Most who have traveled internationally before have at least passing familiarity with Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. It is the small white card distributed to passengers on U.S.-bound flights whose purpose is to record details of a nonimmigrant's identity and lawful admission to the United States.
Starting April 30, 2013, those arriving at air and sea ports will no longer receive a paper Form I-94; instead, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will place a stamp in the traveler's passport and maintain an electronic record of admission for that traveler, which can be accessed at www.cbp.gov/I94. CBP will continue to use the paper version of Form I-94 for nonimmigrant aliens arriving at a land border.
Asylees, refugees, and parolees arriving at land, air and sea ports of entry will also continue to be provided the paper version of Form I-94. CBP will also issue a paper Form I-94 to nonimmigrant aliens who request it.
Nonimmigrant aliens and parolees who were not issued a paper Form I-94 will only receive a passport stamp documenting their lawful admission and visa category in the U.S. Although it may not be legally required to do so, it is a good practice to also access and print out the electronic record of admission. The reasons for doing so include verifying the accuracy of one's category of admission (e.g., B-1, H-1B, etc.) and expiration of period of authorized stay.
In addition to establishing lawful status, the printed record of Form I-94 may be needed when applying for ancillary immigration benefits, such as a social security number or a driver's license, in order to prove eligibility, as well as to verify employment eligibility on Form I-9 which every worker is required to complete at the time of hire.
For some, it may be practical to keep a print-out of Form I-94 to facilitate the process of re-applying for admission at ports of entry under the automatic visa revalidation provisions of 22 CFR Section 41.112(d). The automatic visa revalidation provision authorizes extension of an expired nonimmigrant visa to the date of application for readmission by certain individuals applying after travel to a contiguous territory whose absence does not exceed 30 days. Those considering utilizing these procedures should always consult with an immigration attorney to determine their eligibility for automatic visa revalidation before departing the U.S.
Timothy D. Widman is a San Jose Immigration Attorney. He is the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman, which is located in San Jose, California.