What is Public Inspection?
The Federal Register Act requires that the Office of the Federal Register (we) file documents for public inspection at our office in Washington, DC at least one business day before publication in the Federal Register. See, 44 U.S.C. 1503 & 1507. We also host two websites that list documents on public inspection: ofr.gov and federalregister.gov.
The Public Inspection web page on FederalRegister.gov offers a preview of documents scheduled to appear in the next day’s Federal Register issue. The Public Inspection page may also include documents scheduled for later issues, at the request of the issuing agency. This gives the public access to important or complex documents before they publish in the Federal Register.
The legally controlling version of a public inspection document is the official record filed at our office in Washington, D.C. We post a full-text version of the filed document to the FederalRegister.gov website shortly after we make the document publicly available at our office.
The filed document reflects the date and time of the official filing, which is when the document is available to the public at our office in Washington, D.C. You’ll see the official filing indicated on the document with a date/time stamp. The online posting time may vary, depending upon server usage and other factors, it may be later than the official filing time.
Although we make a concerted effort to reproduce the original document in full on our Public Inspection websites, in some cases graphics may not be displayed, and non-substantive markup language may appear alongside substantive text. If you are using public inspection listings for legal research, you should verify the contents of documents against the final, official edition of the Federal Register (PDF format). Only the official edition of the Federal Register provides legal notice to the public and judicial notice to the courts under 44 U.S.C. 1507.
Please note that most of the original documents filed with us contain calculated effective dates, comment dates, and other applicable dates. We calculate and insert those dates after the documents go on file. You can consult the Table of Effective Dates & Time Periods to determine the calendar date of a calculated date contained in a Public Inspection PDF file.
Availability of Documents
Starting about 8:45 a.m. every federal business day, you can use the Public Inspection page on FederalRegister.gov to:
- Browse the list of documents filed for public inspection and
- Read and print copies of documents in PDF format.
We place a new set of documents on Public Inspection every morning, on or about 8:45 a.m. Eastern Time. We may update the web page during the day as we add, or, on rare occasions, correct text or remove documents from Public Inspection. We usually add new documents at 11:15 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. each day, but we may post documents at any time during the business day. Our official business hours are 8:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Eastern Time. Documents will not be filed for public inspection after 5:15 pm. If a document is filed shortly before 5:15 p.m., it may not appear on the web site until after 5:15 p.m due to the time required to post material to the server.
Each day’s set of documents is posted on a new Public Inspection page. When the public inspection version of a document is published in the Federal Register, the Public Inspection listing is updated by adding links to the Federal Register document number and the publication date. Those links take you to the published document and to the Federal Register table of contents for that day. At that point, the daily Federal Register becomes the primary means of accessing Federal Register documents.
Public inspection documents are only tentatively scheduled for publication because agencies may withdraw documents from publication in the Federal Register. Public inspection documents remain available on FederalRegister.gov, unless a document was withdrawn from our office before its scheduled publication date. You can use the calendar tool on the Public Inspection page to find documents from different dates. On FederalRegister.gov, you’ll also see links to the Public Inspection page on the agency pages and in the sidebar of published Federal Register documents.
The Public Inspection site may occasionally be taken down for maintenance after official business hours, but a refreshed set of files will be posted on or about 8:45 a.m. Eastern Time, each federal business day. We also make documents available for public inspection at our office in Washington, D.C. The documents may be displayed on computer terminals or downloaded and printed from our document management system for the convenience of our walk-in customers.
How to Find Information on the Public Inspection Page
You can browse the public inspection list for information, including:
- The agency that issued the document
- Whether the article is a Rule, Proposed Rule, Notice, or Presidential Document
- A short descriptive title of the document
- The Federal Register Document Number
- Agency docket numbers, as applicable
- The date and time the document was filed for public display
- The date the document will appear in the Federal Register
You can also read and print copies of documents in PDF format.
How to Search for Information in Public Inspection Documents
You can search for information within the current day’s public inspection documents. To search, click on the “Search” tab at the top of FederalRegister.gov pages and then click on “Public Inspection Search.” To search for previous days’ public inspection documents that have been published in the Federal Register, go to the Search tab and use the basic Federal Register “Article Search” or the “Advanced Article Search.” Then look for the link to the public inspection version in the sidebar on the right side of the Federal Register article.
How to Subscribe to Notifications
You can sign up for email or RSS notifications to alert you to documents on file. Your subscription options are:
- Subscribe to the complete set of documents on file each day;
- Get notifications by agency (start on an agency browse page); or
- Create personalized notifications by subscribing to specific search results.
When you are ready to subscribe, click on the “subscribe” button. You will be asked to choose RSS or email notifications. Once you make a selection, you will start getting notifications in your email in-box or RSS service as soon as new documents become available.
Types of Filing
The list of documents posted online for public inspection is divided into “Special Filing” and “Regular Filing” sections. There is no legal distinction between special and regular filing, except for the date and time differences discussed below. The distinction between regular and special filing documents relates to the timing and the complexity of publication in the printed edition of the Federal Register. Some special filing documents may also reflect requests by agencies for “emergency filing” to address an urgent matter or a critical legal requirement, which usually will be explained in the text of the document.
“Regular Filing” documents are filed in the regular course of business at 8:45 a.m. Eastern Time, for publication in the next day’s Federal Register.
“Special Filing” documents are filed at times other than 8:45 a.m. the day before publication in the Federal Register. These include documents filed at times later than 8:45 a.m., meeting notices that can be handled in an expedited manner, and documents that need an “emergency filing” schedule to meet a critical condition or legal requirement. Documents filed more than one day before appearing in the Federal Register remain on public inspection until they are published in the Federal Register. Green bullet icons in special filing listings alert readers to newly filed documents.