My experience at Chicago INS Office.
Special registration - January 27, 2002.
I am from Pakistan and had to go for this special registration. I have a pretty clean and straight forward record. Came on F-1 and then after finishing school is now working on H-1. My I-485 is pending.
Reached the 230 S. Dearborn at about 7:15 AM. There were about a two other desis and a Saudi already waiting. They didn't let us go to the 2nd floor before 7:30 AM. After going up there at 7:30, we signed in on the sign-in sheet. They gave us a questionnaire to be filled out after we signed in. It's a 2-page form where you fill out your current address. You mom and dad's address, phone number, etc. Then on the second page you fill out all of your addresses in US from the time you first came here - starting from the most recent one. There was also a section to fill out name/address, etc. of a friend/family for reference. I think there were a couple of more questions. You might need to see your passport to fill out this information.
Then at about 7:40 AM I gave my form to the lady behind the window. She asked for the passport, H-1 approval notice and I-485 receipt. She kept the passport and the forms and asked me to wait. By this time there were about 15-20 people there. At about 7:50 AM an officer came and called for my name. He took me to the 23rd floor and asked me to be seated in his office. He said that he'll be back. I saw in that room that they had a digital camera and the fingerprinting machine.
After he came back in a minute or two, he asked me for my driver's license and credit cards. Please note that he said credit cards, not credit card. He said they are not going to charge anything on it. Then he asked for the H-1 approval notice and I-485 receipt. He then asked me to stand up and raise my right hand for oath. He then said something like "You'll say nothing but the truth, etc., etc.". After I said, "I do", he asked me to sit down.
He didn't ask me many questions, personal or work related. We did chat on other general stuff, like sports, etc. Contrary to the stories, I have heard he was very nice and polite. Most of the chat was initiated by me, but he seemed like a nice and talkative guy. He typed information from the documents that I gave him. Since someone else in some other room was still doing the background check on me from the form that I filled out earlier, he asked me all of that information again so that he could enter them into the database. After he was done typing, he took my fingerprints and picture.
At about 8:20 or so, he noted on my passport and I-94 that I did my special registration. Unfortunately, their computer system went down at that time. We waited and chatted about some more stuff for next 15-20 minutes. He told me that I am done, but he need to write down the FIN (fingerprinting) number and he can't get it till the system comes back up. Well luckily it came back up and we got the information. Then he told me that I need to register every year around this date (plus or minus 10 days). He told me that if I leave the country I have to register at the airport with the immigration. And when I come back, I have to re-register again. I asked him that if I come back on parole, do I need to register, he said no you don't need to.
At about 8:50 AM I was all done and out of the building. He didn't see any other documents. My advice to people who are in status and need to go for registration, do not wait for the last week. It will get busy as the deadline approaches. Also reach there before 7:30 AM, so that you'll be among the first ones to get in. They only have limited workstations and if you are coming in late, you might have to stay there for the whole day. Also he told me that during peak times (when they are registering a lot of people all over the country), the computer system often goes down. So go for it ASAP and before 7:30 AM.
Best of luck to my Pakistani/Saudi Brothers.