On August 12, 2012, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP"), the DHS agency that handles border admissions, announced that it would no longer provide admission stamps on Forms I-20 and DS-2019, and indicated that it would discontinue the use of the Form I-94 in the near future. The CBP suggested that these steps were being taken to further automate the admission process and lower the costs of that process, as part of the federal government's transformation from a paper-based to an online immigration environment.
On a related issue, the CBP recently announced that there may be delays of 30 days or more in inputting travel information into the government's I-94 database for foreign nationals entering the United States. This may cause problems for those who need the government to verify this information to secure employment (E-Verify), obtain a driver's license, apply for a Social Security Number ("SSN"), or even enroll children in school. Employers should factor this delay into their plans when hiring new foreign nationals, and develop accommodations because the obligation to pay an employee for work performed is not suspended even though he or she may lack an SSN.
The CBP's actions, however, may cause significant problems to foreign nationals who are legally in the United States but may now be unable to display the admission stamps or Form I-94 that many state and local officials require for proof of lawful status. This could lead to unwarranted arrests and delays in issuing driver's license or granting applications for benefits; create problems for employers trying to properly complete a Form I-9; delay the issuance of SSNs; and cause a myriad of problems for employers, government officials, and others that have historically relied on this documentation. We understand from the CBP that it currently will not place admission stamps on the Forms I-20 and DS-2019 and that there is no time line for elimination of the I-94 record. Our expectation is that this will be a slow process due to the ripple effect that the elimination of the I-94 might have.