U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that it is experiencing delays in entering I-94 information into the I-94 database. This delay affects all foreign nationals with immigration statuses that confer work authorization, eligibility for a social security number, drivers' licenses and/or admission to college, including F, H, L, M, O, P and TN to name a few. Many state and federal agencies use the I-94 database to confirm a foreign national's legal immigration status and eligibility for various benefits. There is no indication from CBP as to when the backlog will be alleviated.
CBP has also announced their plan to eliminate the issuance of the paper Form I-94 Arrival/Departure card to nonimmigrants who enter the U.S. CBP is exploring the option of automating the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure card to allow for the electronic collection of arrival/departure information and subsequently, streamlining the arrival and inspection process, as well as their data entry process. A proposed online portal will allow nonimmigrants to check their status, period of stay, and enable them to print a record of their admission. Once CBP stops issuing I-94s, travelers will receive a passport stamp annotated with their immigration status and the date that their period of stay expires. Foreign nationals entering at land ports of entry, refugees, and some other classes of foreign nationals will continue to receive a functional I-94 card.
In most circumstances, the I-94 card is used as proof of lawful immigration status in the U.S. and USCIS requires nonimmigrants to carry the I-94 as proof of their status. The I-94 is used in the employment verification process for Form I-9 and in the E-Verify database. It is likely that employers will have to change the way that they verify work eligibility once the paper form is eliminated. Form I-94 is also used by Federal and state agencies to verify whether a foreign national is entitled to certain benefits such as a Social Security number and driver’s license; the proposed change could delay the issuance of these benefits. CBP has met with interested government agencies regarding the automated program, but has not yet determined how the elimination of Form I-94 will affect the above critical procedures and requirements. There is no firm date as to when paper I-94s will be eliminated by CBP.