Form I-94, also known as the Arrival/Departure Record, is an important document used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to monitor the arrival and departure of non-immigrant travelers entering the United States. It is typically issued to individuals who enter the country, and it serves as evidence of their legal entry and authorized stay in the USA. The Form I-94 contains essential information such as the traveler’s name, passport details, date of entry, visa classification, and the date until which they are permitted to stay in the United States.
Non-immigrant visitors are required to complete the Form I-94 upon arrival, providing relevant information and confirming their intentions for entering the United States, such as tourism, business, or study. The CBP officer at the port of entry reviews the form, stamps the traveler’s passport, and uploads an electronic I-94 record. The information is also crucial for various purposes, such as employment verification, driver’s license application, and immigration-related procedures. It is important that each time you fly to the US, you enter the I-94 website and verify that the information is correct. If there are any mistakes, these must be rectified in a timely manner.
Who needs a Form I-9?
Various situations necessitate the need for a Form I-94. One example is entering the United States in order to study. An I94 acts as proof of legal admission and is essential for enrolling in educational institutions. Similarly, temporary workers with specific work visas like H-1B or L-1 visas are issued a Form I-94 upon arrival. This form verifies their legal status and specifies the authorized duration of their stay in the country. Additionally, participants in exchange visitor programs such as the J-1 visa program are usually required to possess an I-94 form as it serves to confirm their lawful entry and provides details about the program duration and the sponsoring organization. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) returning to the states after traveling abroad typically receive an electronic I-94 record. This record serves as evidence of their permanent resident status and is utilized for immigration purposes.
It is important to know that some people who are exempt from obtaining an I-94 travel record must instead fill out a Form I-94W (for visitors utilizing visa waivers) or Form I-95 (for flight crew members). These forms serve a comparable purpose to the standard I-94. Seeking guidance from an experienced immigration lawyer specializing in this area is strongly advised to determine the specific form you require.
How to get a Form I-94?
Once your lawful entry is approved by CBP and the I-94 record is issued, a distinct code will be assigned to your record. This code is associated with a specific entry into the United States, meaning that you will receive a different I-94 number each time you arrive in the country. You can locate this number on your paper I-94 card or within your electronic record. Occasionally, this number may be requested by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or your employer for record-keeping purposes.
Accessing your electronic I-94 record is typically a straightforward process, but if you encounter any difficulties or notice any discrepancies, it is recommended to directly contact the CBP or seek guidance from an immigration attorney.
The importance of the Form I-94
The Form I-94 serves as proof of legal entry and provides important information about an individual’s authorized stay in the country. Both your stamped passport and your electronic or paper I-94 record play a crucial role in providing evidence of your legal entry to the United States and the duration you are permitted to stay in the country. When a CBP agent stamps your passport, they may include the notation “Duration of Status” or “D/S,” indicating that your stay is valid as long as your current visa remains valid. The I-94 travel record also records the dates of your entry and departure from the United States, which becomes significant when proving your lawful entry or adherence to the authorized stay period of your visa.
Your I-94 travel record holds extremely importance when dealing with government agencies. For instance, when applying for a family-based or marriage-based green card, you are required to demonstrate eligibility. To accomplish this, your travel documents must reflect that you entered the country lawfully and have maintained lawful status while awaiting approval of your case. Your I-94 travel record serves as vital documentation in establishing your lawful entry and ongoing compliance with immigration regulations.
It is crucial to keep both your stamped passport and your I-94 record safe and readily available, as they are frequently requested for verification purposes by various entities, including immigration authorities, employers, educational institutions, and government agencies.
What to do if you lost your Form?
Usually, the fastest way to restore a Form I-94 is to request your recent I-94 and travel history from the past five years directly from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Another option is to request the release of your records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However, please note that processing a FOIA request can take up to one year.
If you are unable to provide your travel records using these options, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will assume that you entered the United States unlawfully (known as “without inspection”). In this situation, you must submit a notarized personal affidavit, which is a written statement, explaining why you don’t have the documents. Additionally, you will need to provide supporting evidence to support your claim of lawful entry. This could be items like an airline receipt, boarding pass, or a copy of your parents’ passports showing their admission stamp and visa if you traveled with them. If you don’t have any additional evidence, you must submit at least two more notarized personal affidavits from other individuals who have firsthand knowledge of your lawful entry to the United States. All affidavits, including yours and the others’, should provide detailed information about the following:
- Explicit reference to the fact that a US immigration officer inspected your travel documents upon entering the country.
- Description of the travel documents you had in your possession when you entered.
- Overview of the questions asked by the immigration officer during the inspection.
- Detailed information about the time and place of your entry into the United States.
- Any other relevant details you can provide about your entry to the United States
With our firm’s comprehensive expertise in immigration law, we are fully prepared to support you in every aspect of the Form I-94. Whether you require assistance in writing your affidavits to restore your I-94 record, guide you on the process of obtaining it in the first place, or counsel on any other question you may have through the process. You can contact us here