U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced plans to streamline admissions to the U.S. by eliminating the paper I-94 card issued to nonimmigrant foreign nationals upon entry to the U.S. Historically, the I-94 card has been the primary document to show a foreign national is maintaining valid status in the U.S. The I-94 card is also used by employers when completing Form I-9, Departments of Motor Vehicles when issuing a driver's license, and the Social Security Administration when issuing Social Security numbers. The elimination of the paper I-94 will have wide impact.
CBP is eliminating the paper I-94 card for two reasons:
- CBP already has access to the information on the card through information provided by the foreign national when submitting an application for a nonimmigrant visa at a consulate abroad and through information submitted through the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS).
- CBP expects to save significant time and money by eliminating the form.
Instead of issuing an I-94 card, CBP will issue an admission stamp in the passport of arriving nonimmigrants. The admission stamp will include a handwritten notation showing the status and validity period. This is similar to the process used for visitors under the Visa Waiver Program (I-94 cards are no longer issued for travelers who enter under this program). The data will be stored electronically, but CBP indicates it could take as long as 45 days for the information to be entered into the I-94 database. This could be problematic for individuals who need to provide evidence of their status shortly after entry to the U.S.
Initial plans called for a gradual rollout, starting with a pilot program at smaller airports. Recent plans indicate CBP is planning to eliminate the form in the near term at all air and seaports; however, the agency has not yet announced an effective date.
The elimination of the paper I-94 card will impact a variety of federal and state programs, including:
- Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification: The current Form I-9 allows employers to accept a foreign passport and Form I-94/I-94A as evidence of valid employment authorization in the U.S.
- Issuance of Social Security numbers: The Social Security Administration requests passports and I-94 cards to determine if a foreign national is eligible for a Social Security number.
- USCIS forms: Most forms used in applying for or extending nonimmigrant status request the I-94 number as evidence the applicant or beneficiary has maintained lawful status. Approval notices issued by USCIS include an I-94 card.
- Issuance of a driver's license by state motor vehicle departments: Many states require proof of valid immigration status before issuing or renewing a driver's license. Production of a valid I-94 card is typically required for status verification. The driver's license expiration date is also tied to the expiration date of the I-94 card.
- Automatic Visa Revalidation program: Immigration regulations currently allow individuals to re-enter the U.S. without a valid visa in limited circumstances. One requirement of this program is that the person has a valid I-94 card.
These are just a few areas that will be impacted by the elimination of Form I-94. It is unclear when/if other agencies will revise their regulations, forms or processes to accommodate this change in CBP procedures.