No More Paper I-94s at Airports and Seaports as of April 26, 2013

Automation of Arrival/Departure Records

Automation of the Form I-94 is happening at last. Until now, one of the most important immigration documents in anyone’s possession was Form I-94, a little white or green card also called the Arrival/Departure Record. The I-94 has been issued to virtually every foreign citizen entering the United States, by means of a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer attaching it to the entrant’s passport. I-94s are also given out within the U.S., to immigrants who have adjusted status (been approved for lawful permanent residence or a green card) or extended their status, as well as to people approved for asylum status.

As a reader of Nolo’s books, you may be familiar with the various times when it’s important to have an I-94, such as:

  • if you’re a nonimmigrant, to check the date by which you must exit the U.S., which is indicated on the I-94
  • to turn it in when applying for an extension of your nonimmigrant status
  • to supply a copy of to USCIS along with an application to adjust status (apply for a green card), in order to prove that you entered the U.S. legally, or
  • to surrender upon departing the U.S., as proof that one left (and hopefully on time).

Given its importance for these various purposes, losing one’s I-94 card could be a problem. With the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) interim final rule (announced in the March 27, 2013 Federal Register, however, most immigrants will no longer have to worry about keeping track of this little card.

Arriving visitors will neither have to fill out a form nor be given a piece of paper. Their information will be entered into a CBP database, partly by means of scanning their passport. If you need or want a physical copy of your I-94, you will be able to download it from www.cbp.gov/I94. Departures will be recorded within the new system based on information passed to DHS from the commercial air or sea carriers.

The new automated system has exceptions, however. You may still receive a paper I-94 if you enter the U.S.:

  • as a refugee, asylee, or parolee
  • at a land ports or using transport other than commercial air or sea carrier, or
  • CBP decides it’s necessary to give you an I-94 for some other reason.

For more information, see the March 21, 2013 CBP press release. Or see an immigration lawyer if you have issues concerning your I-94 card.