What Is the I94 Travel Record Form?
What Is the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) use forms to keep track of compliance with immigration status. The I-94 travel record form is a useful tool that visitors and applicants for immigration benefits can use to show their compliance with lawful visits to the country.
What Is the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record?
The I-94 record is a very simple form that’s used to keep track of every time a non-citizen or non-permanent resident enters and leaves the United States. It’s a formal way of signing in and signing out when you visit the USA. It also helps authorities make sure that people are utilizing their visas responsibly, which means that they’re coming and going within the validity period of their authorized stays.
You’re responsible for monitoring the accuracy of your I-94 form, but you aren’t responsible for completing it. An official immigration officer will update your arrival and departure dates as you come and go.
Who Needs Form I-94?
A Form I-94 is necessary for most foreign nationals visiting the United States. It’s not necessary for U.S. citizens (including naturalized citizens), documented permanent residents and returning resident aliens (green card holders), and immigrant visa holders.
If you’re coming to the United States on a visa as a foreign visitor, someone on a business trip, or as someone temporarily residing in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa (like a student), you’ll need a Form I-94 to track your arrivals and departures.
What If You’re Traveling Through the Visa Waiver Program?
Several countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program with the United States. Nationals of these countries are allowed to visit the United States for a predetermined length of time without first obtaining a visa. Applicants will instead announce their visit through ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) for a simplified and streamlined experience.
ESTA visitors will need to apply for a Form I-94W, which is essentially the same document as an I-94. An advanced I-94W can be requested online or through Customs and Border Protection via the CBP One app. You can download the app from the official CBP website. Most of your documents will be handled electronically, and you will be able to access them through the app.
How Do You Know If You Have an I-94 Travel Record Form?
If an I-94 Form is required for your visa status, you may already have one. United States immigration officials automatically create and update an I-94 travel form on your behalf when you enter and leave by air or sea. If you enter the U.S. by air, sea, or land at a port-of-entry, it is available to you online. If you change or extend your status while in the U.S., the I-94 will be mailed to you or your employer. Those presenting themselves at a port-of-entry to request asylum may be handed an I-94.
If you are traveling to the United States and entering through a land border port (like the border of the United States and Mexico), you will need to request an I-94. An I-94 travel record form costs $6 USD and can be requested in advance of your arrival to save time at a border checkpoint.
How Do You Get an I-94 Travel Form?
When you arrive in the United States, a CBP officer will create an I-94 form for you. They’ll ask to see your passport and your visa. They’ll use your passport number, name, and country of origin to create a travel form profile for you. They’ll also verify the dates on your visa.
The agent will stamp your passport to mark your arrival as you enter the country.
In some cases, you may receive an I-94 card that will be placed in your passport. It’s important to hold onto this card because you’re going to need it later. You’ll return the card to a CBP officer as you leave the United States. When they receive the card upon your exit, they can complete the travel record for your visit.
The number on your travel record form will be different every time, so there’s no need to memorize or retain it. It is a good idea to retain a copy of the document. The number code will correlate to the date of your entry into the United States. You’ll receive a new I-94 with a new number every time you enter the country.
What If You Enter and Leave the United States in Different Ways?
Land ports of entry often use paper I-94 cards to track your entrance and exit. Air ports of entry almost exclusively use electronic forms and automate the process. Since they use two different tracking systems, you may need to notify CBP that you left the country. There may not be a border officer physically available to take your paper card.
If you’re flying into the United States and leaving through a land border, it helps to ask for a passport stamp upon your arrival. You can show your passport stamp to a CBP agent at a land border to prove the date that you arrived in the United States. The stamp will give the agent the information they need to complete a travel record for you.
Saving receipts and boarding passes may be a wise idea. You can use them as evidence of your arrival or departure date if any important dates aren’t recorded by border agents.
Why Is the I-94 Travel Record Form Important?
The I-94 Arrival/Departure form is important to enforce immigration rules. You are required to leave the United States before your status expires. Your arrival/departure record serves as proof that you complied with the duration of your status.
