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Using FederalRegister.Gov

Reader Aids

Reader Aids help people use FederalRegister.gov and understand the federal rulemaking process. Reader Aids information is not published in the Federal Register.

Understanding Public Inspection

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.

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. PDF versions of documents on public inspection can be viewed on FederalRegister.gov.

The official version of a public inspection document is filed at our office in Washington, D.C. We also post a full-text version of the filed document to the FederalRegister.gov website.

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. We try to match the online posting time with the official filing time, but the exact time may vary depending upon server usage and other factors, so 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 an official format of the published Federal Register document. Only an official format of a Federal Register document 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 published Federal Register document becomes the primary means of accessing Federal Register documents and not the public inspection version.

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.

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
  • The category of the document (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 is scheduled to appear in the Federal Register

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

“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

“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 documents newly filed today.