i o n i nt ervi ews
to determ i n e w h ether they are i n compliance with the conditions of thei r
nonimmigrant visa stat us and admission. For s ome aliens, t hese interviews may be
more frequent than the p rior 30-day and annual re-regi stration requirements. Among
the other changes m ade by t he rule are conforming amendments to the regulations to
r e f l ect t he t ransfer of immigration-related functions from DOJ to DHS under t he
Homeland Security Act o f 2002 (P.L. 107-296).
In the s upplementary information accomp anyi ng the rule, DHS offered s everal
r e asons why t he suspension of the autom atic re-regi stration requiremen t s i s
appropriate and advantageous. It i ndicated that there are other t rack i n g s ys tems,
including US-VIS IT and t he Student and Ex change Visitor Inform a t i o n S ys tem
(S EVIS ), 42 that can help ensure that NSEERS registrants remain in compliance with
the t erms of thei r visas and admission. In addition, DHS stat ed that suspending the
30-day and annual re-regi stration requirements “will reduce t he b u r d e n o n t hose
required t o register under t he current regu lations, as well as t o DHS.” W ith respect
to the l atter, it further s tated t hat DHS resources not needed for re-regi st rat i ons can
be used for o ther purposes, i ncluding “to cra ft a t argeted registrat ion proces s t hat
meets t he national s ecurity needs o f t he country.”
40 Suza nne Gamboa, “ Address Change Forms Flood INS,” Associated Press , Sept. 6, 2002.
41 U.S. Departme nt of Home land Security, Suspending the 30-Day a nd Annual Intervi e w
Requireme nts From t he Special Regi s t r a t ion Process for Certain Nonimmi gr ants; Interim
Rul e . Federal Register , vol. 68, no. 231, Dec. 2, 2003, pp. 67577-67584. T his rul e and
related materials can be accessed at
[ ht t p: / / www.i ce.gov/ gr aphi cs/ e nf or ce/ i mm/ i mm_sr .ht m] , vi s i t e d J an. 6, 2004.
42 For i nforma tion on SEV IS, s ee CRS Report RL31146, Foreign Studen t s i n t he United
States: Policies and Legislation ,byRuthEllenWasem.
The rule does not am end ex i st i n g N S EER S regi s t rat i o n p rocedures at port s of
entry, including the fingerprinting, photographing, and regi stering o f covered aliens.
Special regi stration of aliens at [ports of entry] has, consistent with the progr am’s
intent, provi ded i mportant law enforcement benefits, w h i c h h ave included t he
identification of a number of alien t errorists and criminals.
T h e rul e al s o does not change t h e general requi rem ent t h at NS EER S regi s t r a n t s
report t heir departure upon leaving t he United S tates.
Legislation i n the 107 th Congress
Alien registrat i o n a n d reporting provisions were incl uded i n l egislation i n t he
as enact ed by t h e 107 th Congress, directs t he General Accounting Office to conduct
a s tudy of the feasibility and utility of requiring nonimmigrants i n t he United S tates
to su b m i t a c u r r ent address and, where applicable, t he name and address o f an
employer every year. The study is due by May 2003.43 As discussed above, a similar
address reporting requi rement ex isted until 1981.
A n immigration reform m eas ure, the “Securing America’s Future t h r o u gh
Enforcement R eform Act of 2002" (H.R. 5013), would h ave amended t he INA t o
ex pand ex isting regist ration requirements. 44 In addition t o t he cu rrent requirement
that aliens who are in the United S tates for 30 days or longer and are unregistered
apply for regi stration and be fingerprinted b y d ay 30, it would h ave required
subsequent regi strations on the p art o f LPRs every year and o n t he part of other aliens
every 3 m ont hs. W i t h respect t o address reporting, the b ill would h ave retained t he
current requirement that ali e ns notify t he At t o rney General o f a change of address
within 10 days and would h ave p reserved the Attorney General’s authority to require,
upon 10 days notice, that the n a tives of any foreign state report t heir current
addresses. Among i t s o t h er registration -related p rovisions, H.R. 5013 would h ave
directed the Attorney General t o establis h an i nformation t echnology s ys tem for the
collection, compilation, and m aintenance of regi stration i nformation. H.R. 5013 was
referred t o t he House J udici ary C ommittee and its Subcommittee on Immigration ,
Border S ecuri t y, and C l ai m s , but saw n o furt h er act i on.
43 P.L. 107-173, §602, May 14, 2002.
44 T he r egistration provi sions are i n §303 of H.R. 5013.
Legislation i n the 108 th Congress
In the 108 th Congress, th e S en at e agreed to an alien registration-related
amendment (S.A m d t . 54) by unanimous consent during its consideration o f t he
FY2003 Consolidated Appropriations Reso lution (H.J .Res. 2). S .Amdt. 54, which
was s pon s o red b y S enator J o n Kyl with bipartisan cosponsorship, s ought to make
funding available for an entry-ex it system. It also p rovided t hat n o funds
appropriated b y t he act would b e availabl e for any ex p enses rel at ed t o NS EER S and
direct ed the Attorney General t o provide the Appropri a t i ons Committees with
NS EER S -rel at ed docum ent s and m at eri als. The Senate passedanamendedversion
of H.J . Res. 2, which i ncluded S .Amdt. 54, on J anuary 23, 2003.45 The v ersion of
H.J . Res. 2 p assed b y t he House o n J anuary 8, 2003, did not i n c l u d e language on
NSEERS. The final version o f H.J .Res. 2 , s igned i nto l aw on February 20, 2003 as
P.L. 108-7, di d n o t e liminate funding for NSEERS. It did, however, i nclude
language requiring the Attorney General, in consultation with the S ecret ary of DHS,
to provide the Appropriations Committees by March 1, 2003, with the NSEERS-
related documents and m at erials described i n t he Senate amendment.
45 For t he text and f loor consideration of S.Amdt. 54, see Congressional Record, daily
edition, vol. 149, J a n. 22, 2003, pp. S1350-S1352. No references to NSEERS were made
during Senate consideration of t he amendment.