Starting next week, foreign nationals will see new entry procedures at U.S. airports and sea ports, when Customs and Border Protection begins implementing a computerized I-94 arrival record system. The new system will replace the paper I-94 card that most foreign nationals currently receive on entry to the United States.
The I-94 arrival record governs a foreign national’s terms and duration of stay in the United States and serves as evidence of lawful status.
The following are some FAQs about the new computerized admission record and how it will affect entry procedures, I-9 and E-Verify employment eligibility verification and applications for benefits like Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses. If you have any questions about the new I-94 system, please contact your designated Fragomen professional.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE NEW ENTRY PROCEDURES
1. When will the new system take effect?
CBP will phase in the automated I-94 system over several weeks, starting on April 30, 2013. During the first week, the system will be implemented six international airports – Charlotte (NC) International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport, Las Vegas International Airport, Miami International Airport and Orlando International Airport.
After the first week, CBP will roll out the system to major air and sea ports by region. Air and sea ports in the New York/Newark, NJ area, Boston and ten other cities are expected to implement the system during the week of May 7. Ports in Los Angeles and San Francisco, among other regions, are to go online during the week of May 14, along with pre-flight clearance stations abroad. Implementation will continue at U.S. air and sea ports through the week of May 21. As with any new process, however, implementation could take longer than anticipated.
2. How will entry procedures change under the new system?
Currently, CBP issues a paper Form I-94 card to most foreign nationals arriving in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa. The I-94 card, which is often stapled into the passport, lists the person’s nonimmigrant category, the expiration date of the stay, and a unique identifying number. CBP forwards each traveler’s admission information from the port of entry to a central office, where it is manually entered in the agency’s database – a process that can take 30 to 60 days.
When the computerized system is fully implemented, most foreign travelers entering by air or sea will receive a stamp in their passport rather than a paper I-94 card. Their immigration category and period of stay will be recorded immediately in CBP’s database. The database will also contain the traveler’s basic biographic, passport and visa information, collected from the advance passenger manifests that air and sea carriers must transmit to CBP before departure for the United States.
Not all foreign nationals will be subject to the new system. Parolees, asylees and refugees will still receive a paper I-94 card when entering the United States, as will travelers at land border ports of entry.
3. I am a foreign national planning to enter the United States on a nonimmigrant visa. What should I expect during the inspection process at a U.S. airport or sea port after the computerized I-94 is implemented?
As always, you will be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer. If you are admitted, the officer will place an admission stamp in your passport, and will hand write your date of entry, your class of admission and the date your stay expires into your passport. The officer will also give you a leaflet with instructions on how to get a paper printout of your CBP admission record.
Before you step away from the admission counter, take a moment to check the date of entry, class of admission and expiration date written in your passport. If you notice an error, politely inform the officer. Checking your admission stamp before you leave the inspection area can help minimize problems and delays later on.
4. How do I obtain a printout of my I-94 admission record?
CBP has established a dedicated website, www.cbp.gov/i94, for accessing I-94 admission records. If you last entered the United States by air or sea after April 26, 2011, your admission record should appear in the system. (The website is set to go live on April 30. Until then, a demonstration of the new system is available at the I-94 website.)
When you visit www.cbp.gov/i94, you will be asked to enter your first and last name, date of birth, passport number, country of passport issuance, date of entry and class of admission. Enter the information as it appears on your visa stamp and your admission stamp. If you do not have a visa, enter the information as it appears on your passport biographic page. If your record appears in CBP’s database, the website will generate an I-94 that contains your admission information and a unique admission number.
We recommend that you make several copies of your admission record – one to present to your employer during the I-9 employment verification process; one or more for use when you apply for a Social Security number and/or state driver’s license; and one to keep with your passport. Please also make sure to send one to your designated Fragomen professional, who will need a copy of your I-94 if your employer applies to extend or change your immigration status. You will also need copies of your admission records if you seek permanent residence.
5. What if I notice an error in my admission record after I enter the United States?
If you notice an error in your online admission record or in your admission stamp after you leave the port of entry, notify your Fragomen professional as soon as possible. You will need to visit a CBP deferred inspection station or return to the port of entry to seek a correction.
