Since the Department of Homeland Security ended the special registration requirement for men from predominately Muslim and Arab nations, many questions remain about who must register when departing from the United States. As many of the readers might know, the Department of Homeland Security required that men from 31 nations register with what was formally known as Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). (The INS has now been split into two branches; the Immigration and Customs Service (ICE), and the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS)). Information regarding these individuals’ current address, schooling, or current employment information had to be provided to establish that the individual was in compliance with their original visa issuance.
The call-in registration program has since ended. However, a registration system implemented at ports of entry continues to remain in place. Men from those previously designated call-in registration countries continue to be registered upon their admission to the U.S., either through the airport’s Immigration and Customs Service, or through land border entry points. This registration program does have an element of discretion involved, therefore not all individuals from the 31 nations are registered upon their entry. Internal security criteria are taken into account by the port immigration and customs officials when determining who must be registered.
Unbeknownst to many temporary visa holders in the U.S., the exit registration requirements continue to be in place for those who were registered through the call-in procedures at the local immigration offices. Individuals who hold temporary visas such as the H1-B, the L-1, the visitor visa (B1/2), E visa, as well as certain other pending asylum applicants, must report to an immigration and customs officer at designated airports prior to their departure from the U.S. Unfortunately, not every airport is designated for the existing registration requirements and, therefore, the traveling foreigner must pay careful attention to what airport they depart the U.S. from. The list of designated airports can be found at the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration web site (www.dhs.gov).
Failure to register with the immigration service upon departing from the United States may cause serious problems when the foreign individual seeks to re-enter the United States at a later period. It is highly likely that immigration officials will attempt to deny reentry to any person who failed to register upon departing from the US. Therefore, traveling foreigners should make inquiries regarding the following:
- Does the airport one is traveling from have an exiting registration designation?
-What are the hours of operation for the designated immigration office?
Additionally, the traveling foreigner should be equipped with the appropriate documents to establish that they remained in the United States legally by carrying letters from their employer, the I-20 from their school, or letters from family members visited.
As the Department of Homeland Security exercises more control over ICE and CIS, temporary visa holders should try to keep up with the ever- changing immigration laws and regulations.