If you are a nonimmigrant visa holder (H-1B, L-1A, TN, E-2, etc.) and have not travelled outside of the US in several months you will notice a new change in the I-94 card process if you leave the US and return by plane or boat in the coming months. This change may affect how you document your immigration status to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when applying for a change, extension or adjustment of status.
In the past, nonimmigrants entering the US at air and sea ports would receive a paper I-94 card from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when entering the United States. Nonimmigrants would then submit a copy of the I-94 card in their USCIS petition for change, extension or adjustment of status.
Throughout April and May 2013 CBP discontinued the practice of issuing I-94 cards to those entering the US at air and sea ports and began automating the I-94 card process. CBP now uses passenger manifests to create an electronic version of the I-94 card and maintain it in their system. It is important to note that I-94 card automation is currently only for air and sea arrivals. Paper I-94 cards will still be issued at land border ports of entry (i.e. Canadian and Mexican borders with the US). CBP has also indicated that it will still issue I-94 cards to “Certain classes of aliens, such as refugees, certain asylees and parolees, and whenever CBP determines the issuance of a paper form is appropriate”.
Nonimmmigrants arriving in the US by air or sea who are inspected by CBP officers will no longer receive paper I-94 cards but will still receive admissions stamps in their passports. The admission stamp will show the date of admission, class of admission and the date that the nonimmigrant’s status expires.
When applying for a change, extension or adjustment of status, a nonimmigrant is typically required to submit a copy of his/her I-94 card to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Even though paper I-94 cards are no longer issued by CBP for air and sea entries, it will still be possible to print out a copy of your I-94 card online. The electronic version of the I-94 card can be found at www.cbp.gov/I94. To obtain your electronic I-94 information you will need to enter the following information into the CBP web portal: Family name, First name, Birth Date, Passport Number, Country where Passport was Issued, Most Recent Date of Entry, your Class of Admission.
USCIS has provided an alternative to printing out an electronic version of the I-94 card to prove that a nonimmigrant was inspected and admitted when entering the United States. USCIS has stated in a press release that “In lieu of submitting the electronic Form I-94 in paper format, USCIS will also accept photocopies of the passport pages that contain the individual’s biographical information visa and admission stamp”.
Another side point to note about I-94 card automation is that CBP has stated that the I-94 card automation will not affect the Form I-9 process. CBP has acknowledged that both a paper I-94 card with original stamps and writing on the card or an online I-94 card printout are both acceptable for I-9 compliance purposes.
For more information regarding the I-94 card automation process please contact Atlanta immigration lawyer Rahim Dhanani at (404) 593-0434 or via the contact us form.