Registration, Documents and Address Reporting Requirements for International Students

I. General Registration Requirements for Nonimmigrants 

All aliens, immigrants as well as nonimmigrants, must be "registered" for immigration purposes.

The registration process for most nonimmigrants occurs automatically in procedures that we are very familiar with: an initial registration takes place when the alien submits an application for a visa at a U.S. Consular office; the required registration is completed when the alien is admitted to the United States and is issued Form I-94. Registrations are updated when an alien applies for an extension of stay or a change of nonimmigrant status.

 

Evidence of registration - The standard evidence of registration for nonimmigrants is Form I-94; for lawful permanent residents it is Form I-551, the "green card."

II. Requirement that Alien Carry the Registration Document 

Section 264(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires every alien 18 years of age and over to be in possession of his or her "evidence of registration document" (such as Form I-94) "at all times." That same provision also establishes rather severe penalties for not carrying the registration document:

Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d). Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both. (INA § 264(e))

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, this provision has received special attention, and aliens should be very aware of this requirement. As security procedures are heightened throughout the U.S., we can expect that everyone will be asked for more identification. For international students and scholars the most common item of identification is the passport and the most common forms of evidence of lawful status in the U.S. are the I-94 accompanied by the appropriate visa document (I-20, DS-2019, I-797, etc.) Although BCIS (formerly INS) has not enforced this regulation for many years, based upon various reports and the clear language of the law, we are advising all internationals at the University of North Florida the possibility of such incidents at airports, train stations, and similar transportation terminals, even if the flight, train, etc. does not leave the U.S.

 

Q1. What should I have with me when I travel?

 

A1. You need to carry a basic identity document such as your passport plus:

  • For F-1 students and F-2 dependents: I-20 and I-94
  • For J-1 students/scholars and J-2 dependents: DS-2019 and I-94
  • For H-1B and O-1 employees and their H-4 and O-3 dependents: I-797 approval notice and I-94
  • For TN employees and their TD dependents: I-94 and I-797 if one has been issued. Note that TNs and TDs do not always have forms I-797.
    This is normal.
  • For Lawful Permanent Residents: Form I-551, the "green card"

Q2. For each of the visa classifications listed in Q1, the Form I-94 is mentioned. Is it really that important? Are you sure I have one? Where would it usually be?

 

A2. Most I-94's are stapled into the passports for safekeeping. Your I-94 is the most important document you hold inside the U.S., for it alone confirms that you were admitted into the country properly. Losing it places you in an extremely difficult position. We strongly advise that you not remove your I-94 from your passport, but carry your passport along with your visa documents. We know that most of you keep your passports and visa documents in a safe place while in Jacksonville, making sure to carry them with you whenever you travel outside the U.S. Now you will need to take special care to carry your documents and keep them safe when you travel inside the U.S. You should keep a photocopy in a separate place in case the original is lost. If you have any question as to whether your documents are in order, please come by the UNF International Center to confirm their validity.

 

Q3. You said that the law requires that I have my documents with me "at all times." Is that true? Do I really have to carry my passport and documents with me to class every day and all over Jacksonville? Stuff could get lost or stolen.

 

A3. BCIS has generally not strictly enforced the "at all times" language. In practice the law has been satisfied by an expectation that you would be able to produce your documents within a reasonable time to get them from your apartment or safe deposit box, for example.

 

Q4. OK, I understand that I may need to carry and present my documents more often inside the U.S. What else do I need to know? Do you have any helpful hints?

 

A4. Two things to remember:

If you are traveling outside the U.S., and you hold a UNF-issued I-20 or DS-2019, you must make certain that the program end date on the document will still be current on the day you will re-enter the U.S. If your I-20/DS-2019 will expire before your return, then you must request a new document before you depart, and your request must be filed in the International Center two weeks prior to your travel. If your I-20 or DS-2019 was issued by another school or organization, that school or organization must update your documents. UNF cannot do it. Also, be sure to get the required signature on your document before you leave to make sure you have no difficulties upon re-entry.

If you have not already done so, invest in a passport case or similar small document carrier that allows you to carry your travel documents together all in one place, including your passport, your I-94, and your visa document (I-20, DS-2019, I-797, etc.). Do not mix lots of other documents with your travel documents. Keep your travel documents together in a safe place while you are at UNF. When you travel domestically or internationally carry them with you on your person in a safe place, not tucked away in your luggage.

III. Requirement to Report Changes of Address Within 10 Days 

Another requirement related to the "registration" requirement is that aliens living in the United States report to the Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (BCIS) any change of address within 10 days of the address change. (I.N.A. 265(a); 8 C.F.R.  265.1)

 

This applies to almost all aliens including non-immigrants, lawful permanent residents, and undocumented or out of status aliens. Non-immigrant aliens currently in "A" diplomatic status and "G" international organization status are not subject to this requirement, but those formerly in such status who change their status to another immigration category become subject to the address reporting rule upon approval of their change of status or entry to the United States in other than A or G status.

 

Recent revisions to U.S. immigration law require that you report a change in your address to the DSO at your educational institution. You should notify the UNF International Center of an address change by email at the following address: intlctr@unf.edu. The International Center then has 21 days in which to notify BCIS by recording your new address in your SEVIS record.

