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DHS Issues a Fact Sheet, FAQs, and Press Release on Changes to the NSEERS Program

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03120141 (posted Dec. 1, 2003)"

DHS Issues a Fact Sheet, FAQs, and Press Release on Changes to the NSEERS ProgramThe DHS fact sheet, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and press release provide detailed information regarding the specific changes to the Special Registration program (NSEERS) expected to become effective on 12/02/03 upon publication in the Federal Register.DHS Fact Sheet

Department of Homeland Security - Fact Sheet
December 1, 2003
Contact:  202-282-8010

CHANGES TO NATIONAL SECURITY ENTRY/EXIT REGISTRATION SYSTEM (NSEERS)

The Department of Homeland Security has decided to suspend the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS) re-registration requirement that mandated aliens to re-register after 30-days and one year of continuous presence in the United States.  The new process is outlined in the interim rule published in the Federal Register.

NSEERS established a national registry for temporary foreign visitors (non-immigrant aliens) arriving from certain countries, or who meet a combination of intelligence-based criteria, and are identified as presenting an elevated national security concern.  The program has collected detailed information about the background and purpose of an individual’s visit to the United States, the periodic verification of their location and activities, and departure confirmation. NSEERS was the first step taken by the Department of Justice and then DHS in order to comply with the development of the Congressionally- mandated requirement for a comprehensive entry-exit program by 2005.

The domestic registration program included citizens or nationals from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  However, to date, individuals from more than 150 countries have been registered in the NSEERS program.

Most of the foreign visitors registered are students, individuals in the U.S. on extended business travel, or individuals visiting family members for lengthy periods. The requirement to register does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), refugees, asylum applicants, asylum grantees, and diplomats or others admitted under "A" or "G" visas.

At the time of initial registration, all individuals were given instructions that they had to re-register in one year, or after thirty days if initially registered at a port-of-entry.  The numbers who were to re-register were expected to vary from last year because some individuals may have left the country; traveled outside and back into the country (changing their one-year anniversary date to the most recent entry registration date); or adjusted their status, eliminating the need for re-registration.

Previous Re-Registration Requirements:

  • All individuals registered under NSEERS were required to re-register after thirty days if initially registered at a port-of-entry, and annually if they are remaining in the United States past one year.  This notice was given to individuals at the time of registration, either at a designated port of entry or a Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services office.
  • The annual anniversary date for re-registration is based on the last time that an individual registered.
    • The annual interview requirements of those individuals subject to the first call-in registration, which began on November 15, 2002, began November 5, 2003.
    • The annual interviews of those individuals who registered at a port of entry, beginning September 11, 2002, began on the one-year anniversary of their date of registration.
  • Individuals have a ten-day window in which to show up for their annual interview.  In other words, they can report for their interview within ten days after their anniversary date.
  • Those individuals required to report for their yearly interview were expected to return to the same office at which they registered last year.  If they had moved, they would go to the nearest ICE or CIS office or sub-office.  The willful failure to do so is a criminal violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the willful failure to register also would render an alien deportable.
  • The NSEERS program is a valuable first step towards a more comprehensive entry-exit system – US-VISIT.  Congress mandated that a comprehensive entry-exit program be developed by 2005.

Changes Made By the New Rule:

  • There will no longer be a 30-day or one-year re-registration requirement, effective with the publishing of the new rule in the Federal Register.
  • In place of the previous requirement, the new rule will allow DHS, as a matter of discretion, to notify individual nonimmigrant aliens subject to NSEERS registration 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.
  • The rule also provides that when an alien who is monitored under Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) notifies DHS of a change of address or change of educational institution through SEVIS, it also constitutes a notification for the purposes of NSEERS registration.
     

NSEERS Background:

  • On September 11, 2002, the U.S. began implementation of NSEERS at U.S. ports of entry. On November 5, 2002, the domestic call-in registration began. Congress required the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to implement a comprehensive entry-exit program in 1996.  That system must be in place by 2005.  NSEERS is the first step in fulfilling that Congressional mandate. 
  • NSEERS promotes several important national security objectives: 
    (1) NSEERS allows the United States to run the fingerprints of aliens who may present elevated national security concerns against a database of wanted criminals and known terrorists;
    (2) NSEERS enables DHS to determine instantly when such an alien has overstayed his visa, which was the case with three of the 9/11 hijackers);
    (3) NSEERS enables DHS to verify that an alien in the United States on a temporary visa is doing what he said he would be doing, and living where he said he would live.
  • The countries prioritized for special registration were selected because: 

(1) All of these countries are places where Al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations have been active, or where the United States has other national security concerns; 
(2) This was not an exclusive list—all non-immigrant visitors from other countries eventually will be included as the US-VISIT program is implemented.

NSEERS General Information:

  • The majority of those required to register under NSEERS complied and fulfilled this requirement successfully.  It is the individual’s responsibility to comply with US immigration law and maintain legal status while in the United States.
  • There were a small number of individuals who temporarily were kept in detention while they were processed for immigration violations during the domestic enrollment portion of the program. 
  • As of September 30, 2003, individuals from 150 countries have complied with the NSEERS registration requirements for a total of 290,526 registrations, which includes those registering both at Ports-of-Entry (POEs) and the former INS district offices nationwide.  The registrations performed are broken down in the following way: 207,007 registrations (93,741 individuals) at the POEs, and 83,519 individuals at the former INS offices.
  • NSEERS requirements applied only to certain non-immigrant aliens.  These requirements do NOT include U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), refugees, asylum applicants (who filed before November 22, 2002), asylum grantees, and diplomats or others admitted under A or G visas.
  • European countries have had similar registration systems in place for decades.

