There are two categories of U.S. visas for foreign nationals entering the country. Immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who intend to live permanently in the United States, while nonimmigrant visas are for foreign nationals wishing to enter the U.S. on a temporary basis – whether for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, study or other, similar reasons.
Those who fall under the second category – nonimmigrants – must also adhere to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) also known as Special Registration, put in place after September 11, 2002, to keep track of those entering and leaving our country in order to safeguard U.S. citizens and America’s borders. NSEERS was the first step taken by the Department of Justice and then by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to comply with the development of the Congressionally- mandated requirement for a comprehensive entry-exit program.
Through the Special Registration system, the U.S. government can keep track of the more than 35 million nonimmigrant visitors who enter the United States as well as some nonimmigrant visitors already in the United States. These individuals are required to register with immigration authorities either at a port of entry or a designated ICE office in accordance with the special registration procedures.
Nonimmigrant alien visitors subject to NSEERS registration at the Port of Entry
These special procedures also require notification to immigration authorities of changes of address, employment, or school. Nonimmigrants must notify the DHS in writing within 10 days of any changes in address, employment or school after remaining in the United States for 30 days or more. Students may notify change of address through SEVIS. On December 2, 2003, DHS suspended the automatic 30-day and annual re-registration requirements for NSEERS. Nonimmigrant aliens who were required to comply with NSEERS and file a petition or application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) may be required to provide proof of NSEERS registration to CIS. If the alien is unable to provide proof, then he/she will be referred by CIS to the appropriate ICE office for an NSEERS interview to determine compliance. *
Nonimmigrant visitors who do not comply with special registration requirements or other terms of their admission to the United States during their stay will be considered out of status and may be subject to arrest, detention, fines and/or removal from the country. Any future application for an immigration benefit may also be impacted. Decisions in these instances will be made based on an individual basis and are dependent on the circumstances of each case. Certain alien crewmen, described at section 101(a)(15)(D) of the Act, who are subject to special registration, are exempted from the departure control requirements of 8 CFR section 264.1(f) (8).
The requirement to register does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), refugees, asylum applicants (depending upon date asylum was pending or approved), asylum grantees, and diplomats or others admitted under "A" or "G" visas. Nonimmigrants who must follow these special procedures will also have to use specially designated ports when they leave the country and report in person to an immigration officer at the designated port on their departure date.
Those who leave the United States, including for visits to Mexico, Canada and adjacent islands, must appear in person on the date of departure before an inspecting officer at a designated port of departure and leave through a designated port. Failure to appear in person on the date of departure before an inspecting officer may result in denial of admission to the United States at a later date.
Those who are just passing through the United States on the way to another country and are intending to depart from a non-designated port will leave departure information during arrival registration.
It is possible to request a waiver of all or part of the special registration requirements for up to one year. A request must be made in writing in the form of a letter sent to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP will only give a ruling on requests that include relief from arrival and/or departure registration. The request letter to the director of the port of entry that the alien will be applying for admission to enter the United States must include a detailed description of the relief requested, your name, date-of-birth, Fingerprint Identification Number, a 1’ x 1’ passport-style photograph, and any documents that support your application. Apply to the port of entry that you will