6. What if I lose my I-94 printout?
If you lose your I-94 printout or need additional copies, simply visit www.cbp.gov/i94 to print out another.
If you lose a traditional paper I-94 card, you may need to apply to USCIS on Form I-102 for a replacement. However, if you last entered the United States after April 26, 2011, your admission record may be available at www.cbp.gov/i94.
7. What should I do with the printout of my computerized I-94 when I depart the United States?
You can turn the I-94 printout in to CBP when you depart by air or sea, though you are not required to do so. CBP will be informed of your exit from the United States when your air or sea carrier transmits an advance passenger manifest before departure. Please remember to keep a copy of your I-94 printout for your records. (If you hold a traditional paper I-94 card, make sure to turn it in to CBP when you depart.)
If you enter the United States by air or sea after the computerized I-94 system is implemented, but later make your final departure through a land port of entry, you should retain proof of your timely exit, such as an entry stamp from Canadian or Mexican immigration authorities, travel ticket stubs or similar evidence.
8. I will be entering through a land border port of entry. Will the automated I-94 system be in effect there?
No. CBP will continue to issue paper I-94 cards to travelers entering through land borders. If you receive a paper I-94 card from a land border port of entry, please forward a copy to your Fragomen professional.
9. I entered the United States before the automated I-94 system took effect. Is my paper I-94 card still a valid document?
Yes. Foreign nationals who received a traditional paper I-94 document at a port of entry or from USCIS should retain it as before. Your valid, unexpired I-94 card is evidence of your lawful status and period of stay in the United States.
When you depart the United States, you must turn the I-94 card in to CBP. If you reenter the United States after the automated system takes effect, you will be processed under the new system.
10. Current USCIS rules require all foreign nationals to carry documentation of their immigration status. How does the automated I-94 rule change that requirement?
All foreign nationals are required by law to carry documentation of their immigration status. Form I-94 is one of the documents acceptable for this purpose. When the computerized I-94 system takes effect, acceptable evidence of lawful status will include the printout of the I-94 record and the unexpired admission stamp. Unexpired paper I-94s issued before automation took effect will remain valid for this purpose.
EMPLOYMENT ELIGIBILITY VERIFICATION WITH THE AUTOMATED I-94
11. Is an I-94 printout an acceptable document for Form I-9 and E-Verify employment verification?
Yes, an I-94 printout from the CBP website is considered an original I-94 document. Employers may accept an I-94 printout, along with a foreign passport, as a List A document during the I-9 process. A valid, unexpired I-94 card issued by a port of entry or along with a USCIS Form I-797 approval notice can also be accepted with a foreign passport.
12. Will the website printout be the only form of I-94 acceptable for employment verification?
No. There are several forms of I-94 in circulation, depending on when the foreign national entered the United States or otherwise acquired his or her current status.
Foreign nationals who last entered the United States before the automated system took effect will hold a traditional paper I-94 card. After automation, the paper card will still be issued to foreign nationals entering through land border ports of entry and to parolees, asylees and refugees.
If a foreign national changed or extended his nonimmigrant status from within the United States, he or she will be issued a paper I-94 card attached to a USCIS approval notice.
Nonimmigrants who are members of the Global Entry trusted traveler program will continue to receive an I-94 receipt when they complete arrival processing through a Global Entry kiosk.
For samples of the various forms of I-94, click here.
APPLYING FOR BENEFITS WITH THE AUTOMATED I-94
13. I am applying for a U.S. Social Security number. Will the Social Security Administration accept an I-94 printout as documentation of my lawful status?
Yes, the I-94 printout is acceptable to document your lawful status in connection with a Social Security number application. The SSA will also accept a copy of the admission stamp in your passport, but prefers to receive an I-94 printout or card because the unique admission number on the I-94 helps it verify your immigration status more quickly.
14. I am applying for a state driver’s license. Will the Department of Motor Vehicles accept an I-94 printout as documentation of my lawful status?
It depends on the specific requirements of the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Some may accept a copy of the admission stamp in your passport, while others will require an I-94 printout or card. As noted above, we recommend that you print out an I-94 admission record to use when you apply for a driver’s license or other government benefit.