 

If you are subject to Special Registration you must also submit form AR-11SR, Change of Address Special Registration directly to BCIS.

 

If you are not a student UNF, you must report your address directly to BCIS on form AR-11, Change of Address.

 

Penalties for willfully failing to notify BCIS about a change of address - It is also important to know that the law provides for penalties for failure to notify BCIS about an address change:

Any alien or any parent or legal guardian in the United States of any alien who fails to give written notice [of an address change] to the Attorney General, as required by section 265 of this title, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not to exceed $200 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both. Irrespective of whether an alien is convicted and punished as herein provided, any alien who fails to give written notice to the Attorney General, as required by section 265, shall be taken into custody and removed in the manner provided by chapter 4 of this title, unless such alien establishes to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that such failure was reasonably excusable or was not willful. (INA 266(b))

The language of the proposed rule can be confusing but the major points are these:

  • All aliens, except those exempt by law such as A & G visa holders, must report their addresses as required by law within 10 days of moving.
  • BCIS reserves the right to rely upon those reports to provide accurate current addresses for correspondence between the alien and the Service.
  • If BCIS chooses to use that address and it is inaccurate, the alien is responsible for any instruction, notice, or other communication contained in the BCIS mailing, regardless of whether the alien actually received the communication.
  • BCIS holds the alien completely responsible for making the required address reports and may use failure to do so as a reason or contributing factor to apprehend, detain, or deport an individual.

Q5. What exactly is the rule about address reporting?

 

A5. INA Section 265(a) reads,

"Each alien required to be registered under this title who is within the United States shall notify the Attorney General in writing of each change of address and new address within ten days from the date of such change and furnish with such notice such additional information as the Attorney General may require by regulation."

If you are an alien physically present within the U.S., then you are required to be registered (i.e., to have an I-94 card or similar document confirming status), and you are required to make address reports as specified in the law.

 

Q6. Who is an alien and why does BCIS use that term?

A6. "Alien" is a legal term, and per the definition at INA Section 101(a):

"The term alien" means any person not a citizen or national of the United States."

That definition is very direct and clear. You acquire U.S. citizenship by being born in the U.S or to U.S. parents or by naturalizing. You become a national of the U.S. by being born in one of the outlying possessions of the United States or to parents who are nationals of the U.S. If you have F, J, H, O, TN, or LPR ("green card") status or any other immigration document allowing you to be in the U.S., then you are considered to be an "alien" under the legal definition.

 

Q7. How do I report my address? Where do I send it?

 

A7. The easiest way to report a change in your address to the International Center is by email at the following address: intlctr@unf.edu

 

These forms load in Adobe Acrobat as a fillable form so you may fill it out online, print it, and mail it to the INS address indicated on the form. At this time you cannot submit the report electronically. Or you can print out the form and then fill it in. You must sign the form.

 

If you choose to report your address via the AR-11, please print an extra copy and give it to the UNF International Center (Building 10, Room 2470). That will help us keep your address current here as well. Please also submit a change of address to the UNF Registrar's Office either through Osprey On-line (recommended) or in paper form.

 

Q8. What happens if I refuse to submit my address to the BCIS?

 

A8. INA Section 266(b) states

"Any alien or any parent or legal guardian in the United States of any alien who fails to give written notice to the Attorney General, as required by section 265 of this title, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not to exceed $200 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both. Irrespective of whether an alien is convicted and punished as herein provided, any alien who fails to give written notice to the Attorney General, as required by section 265, shall be taken into custody and removed in the manner provided by chapter 4 of this title, unless such alien establishes to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that such failure was reasonably excusable or was not willful."

In short, if you make a choice or decision not to report, a willful act, then BCIS has the authority to charge you with a crime, fine you $200, imprison you for 30 days, and then deport you. In practice BCIS has not used this violation alone to deport someone, but BCIS can add this to a list of violations such as overstay or unauthorized work, when they are building a case for deportation.

 

Q9. What if I did not know about this rule and have not reported my address, or if I forget and report late? What will BCIS do?

 

A9. The BCIS, through the office of the Attorney General, has the authority to forgive such failures provided the failure to report "was reasonably excusable or was not willful."

That means that you need to report properly and promptly, but that BCIS will generally not take an action against you just because you missed a deadline or didn�t know you needed to report, provided that you act in good faith and send the report once you know you have to report or realize you have missed the deadline.

 

Q10. What are the school's obligations and what are those of the students and scholars?

A10. The school should try to make all students and scholars aware of the registration and address reporting rules in ways that the school normally communicates other important information to its students and scholars. In addition, the school may wish to attempt to impress upon students that the former "How will BCIS ever know?" experience that they have had in the past with BCIS is changing rapidly. BCIS is activating a number of different databases and linking their databases to those in other areas of law enforcement, with the Social Security Administration, and with other federal and state agencies. It is the change of attitude, not just the transmission of information that may be the biggest challenge for schools. The school does not control the actions of the students and scholars, and therefore cannot ensure that they comply with the registration and address reporting law. The students and scholars have an obligation to comply with these laws, as they do with other immigration laws regarding maintaining status, refraining from unlawful work, and so on.

 

Q11. I still have questions about this. Who can answer my questions?

 

A11. Contact the International Center (Building 58, Room 2300), telephone (904) 620-2657.