Travel History: Your Complete Guide To Form I-94
Why Is An I-94 Important?
The new I-94 form is important for people who need an accurate record of when they enter and leave the United States by air or sea. Immigration agencies may use your I-94 information to make a determination about your standing in the United States and your eligibility for certain types of visas. Here’s what you need to know about your I-94, travel history, and how to check your information.
What Is Form I-94?
Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record is issued by United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to keep track of non-citizens’ arrivals and departures. The purpose of Form I-94 is to keep a record of documented entry and ensure timely departure. It helps immigration authorities maintain a record of potential immigrants’ and non-immigrants’ compliance with visa laws and the verification of immigration status.
Form I-94 acts as a supporting document for most immigrant and non-immigrant visa purposes. It shows that you have a history of abiding by the law with arrival and departure dates from United States ports of entry. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding Form I-94.
Who Needs Form I-94?
People who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (i.e. green card holders) will be issued Form I-94 (or an equivalent) automatically upon entering the country. Form I-94 is an important tool that immigration institutions use to track data and ensure all travel in and out of the United States is documented. Automation makes the process quick, easy, and efficient for everyone involved.
Every non-immigrant who travels to the United States will automatically receive Form I-94. The Form I-94 provides information about entry as well as the date you must depart the United States by. The Form I-94 is often used when U.S. immigration officials make decisions on applications to change, extend, or adjust status and is used as supporting evidence to prove good standing and immigration compliance.
You will need to present your I-94 information while you’re going through the process of obtaining a green card. If you eventually decide to obtain U.S. citizenship, you won’t need travel documents anymore. You’re free to come and go as you please in accordance with the travel and visa laws of your destination countries. You only need to present your valid U.S. driver’s license or passport as proof of citizenship and travel eligibility.
How Do You Get an I-94 Travel Record?
There are two ways to start or update an I-94 travel record. The process will be automatic for most visitors. Many people don’t even realize that United States immigration services have created and maintained the form on their behalf. If you arrive at the United States border by land transportation, the process is slightly different.
Paper I-94 Documents
Paper I-94 cards are only issued to non-citizens who arrive in the United States by land. This is most common for foreign visitors from Mexico or Canada.
If you enter the United States through a land border port of entry at the Mexican or Canadian border, you’ll be issued an I-94 card that will be attached to your passport. Border officers will give you an admission stamp on your passport. When you leave the country, you’ll show the border officer your passport with the card attached. They will manually verify your departure with your paper form.
Electronic I-94 Documents
Most people enter the United States by air. Comparatively, few non-citizens cross into the United States at a physical point of entry at the Canadian or Mexican border. If you’re arriving by plane, I-94 issuance is automatic. The United States takes care of it for you, and you’ll get a physical stamp on your passport to serve as proof that you entered the country with documentation.
If you ever need to access your electronic I-94 travel record, you can view it through U.S. CBP online. Their online system will allow you to view your travel history and print a physical copy of your most recent I-94 if you need to present them at a meeting with immigration officials or bring them with you to a port of entry. Immigration officials will also have access to your electronic travel record.
You can also view your travel history through U.S. CBP online. This can be helpful if you are completing a petition or application that requires information about prior trips to the U.S. CBP’s website provides information about entries and departures including the date and location.
How Much Does Form I-94 Cost?
Most forms and petitions filed with U.S. immigration institutions require some kind of filing fee. Form I-94 does not. It’s created for free automatically when you travel to the United States. The form is part of immigration’s normal bookkeeping process, and it’s a document they use for their own reference. You generally shouldn’t have to pay for an I-94 card or electronic form.
The only exception to the free cost is when you apply for a provisional I-94 online. A provisional I-94 costs $6 USD. A provisional I-94 can reduce your wait time at a U.S. land border inspection site. Wait times at the border can be lengthy, and anything you can do to simplify the process may help you get through quicker. If you already have an I-94 when you arrive, you don’t need to wait for one to be created for you.
What Is an I-94 Number?
When you’re communicating with immigration agencies, they’ll ask you for a lot of numbers. Cases are assigned numbers, and immigrants are assigned alien registration numbers. If someone asks you for your I-94 number, it’s a little more complicated to find what you need.
Each I-94 number will be a combination of 11 numbers and letters. You don’t have a single I-94 number. You’re given a number for every arrival in the United States. If you need to prove I-94 numbers for official documents or requests, you’ll likely need to provide each individual number for your arrivals.
What Happens If You Arrive and Depart in Different Ways?
Electronic I-94 records are for arrivals by air, and paper I-94 records are for arrivals by land. So, what happens if you arrive by plane and leave by land, or vice versa? If you arrived by air and are leaving by land, you need to find a different way to prove that you left the country before your “admit until date.”
The easiest way to obtain alternative proof of your departure is to ask Canadian or Mexican border authorities for a passport stamp when you arrive. This passport stamp serves as proof that you left the country on time by demonstrating that you were in a different country before the expiration of your visa.
What Happens If You Lose Your I-94 Information?
If your I-94 is electronic, you can’t lose it. Border officers will create a digital version of your paper I-94 card for their records and store a copy of the information on your behalf.
Immigration agencies will always have your official I-94 record, even if you don’t have access to it. You can view your information by going to the CBP website and providing information about yourself and passport. You shouldn’t need to have a printed physical copy of your electronic information unless an employer or an agency has specifically asked you to provide one.
For older and paper I-94s, you can request a replacement by filing Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document with USCIS.
What Happens If Your I-94 Travel History Contains Errors?
If you find an error on your I-94 travel history, such as an incorrect arrival or departure date, you need to contact CBP to have the error fixed. Documentation like passport stamps or proof that you boarded a flight can be used to verify or correct your arrival/departure record. CBP won’t charge you a fee to correct your I-94 record if they’re responsible for the error.
What Happens If Your Arrival or Departure Isn’t Listed on Your Form?
USCIS, CBP, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) require every visitor to the United States to enter the country with proper documentation. If you don’t have listed arrival or departure dates for your visits to the United States, you may have trouble re-entering the United States or changing your immigration status.
You can be removed from the United States and banned from re-entering for a period of several years. Future attempts to obtain a visa may be significantly more difficult. You’ll need the help of an experienced immigration attorney if you’d like to return to the United States after an undocumented arrival.
Do You Need Help With Your Travel History or Immigration Forms?
If you intend to come to the United States as a visitor or an immigrant, it’s important to have a valid I-94 travel record. If there are issues with your travel record or if you arrived in the United States without passing through an official port of entry, you’ll encounter obstacles returning to the United States or changing your immigration status.
The thorough immigration legal team at Cohen, Tucker + Ades can help. Contact us for a consultation on your case. We’ll be able to advise you of the best path forward for your situation.