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Government Information (United States): Federal Register

Resources for United States Government Information at UCSB Library

The Federal Register

Is this is your first time using the Federal Register?

What is the Federal Register?

Published by the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents.

Who uses the Federal Register?

Reading the Federal Register is vital:

  • If you need to know about the day-to-day operations of the Federal Government
  • If your business is regulated by a Federal agency
  • If you are an attorney practicing before a regulatory agency
  • If your organization attends public hearings or meetings or applies for grants
  • If you are concerned with Government actions that affect the environment, health care, financial services, exports, education, or other major public policy issues

The Federal Register also informs citizens of their rights and obligations and provides access to a wide range of Federal benefits and opportunities for funding.

Where can I find the Federal Register at UCSB?

See our "Federal Register @ UCSB" page for information about online access and Library holdings.

How can I find information in the Federal Register?

If you already have a citation number, you can consult our holdings to see if you will need to look at a print or electronic version of the Federal Register. If you need an issue from 1994 to the present, you can find your citation online. If you need an issue from 1936–2001, then you can use our microfilm copies located in the Government Information collection. 

If you do not have a citation, you may need to consult an annual index. We have Annual Indexes for the years 1955–2009 available in the Government Information reference collection to use. There are also online indexes from 1998+ available on the NARA website.

History of the Federal Register

In the surge of New Deal legislation in the 1930s, Congress delegated more and more responsibility to Federal departments and agencies in the form of authority to issue detailed regulations dealing with complex social and economic issues. As more regulations were written, a serious communications problem developed.  Since there was no centeral publications system, there was no efficient way for citizens to know about regulations which affected them. 

In 1934, Congress recognized the need for a centralized system and enacted the Federal Register Act, which became law on July 26, 1935 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 15). The act established a uniform system for handling agency regulations by requiring the:

  1. Filing of documents with the Office of the Federal Register
  2. Placement of documents on public inspection
  3. Publication of documents in the Federal Register
  4. After a 1937 amendment, permanent codification (numerical arrangement) of rules in the Code of Federal Regulations

Publication in the Federal Register has certain legal effects.  Publication:

  1. Provides official notice of a document's existence and its contents
  2. Establishes the text as a true copy of the original document
  3. Indicates the date of the regulation's issuance
  4. Provides evidence that is acceptable to a court of law (prima facie evidience)

Several important new dimensions were added to the Federal Register system by the Administrative Procedure Act, which became law on June 11, 1946 (5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.). This act: 

  1. Introduced as a general requirement (but with some exceptions) the right of the public to participate in the rulemaking process by commenting on proposed rules.
  2. Required that the effective date for a regulation by not less than 30 days from the date of publication unless there was good cause for an earlier date.
  3. Provided for publication of agency statements of organization and procedural rules.

These two laws define the basic functions of the Federal Register system and provide the framework for the promulgation of government regulations. 


(From:  U.S.  Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration. The Federal Register: What It Is and How To Use It.  Washington: Government Printing Office, 1993.)

How is the Federal Register Organized?

Each issue of the Federal Register is organized into four categories:

  • Presidential Documents, including Executive orders and proclamations
  • Rules and Regulations, including policy statements and interpretations of rules
  • Proposed Rules, including petitions for rulemaking and other advance proposals
  • Notices, including scheduled hearings and meetings open to the public, grant applications, and administrative orders

Documents published in the Federal Register as rules and proposed rules include citations to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to refer readers to the CFR parts affected by the proposed or official rules. The CFR contains the complete and official text of agency regulations organized into fifty titles covering broad subject areas. The CFR is updated and published once a year in print, fiche and on-line formats.

How Do I Find The Information I Need?

In addition to using an index, you can find information in the Federal Register with the Table of Contents at the beginning of every issue. The Table of Contents is organized alphabetically by agency. It lists all documents in the issue, and includes page spans. 

Two monthly publications, available online and in print, provide information on documents that appeared in past issues of the Federal Register:


For more information about using and searching the Federal Register, check out the NARA FR FAQs.