The United States Department of Justice Department of Justice Seal The United States Department of Justice
Search The Site
 
FARA Frequently-Asked Questions

What is FARA?

What is the purpose of FARA?

Are foreign governments the only foreign principals?

How does the Act work?

When does one register?

Does the Act limit an agent's lobbying and publishing informational materials (propaganda) for a foreign principal?

Are there criminal penalties for violating the Act?

Does everyone who acts as an agent of a foreign principal have to register?

Is FARA the only statute relating to the registration of agents?



What is FARA?

FARA is short for the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, 22 U.S.C. § 611 et seq

Back to Top


What is the purpose of FARA?

The purpose of FARA is to insure that the U.S. Government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and laws. In 1938, FARA was Congress' response to the large number of German propaganda agents in the pre-WWII U.S..

Back to Top


Are foreign governments the only foreign principals?

No. The term also includes foreign political parties, a person or organization outside the United States, except U.S. citizens, and any entity organized under the laws of a foreign country or having its principal place of business in a foreign country.

Back to Top


How does the Act work?

  1. The Act requires every agent of a foreign principal, not otherwise exempt, to register with the Department of Justice and file forms outlining its agreements with, income from, and expenditures on behalf of the foreign principal. These forms are public records and must be supplemented every six months.
  2. The Act also requires that informational materials (formerly propaganda) be labeled with a conspicuous statement that the information is disseminated by the agents on behalf of the foreign principal. The agent must provide copies of such materials to the Attorney General.
  3. Any agent testifying before a committee of Congress must furnish the committee with a copy of his most recent registration statement.
  4. The agent must keep records of all his activities and permit the Attorney General to inspect them.

Back to Top


When does one register?

One must register within ten days of agreeing to become an agent and before performing any activities for the foreign principal.

Back to Top


Does the Act limit an agent's lobbying and publishing informational materials (propaganda) for a foreign principal?

No, the Act requires only registration.

Back to Top


Are there criminal penalties for violating the Act?

Yes, failure to register, keep accounts, mark informational materials, provide a congressional committee with a copy of the agent's most recent registration, and agreeing to a contingent fee based on the success of political activity are violations of the Act. The FARA Unit seeks to obtain voluntary compliance with the statute.

See our enforcement page for details.

Back to Top


Does everyone who acts as an agent of a foreign principal have to register?

No, there are a number of exemptions. For example, diplomats and officials of foreign governments, and their staffs, are exempt if properly recognized by the U.S. State Department. Persons whose activities are of a purely commercial nature or solely of a religious, scholastic, academic, scientific or fine arts nature are exempt. Certain soliciting or collecting of funds to be used for medical aid, or for food and clothing to relieve human suffering are also exempt. Lawyers engaged in legal representation of foreign principals in the courts or similar type proceedings, so long as the attorney does not try to influence policy at the behest of his client, are exempt. Any agent who is engaged in lobbying activities and is registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act is exempt from registration under FARA if the representation is not on behalf of a foreign government or foreign political party.

Back to Top


Is FARA the only statute relating to the registration of agents?

No. The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA), 2 U.S.C. § 1601, removed from FARA a class of agents who are engaged in lobbying activities and who register under the LDA. This Act is administered by Congress.

18 U.S.C. § 951 provides criminal penalties for anyone, other than a diplomat, to operate as an agent of a foreign government without first notifying the Attorney General, unless the agent is engaged in legal commercial transaction. This statute is aimed at foreign government controlled agents engaged in non-political activities.

Also, 18 U.S.C. § 2386 requires registration by certain organizations which engage in political activity, civilian military activity, is under foreign control, or has as its purpose the overthrow the government by force.

Finally, 50 U.S.C. § 851, requires registration of persons who have knowledge of or have received instruction or assignment in espionage, counterespionage or sabotage service or tactics of a foreign country or political party.

See our related statutes page for more details.

Back to Top


General Information National Security Division
 
Leadership
John P. Carlin
Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security
Contact
National Security Division
Stay Connected YouTube MySpace Twitter Facebook Sign Up for E-Mail Updates Subscribe to News Feeds