CBP Announces Electronic Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

Form I-94 is the main way in which persons who are not US citizens, and who are not legal permanent residents, demonstrate their legal entry into the US. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have announced the digital automation of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure, which will standardize travelers’ arrival and inspection processes, and ultimately lower costs and travelers’ wait time. Currently, CBP does not have a fail-safe method of keeping track of non-immigrant departures — an electronic I-94 could eliminate this loophole.

In late March, CBP published an interim final rule to the Federal Register, which redefines the definition of Form I-94 to include the electronic format and will be effective on April 26, 2013. Non-immigrants, who enter the US by air or sea will not have to submit paper Forms I-94.  But those who are subject to secondary inspection and asylees, refugees and parolees, will be required have to submit a paper form given to them by a Customs and Border Patrol officer. Travelers who enter through land border ports of entry will receive paper versions of Form I-94.

CBP will maintain I-94 records for all travelers who require one, but all records will instead be entered into the system in an electronic format and not given to the traveler. CBP will scan the traveler’s passport, creating an electronic arrival record for that person. Travelers will receive a CBP admission stamp on their travel documents, which detail the date and class of admission, and the admitted-until date. Departures will also be recorded electronically — if the traveler has a paper I-94, then he/she must surrender it upon leaving the US.

Some agencies will require a paper copy of Form I-94. USCIS will ask applicants to fill out paper copies when requesting particular benefits; and the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) will ask for paper copy submissions. In addition, non-immigrants with work authorization can present paper copies of Form I-94 to their employers during the Form I-9 process. If a traveler needs a paper copy of Form I-94, it will be available at www.cbp.gov/I94.

The Takeaway

Since this program is very new, we can expect confusion from all corners for a while, and differences in enforcement and paper documentation requirements from agencies. If you are a non-citizen, who is not a permanent resident, you will not receive a paper I-94 form from CBP as you enter the US, if you come by air or by sea. You will continue to receive a paper I-94 if you come by land from Canada or Mexico, if you require a secondary inspection, or you are a refugee or asylee. The problem is that USCIS and individual state-run agencies, such as drivers licence bureaus, will continue to require the now defunct I-94 form. In addition, it will become important to log onto the CBP website to ascertain that all your details on the electronic record are correct, and to print out a copy for your non-immigrant record. The electronic record will be erased from the system on departure from the US — maintaining a paper copy to prove departure may be useful under these new circumstances.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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