If your status expires and you do not have a departure date on your I-94 travel history document, it’s assumed that you’re still in the United States and that you’ve overstayed your authorized period of stay.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to apply for a new visa or if you become eligible to immigrate to the United States, your I-94 arrival/departure record can be used to demonstrate that you have a history of complying with immigration laws. If your record shows that you’ve overstayed your visa, you may be denied a new visa or other immigration benefits.
What Happens If You Overstay Your Nonimmigrant Status?
If you stay past your authorized date of stay, your visa may be canceled. You may also begin accruing unlawful presence. If you are found in the United States without a valid nonimmigrant status or permission to stay, you can be removed from the United States by immigration officers. A removal under these conditions can make you ineligible to receive immigration benefits in the future. You may also be subject to a re-entry ban for as long as ten years.
If you believe you may not be able to leave the United States before your status expires, you can apply for an extension to your status. Processing times can be lengthy, and USCIS recommends that applicants file their request for an extension at least 45 days before their status expires. If you need more time because you haven’t yet left for the United States, it’s best to file a request for your extension before you depart.
If you don’t have enough time to wait for an extension, it’s best to leave the United States before your status expiry date.
Sometimes, emergency circumstances may prevent you from returning to your home country. If the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognizes the circumstances in your home country as dangerous or unsafe, you may be granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Temporary Protected Status will allow you to remain in the United States for the duration of status, as long as you register for temporary protected status within the designated period.
Recently, we’ve seen visitors from Ukraine unable to safely return home due to armed conflict. Visitors from Israel also may not be able to safely return home. Contact USCIS if you find yourself in this situation. They may be able to help.
How Do You Access Your I-94?
There may be occasions where you’re asked by an employer, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), an officer of the law, or an immigration officer to provide your I-94 document. You’ll also be asked to provide your travel history documents when applying for immigration benefits, like a visa or green card.
If you arrive and depart from a land border checkpoint or a sea border checkpoint, you should have a physical copy of your I-94 document. You’ll receive a paper form from a CBP officer at your port of entry. Most people arrive by air, and the majority of air arrival and departure I-94 documents are held digitally.
You can request a copy of your I-94 from the official I-94 website. You can also access your electronic form I-94 (along with any other important immigration documents) through the CBP One app as most United States government agencies make the switch to electronic record keeping and automation.
Most official institutions and agencies will accept digital copies of all necessary immigration-related forms. If you need a paper copy of your I-94 form that you can print out, you can get one by selecting “Get Most Recent I-94” on the official website or through the app.
What If There’s a Mistake on Your I-94 Travel Record Form?
It’s important to regularly check your I-94 travel form for accuracy. If you notice an error on your travel record, you need to contact USCIS or Customs and Border Protection as soon as possible. An error won’t necessarily have consequences for your standing with United States Authorities unless it appears as though you’ve overstayed your status.
If you left before your status’s expiration date (or “admit until date”) and you notice a discrepancy on your travel form, you need to notify the immigration agency that completed your form immediately. Provide any supporting documents or evidence of your actual departure date that you have. Plane tickets that show that your flight left on a specific date are an easy way to demonstrate that you returned home in a timely manner.
Do You Have To Keep Your I-94 After You Become a Permanent Resident?
The I-94 form is only for people of nonimmigrant status. You don’t need to continue to use or refer to your I-94 form if you become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Lawful permanent residents enjoy more freedom to travel at their leisure, although they should not leave the United States for more than one year at a time. It helps to obtain a travel permit before leaving the country if you anticipate that your trip may be close to one year or exceed one year.
If you become a citizen of the United States, you will never need a travel permit or an I-94 after obtaining full citizen status.
Getting Assistance With Form I-94
Most of the time, checking and maintaining Form I-94 is simple. The process is generally straightforward, and errors are rare. If you notice that there are discrepancies on your Form I-94 travel record, it’s imperative to have them fixed right away. If you need assistance with your Form I-94, contact the experienced immigration law team at Cohen, Tucker + Ades for a consultation on your case.