NSEERS Statistics Through September 30, 2003:

Total Number of Registrations:  290,526
Total Number of Individuals Registered: 177,260
Port-of-Entry Registration
Total Port of Entry Registration: 207,007
Number of Individuals:  93,741
Domestic Registration

Total Domestic Registrations: 83,519

Referred to Investigation
Notices to Appear Issued: 13,799
Total Number Detained:  2,870
Total Number In Custody: 23
Total Number of Criminals: 143

DHS FAQ

Department of Homeland Security - FAQ
December 1, 2003
Contact:  202-282-8010

CHANGES TO THE NSEERS PROCESS

What is being announced? 

The Department of Homeland Security has suspended the 30-day and annual interview requirements from the special registration process for certain non-immigrants.  An interim rule will be published in the Federal Register on December 2, 2003, which provides for a 60-day public comment period. 

Was this decision made as a result of recent public pressure?

No.  DHS have been reviewing NSEERS information for the past few months to determine if NSEERS is being executed in the most productive and effective manner, or if it needs to be changed given that the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), US-VISIT, and other databases are available now but were not available at the inception of NSEERS. 
 
Why continue with any NSEERS activities--you haven't caught any terrorists and you have just upset thousands of people based on their race and religion? 

We have caught suspected terrorists under NSEERS.   While they may not be charged with terrorism grounds of inadmissibility or removability, that is not an indication of whether terrorists were caught.   A non-immigrant visitor who overstays a visa, is present without inspection, commits a crime or fraud is just as removable under those grounds as terrorism grounds.   NSEERS never was based on race nor religion.  Non-immigrant visitors from 150 countries have complied with NSEERS requirements.

Will re-registration be discontinued? 

In place of the previous requirement, the new rule will allow DHS, as a matter of discretion, to notify individual nonimmigrant visitors subject to NSEERS registration to appear for one or more additional continuing registration interviews in those particular cases where it may be necessary to determine whether the visitor is complying with the conditions of his or her nonimmigrant visa status and admission.

Will anyone who needed to re-register be penalized if they did not do so? 

Re-registering with DHS is a condition for maintaining legal non-immigrant status in the U.S..  Failing to re-register is a failure to comply with the terms of a non-immigrant admission, making a person removable.
 
Is it fair that some of the walk-in registrants have to re-register under the threat of breaking the law when others whose one year anniversary that falls later won't have to do so and are not threatened as a result? 

Whenever a law or regulation is changed, it affects the activity required by people to be in compliance with the law; changing registration requirements is not unique in that regard.   DHS will continue to have the ability to require visitors to check in periodically with the department and will need to use that tool on occasion so some visitors who are currently scheduled to re-register in April may still be asked to do so individually even after the new regulation eliminates the group re-registration requirement.
 
Why hasn't DHS publicized the need to re-register up till now? 

Individuals were provided information at the time of their initial registration and any subsequent registration, such as at a port-of-entry when returning from a trip out of the U.S., notifying them of the requirement to re-register. 

What will replace NSEERS in the future?

SEVIS is now operating and US-VISIT will begin soon.   These two programs take care of most of the NSEERS requirements.    NSEERS was intended to be the first step towards a full entry-exit program.   With US-VISIT starting in January, we will be making our transition away from NSEERS, as intended. 
 
Is the announcement an acknowledgement that NSEERS was a failure? 

No.  NSEERS registration and departure procedures have proven valuable.  DHS will continue to record non-immigrant visitors’ entry to and exit from the U.S. in US-VISIT.  With respect to having non-immigrant visitors register periodically while in the U.S., DHS will continue to have that ability for those non-immigrant visitors that warrant continued verification of compliance with the terms of their admission.

DHS Press Release

Department of Homeland Security - Press Release
December 1, 2003
Contact: 202 282-8010

NSEERS 30-DAY AND ANNUAL INTERVIEW REQUIREMENTS TO BE SUSPENDED

The Department of Homeland Security today announced that it will suspend the formal requirement for individuals previously registered in the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS) to re-register after 30-days and one year of continuous presence in the United States.  The interim rule outlining the new procedures will take effect immediately with publication in the Federal Register, and allows for a 60-day public comment period.

This decision to suspend the requirement was made after careful review of the NSEERS program by DHS.  Although the program has proven valuable, the Department of Justice, which originally established NSEERS, always intended the program to be an initial step towards a full entry-exit system.   DHS is preparing to institute a new program, US-VISIT, at the end of this year that when fully implemented, will collect information and biometric identifiers from most visitors to the U.S., and record their departure.  The Department has determined that US-VISIT and other new processes being implemented will meet the national security needs that NSEERS previously fulfilled. 

“Today’s announcement that the domestic NSEERS interview requirement will be phased out is another important step forward by the Department of Homeland Security to maintain the integrity and security of our nation’s immigration systems,” said Asa Hutchinson, Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security in the Department of Homeland Security.  “This change will allow us to focus our efforts on the implementation of US-VISIT while preserving our ability to interview some visitors when necessary.”

Although certain visitors may still be registered at their time of arrival at U.S. ports-of-entry, there will no longer be a mandatory requirement for all persons registered to report for interviews as was previously required, once the new policy is fully implemented. 

NSEERS registration and departure procedures have been successful in meeting national security needs.  More than 13,800 persons with suspected immigration status violations have been identified and referred to immigration courts for hearings, and several individuals with possible terrorist links have been denied entry into the U.S.  DHS will continue to have the ability to require certain individuals to register in the future when continued monitoring is considered necessary for national security reasons.

The Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT Program will serve to protect the United States and its territories from threats to national security.  This program will provide the capability to record the entry and exit of visitors into and out of the United States, and provide officials with information about persons who are in the United States in violation of the terms of their admission to the United States.

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