On Friday, June 13, 2002, a proposed regulation was issued that would radically enforce and revise the current registration and reporting requirements for persons entering the United States as non-immigrants (B1/B2, E, F, H, M and L visa holders). These proposed regulations were issued in the wake of two other legislative actions, namely the “Absconder Apprehension Initiative” – persons with outstanding orders of deportation/removal to be arrested pursuant to the outstanding order – and a [proposed] Surrender Initiative -persons with outstanding orders who have not been arrested are required to turn themselves in within 30 days or be forever barred from discretionary relief. While proposed regulations normally have a 6 month comment period for members of the bar and the public to respond, the newly proposed regulations carry with it a mere 30 days.
Not everyone is subject to the proposed regulation. Only those non-citizens from designated terrorist states (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, N. Korea, Sudan and Syria) and those individual non-immigrants the “consular officer outside the U.S. or inspection officers at the port-of-entry, based on information that indicates the need for closer monitoring with the terms and conditions” of an individual’s admission to the United States. Attorney General John Ashcroft has indicated that within days, 26 more countries will be added to the list. Inside information has revealed that the Philippines – while a great ally of the United States in its global fight against terrorism – will be added to the list on account of the large Muslim population. As a result, nationals of the Philippines who seek admission to the United States will be subjected to stringent the stringent registration and reporting requirements. Additionally, reports from persons on the “legislative floor” indicate that the discretion of an officer at the port of entry will be unfettered. Unfortunately, one is not permitted a lawyer at a port-of-entry when seeking admission, because as an “arriving alien” one is not entitled to constitutional due process of law. As a result, non-immigrants may find themselves being asked/forced to withdraw their applications for admission or be found inadmissible/summarily removed from the United States. At present, if one is found inadmissible or summarily removed, one is prevented from re-entering the United States for a period of 5 years, unless given permission by the Attorney General to reapply sooner. Successful entry into the United States will require possession of a number of documents that were never before required.
While reporting and registration requirements have been part of the immigration and nationality laws since time immemorial, they have in effect, never been enforced. According to the newly proposed regulation, one who is subject to the reporting requirements, will be fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival in the United States. If one is permitted 30 days within which to accomplish one’s stated purpose in the United States, one will be required to report to the INS between the 30th and 39th day of one’s time spent in the United States. At this point, If the permitted period of entry into the United States was for a year – as is often the case on a L visa -one will be required to report to the INS 10 days after one’s yearly anniversary in the United States. Relief from these reporting requirements may be had if the District Director is convinced that your failure to abide by the requirements was not willful and was the result of exigent circumstances; circumstances which are not defined in the proposed regulation.
The proposed regulation also suggests that reporting and registration requirements be enforced upon departure from the United States at designated ports of departure. Currently, there are 7 ports of departure that are equipped with the technology necessary to facilitate departure registration. Practically speaking, one may be forced to depart the United States from a exit point different from the one you entered. In addition to surrendering one’s I-94 upon exit, one will be photographed and fingerprinted again.
The above registration requirements also require that the INS be notified of any change of address within 10 days. Presently, the failure to register and report is both a civil and criminal offense, though rarely, if ever prosecuted. One can be found inadmissible or deportable from the United States if one failed to register and report under the current law. Further, one can be prosecuted for these failures and be fined up to $1,000, imprisoned up to 6 months, or both.
This article is not meant to alarm, but to inform. It is not meant to discourage but to advise. Bona fide non-immigrants will still be permitted to enter the United States. In order to facilitate this entry, one must be able to satisfactorily answer the questions posed of them at the airport or border crossing. Regulations must be known and complied with if in order to obtain entry now and in the future. I encourage you to read the regulations on your own and send your comments as directed in the regulation. You may access the regulation on our government’s website at www.wais.access.gpo.gov. and search for the document bearing the identification code fr13jun02-1. Or, you may contact us for a copy of the same.