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Special Registration Requirements for Certain J-1 Nonimmigrants

As a result of the USA PATRIOT Act passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist acts, non-immigrants from certain countries are required to register their presence with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This requirement is known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Anyone subject to NSEERS must update their registration at certain pre-determined intervals and notify the DHS of any change of address, employment, or educational institution. Prior to any departure from the U.S., these individuals must notify DHS of their intended departure AND may only depart the U.S. from certain authorized airports.

What are the requirements?
Individuals to whom these procedures apply must:

  1. Register with DHS upon entering the U.S.
  2. Be interviewed by DHS within 30 – 40 days of entering the U.S.
  3. Be interviewed again by DHS one year after entering the U.S.
  4. Continue to be interviewed by DHS on the anniversary date of the last admission to the U.S.
  5. Inform DHS within 10 days of any change of address, change of employer or change of school.
  6. Notify DHS of departure by departing the U.S. from a designated port of departure.

Must all non-immigrants register with DHS?
No. The following individuals must register: non-immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria who enter the U.S. are required to register with the DHS. Prior to December 2003, the registration program also 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. Although individuals from these countries are no longer required to do the 30 day or one year re-registration requirement, they still have to comply with other aspects of the NSEERS Program.

I am a non-immigrant who was required to special register prior to suspension of the re-registration requirement in December 2003. Now that I don’t have to re-register with the DHS each year do the other provisions of NSEERS still apply to me?
Yes. All persons subject to NSEERS prior to the suspension of the re-registration requirement must still fulfill the other requirements for NSEERS, including reporting a change of address and departure registration. These topics are discussed in greater detail later in this document.

I am a non-immigrant who was born in one of the five countries, but who is now a citizen of another country. Do these requirements apply to me?
Yes. The law applies to anyone born in one of these countries. Also, individuals who may have been born elsewhere, but are citizens of these countries are also subject to this requirement.

I am a non-immigrant who is not from one of these countries. These procedures do not concern me, right?
Maybe, maybe not. A U.S. consular officer or a DHS inspector may determine that these procedures apply to you if you are engaged in work that may have national security implications or if you are studying a field that may have national security concerns.

How do I register?
Initial registration occurs when you enter the U.S. from abroad. At the time you go through immigration inspection, if these procedures apply, you will be taken into another room. You will be fingerprinted and photographed. Also, you will be given detailed information about what to do regarding mandatory interviews.

After I enter the U.S., when do I have to go for my first interview?
Once you have entered the U.S., you are required to be interviewed by a DHS officer 30 to 40 days after you have arrived in the U.S. For example, if you arrived on November 1, you must report to the DHS between November 30 and December 9 to be interviewed.

Do I have to schedule an appointment?
No. No appointment is needed. You must show up at a designated DHS office. It is recommended that you arrive there early in the morning so you can be seen and interviewed the same day. It is suggested that you inform the DHS security guard that you are there as a result of the special registration process.

Can I go to any DHS office?
No. You can only use the DHS offices that have been authorized to conduct such interviews. In Cincinnati, the office is:

Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
550 Main Street
Peck Federal Building
Room 4001
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

What if I am unable to make it to the interview during the required interview period?
You can apply to the DHS for a waiver of all or part of the registration requirements if you become ill, such that hospitalization is required. Otherwise you are expected to appear during the interview period.

When I go to the interview, what should I bring?
You should bring your Form I-94 and any written documents available to show the DHS officer that you are doing what you said you would be doing. You should bring proof of your residence (lease, deed, etc.)

  Visitor for Business Student J-1 scholar, H, O, TN,
visa holders, etc.
Documents to Bring
  • Hotel receipts
  • Cab receipts
  • Ticket stubs form places visited
  • Documents showing where you have stayed
  • If staying with friends or relatives, documents showing their name, like a postmarked envelope or bill
  • Class schedule
  • Official notification of grades
  • Student identification card
  • Evidence of participation in extracurricular activities (if applicable)
  • Letter from UC International Services Office verifying that you are a UC student in good standing
  • Pay stub, if paid by UC
  • Employment contract or letter of appointment
  • Letter of invitation if not paid by UC
  • Letter from UC International Services verifying your status with UC

If I have just arrived, I will not have things such as transcripts or pay stubs. What should I do then?
Bring whatever documentation you have to demonstrate your legitimate stay in the U.S.: contract letters, letters of invitation, etc. Prior to going to the DHS for the interview, you should check in with UC International Services to obtain a letter verifying your status at UC.

