What is Form I-94?
Form I-94 is issued and managed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. The United States recently moved towards a digital record of Form I-94 which is likely to be used at most airports but visitors who travel by sea may still see the paper forms. Form I-94 can be used as a way to prove one’s legal eligibility to be in the country as a visitor and since paper forms have been reduced, you can find your travel history information through the Customs and Border Protection website.
It is the responsibility of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to issue you Form I 94 upon arrival into the United States. However, that also means that they have the power to turn any foreigner away for reasons including missing or inaccurate personal information.
When is Form I-94 not Necessary?
- Visa Waiver Program
- Anyone who is a part of the Visa Waiver Program does not need to fill out a Form I 94 upon arriving in the United States. Instead, they will get an Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA before going to the U.S.
- Crew members of airlines who need to transit through the United State will be issues Form I 95 instead.
- Some Mexican citizens have Border Crossing Cards which allow them to pass through U.S. borders without I 94 if they only plan on traveling within a short distance from the border.
USCIS Form I-94
In two different instances, the USCIS can issue their own form of I 94 for people with nonimmigrant statuses.
- For Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change a Nonimmigrant Status, if approved, the USCIS will automatically send a new Form I-94.
- For foreign workers already within the United States, once Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, has been approved by the USCIS, can act as an equivalent of Form I-94.
It is important to note that Form I-94 has a date stamped for latest departure. Failure to leave the United States before this date, unless you have obtained a visa or change of nonimmigrant status that permits you to stay longer, may cause you to encounter difficulties in coming to the United States again in the future.
Automation of Form I-94
In 2013, the U.S. Border Control and Protection Agency decided to automate Form I 92 in order to save on costs and make the process of issuing arrival and departure cards smoother. For travelers entering the United States by air or sea travel, there will be no need for paper forms except in specific circumstances. For travel by land, paper Form I-94‘s will still be issued when the border agents have determined it is necessary.