In the spring of 2013, Customs and Border Protection changed its procedures and implemented an automated process for generating I-94 admission records electronically. As such, foreign visitors to the U.S. arriving via air or sea no longer need to complete paper Customs and Border Protection Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record or Form I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record (for those using visa waiver/ESTA).
This not, however, relieve foreign nationals from their obligation to present documents evidencing their status in the U.S. Proof of status may be needed by employers, schools/universities or government agencies. Accordingly, foreign visitors MUST access their CBP arrival/departure record information online to retrieve a paper print out.
We recommend that all foreign travelers access their electronic I-94 records by visiting www.cbp.gov/I94 and printing a hard copy of the record as soon as possible upon your arrival into the U.S. This is now the only mechanism by which foreign nationals can retrieve I-94 record information, if no paper I-94 card was issued into the passport upon arrival into the U.S.
It is important that foreign nationals retrieve and review their I-94 record as soon as possible after entry to verify that the record reflect the correct visa status and expiration date. The I-94 record controls the term and length of admission to the U.S. so accuracy in the record is critical to every foreign national’s status in the United States.
In generating the electronic I-94 record, CBP converts travelers’ arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records. This means that, by and large, the information imported into the I-94 records system is information entered by hand by airline personnel (not government officials). As such, it is imperative that you are precise when providing your information to the airline and vigilant with regard to managing flights (if you fail to cancel a booked flight without enough notice, it could cause an incorrect record to be generated indicating a departure, which will then have to be corrected.)
CBP continues to issue a paper form I-94 at land border ports of entry.
Information from CBP on the I-94 Process:
Upon arrival, a CBP officer stamps the travel document of each arriving non-immigrant traveler with the admission date, the class of admission, and the date that the traveler is admitted until. If a traveler would like a paper Form I-94, one can be requested during the inspection process. All requests will be accommodated in a secondary setting.
Upon exiting the U.S., travelers previously issued a paper Form I-94 should surrender it to the commercial carrier or to CBP upon departure. Otherwise, CBP will record the departure electronically via manifest information provided by the carrier or by CBP.
This automation streamlines the entry process for travelers, facilitates security and reduces federal costs. CBP estimates that the automated process will save the agency $15.5 million a year.
For more information and for answers to frequently asked questions, see the I-94 Fact Sheet.
The CBP INFO Center offers questions and answers for I-94.
Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or firstname.lastname@example.org.