What can I expect during this interview?
You will again be fingerprinted and photographed. The DHS officer may ask you questions regarding your stay and may ask questions about any documents you bring with you.

What if the DHS asks me a question that doesn’t have anything to do with my immigration status?
This is a possibility. Under current immigration law, you are required to answer any question asked of you by the DHS, even if there appears to be no relevance to the question. Truthfully answer the question as best you can. Try to remain calm and appear to be cooperative. Do not, under any circumstance, lie.

Do I ever need to be re-interviewed? If so when?
If your stay in the U.S. extends to a year or more, you will be required to report to the DHS on each anniversary of your admission. You will have a ten-day window from the anniversary date of your admission to the U.S. to report. In the example above, we assumed you entered the U.S. on November 1, 2010. In 2011, you would need to report to the DHS between November 1 – 10, 2011. And again in 2012 you would appear between those same days.

Will these interviews differ from the initial one done after 30 days of entering the U.S.?
They should all follow the same pattern. By then you should be fairly settled into your routine and you should have plenty of documentation to present to show that you are a legitimate student, researcher, professor, etc. Be sure to keep any documentation evidencing an address change, job or school change, etc.

How do I notify DHS of changes in address?
You must notify DHS of address changes or changes of employer or school within 10 days of the change by submitting a form AR-11 SR. Form AR-11 SR is available on the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/ar-11.pdf. Please download only the English language version of the "An Affirmative/Equal Opportunity Institution" form as the others are not acceptable for this purpose. F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors who are in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information (SEVIS) do not need to complete Form AR-11 SR. You must instead notify UC International Services within 10 days of moving. You can do this using the "Update U.S. Local Address" eForm at http://ioffice.uc.edu.

Are there any special instructions for completing this form?
Yes. This form is different from the standard AR-11 form. The SR version of the AR-11 asks for your FIN (Fingerprint Identification Number) that was written on your I-94 card either when you entered the U.S. or during your 30-day interview. Please keep a copy of this for your records.

Where do I send the AR-11 SR?

For regular US Postal Service:
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Change of Address
P.O. Box 7134
London, KY 40742-7134
For overnight mailings, only:
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Change of Address
1084-I South Laurel Road
London, KY 40744

How should I send the AR-11 SR?
You should send it in a manner that you can track it or obtain evidence that it was delivered – either by certified, return receipt mail through the US Postal Service, via Federal Express, or some other mailing service that gives you confirmation of delivery. Retain this confirmation in your files for future reference. You can now file your AR-11 online! At https://egov.uscis.gov/crisgwi/go?action=coa

What do I need to do if I travel outside the U.S.?
If this registration system already applies to you, and you are already registered, then you must notify the DHS and leave only through a designated port. This includes individuals who were originally part of NSEERS, but who no longer have to re-register each year per the December 2003 rule.

Can I leave the U.S. from the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport?
Yes. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is a registered port of departure. When you enter the U.S. and are initially registered in the system, you will be given a list of these ports. You can find a list of designated ports of departure at: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/nseers/

What if I drive to Canada or Mexico on holiday?
Again, you can only use certain designated ports. Consult the list of ports and plan your trip accordingly.

What if I do not comply with this program?
If you fail to comply with these registration requirements, you will be considered to be out of status. You may be subject to arrest, detention, fines and/or removal from the U.S. This could impact any future plans you may have to apply for any immigration-related benefits. Decisions regarding the impact of any noncompliance will be made on an individual, case-by-case basis. If you fail to depart the U.S. from a designated departure port, your re-entry to U.S. may be denied.