Introduction

For decades, U.S. immigration officers issued a Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record to almost all foreign nationals who lawfully entered the United States as nonimmigrants.1 The I-94 is a paper form that a nonimmigrant receives at the time of entry into the U.S. Its purpose is to record the nonimmigrant’s lawful admission to the U.S., including the date and place of entry, the visa class or status in which the person is admitted, and the length of time that the nonimmigrant is permitted to remain in the U.S. An example of an I-94 card is reproduced here.

What Is Changing?

Effective April 30, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) started to phase out the paper version of the I-94 form. CBP refers to the phasing out of the paper I-94 as I-94 Automation.

Why Is CBP Eliminating the Paper I-94?

CBP has said that it is eliminating the paper I-94 to increase efficiency, reduce operating costs, and streamline the admission process.

Does I-94 Automation Apply to All Entrants to the U.S.?

No. First, I-94 Automation applies only to nonimmigrants. U.S. permanent residents (green card holders) are not issued I-94s of any kind. Second, for now, the I-94 Automation program applies to entrants only at U.S. airports (including U.S. immigration preclearance facilities located outside the U.S.) and at U.S. seaports. I-94 Automation will not apply to nonimmigrants entering the U.S. at a land border port of entry. Third, certain classes of foreign nationals, such as refugees, asylum applicants, and parolees (persons “paroled” into the United States, including persons presenting Advance Parole travel authorization), will continue to receive a paper Form I-94.

How Will CBP Phase in the I-94 Automation Program?

CBP has started to phase in the I-94 Automation program at selected airport ports of entry. Implementation will continue across the nation through May 21, 2013 and will include all air and sea ports of entry that support international arrivals.

The I-94 Automation implementation schedule – which began on April 30 at five pilot ports of entry and will continue to the remaining ports of entry over a four-week period – is as follows:

Click here to view.

Will I-94 Automation Impact Entry to the U.S.?

No. CBP will continue to create an I-94 record for all foreign nationals who require one, but the I-94 data will be created and stored in electronic format, and a paper I-94 will not be issued.

What Proof Will CBP Provide to Show U.S. Immigration Status?

CBP will provide each foreign national with a U.S. immigration admission stamp in the foreign national’s passport that will show the date of admission, the category of admission (e.g., visitor, student, worker) and the admitted-until date.

What if Additional Proof of Immigration Status is Needed?

Foreign nationals entering the United States at air or sea ports of entry will be able to access their electronic Form I-94 by visiting www.cbp.gov/I94.  Upon inspection of the nonimmigrant at the point of entry, CBP will give the nonimmigrant a sheet with instructions on how to look up his or her electronic Form I-94 on CBP’s website. From this website, persons may print out their Form I-94 in paper format. Foreign nationals may need their Form I-94 when requesting certain benefits from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (a CBP sister agency), or when applying for public benefits from other government agencies (such as a driver’s license or a Social Security number).

Will Foreign Nationals Need to Do Anything Differently When Exiting the U.S.?

Foreign nationals will not need to do anything differently upon departing the U.S. Persons issued a paper Form I-94 will surrender it to the commercial carrier (airline, ship operator) or to CBP upon departure. The person’s departure will be recorded electronically based on the passenger manifest information provided by the carrier or by CBP. If the foreign national did not receive a paper Form I-94 and the record was created electronically, CBP will record the departure using passenger manifest information obtained from the carrier.

What Should a Foreign National Do if the Paper Form I-94 Was Not Collected Upon Departure from the U.S.?

Most foreign nationals who received paper I-94 forms are required to surrender their I-94 to the airline, ship operator, or CBP upon departing the U.S. If a foreign national exited the U.S. and the I-94 was not collected, the foreign national’s departure will not be properly recorded. This can be problematic because, to CBP, it will appear that the foreign national did not leave the U.S. If the foreign national cannot prove he or she departed by the date to which authorization to remain in the U.S. was granted, then the next time the foreign national applies for admission to the U.S., CBP may decide that the foreign national previously remained in the U.S. beyond his or her authorized stay. If this happens, CBP may refuse the foreign national admission to the U.S., cancel the foreign national’s U.S. visa, and require the foreign national to return to his or her foreign point of origin.

If a foreign national departed by a commercial air or sea carrier (airlines or cruise ships) and the I-94 was not collected, CBP can verify the departure from the U.S., and it is not necessary to take any further action. Keeping one’s outbound (from the U.S.) boarding pass can help facilitate reentry to the U.S. in the future.

Foreign nationals who departed by land, private vessel, or private plane and whose I-94 was not collected, must take steps to correct their record. Foreign nationals in this situation should send their I-94 form along with any documentation that proves timely departure from the United States to:

DHS - CBP SBU

1084 South Laurel Road

London, KY 40744, USA

For more information about surrendering a paper I-94 after departure from the U.S, please see https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/752/~/i-still-have-my-i-94.

What Should a Foreign National Do if He or She was Improperly Admitted to the U.S.?

From time to time CBP makes a mistake in admitting a foreign national for an incorrect period of time or in an incorrect visa classification. These inadvertent errors can cause a foreign national to violate his or her U.S. immigration status, especially if the foreign national remains in the U.S. beyond the date to which he or she was authorized to remain. Under I-94 Automation the procedure to correct these kinds of errors remains the same. The person should still visit a local CBP Deferred Inspection Site or port of entry to have the admission data corrected. A list of Deferred Inspection Sites and ports of entry can be found at www.cbp.gov, under the “Ports” link at the bottom of the page. If the foreign national received an incorrect I-94 from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the person should contact USCIS.

How Does I-94 Automation Affect the I-9 (Employment Verification) Process?

According to CBP, I-94 Automation does not affect the Form I-9 process. CBP cautions employers that they should be prepared to see Forms I-94 that will look differently than what they are used to seeing. Employers now will see both Forms I-94 that have original CBP admission stamps and writing on the Form I-94 card as well as Forms I-94 that are website printouts with no original writing or CBP admission stamps on them. Both versions are acceptable for Form I-9 purposes. (See https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1679/~/i-94-automation-and-the-i-9-process.) Employees who wish to present an I-94 as one of the documents to satisfy the I-9 process will need to visit www.cbp.gov and print out their I-94 for presentation during the Form I-9 identity and employment verification stage.