Form I-94, the Arrival-Departure Record Card, is a form used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intended to keep track of the arrival and departure to/from the United States of people who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (with the exception of those who are entering using the Visa Waiver Program or Compact of Free Association, using Border Crossing Cards, re-entering via automatic visa revalidation, or entering temporarily as crew members). Secondarily, it is used to determine the status and expiration date of the person's stay in the United States. While the form is usually issued by CBP at ports of entry or deferred inspection sites, USCIS can issue an equivalent as part of the Form I-797A approval notice for a Form I-129 petition for an alien worker or a Form I-539 application for extension of stay or change of status (in the case that the alien is already in the United States).
- 1 Issuance for arriving aliens
- 2 History
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Issuance for arriving aliens
The responsibility of issuing Form I-94 is with the CBP Office of Field Operations (OFO), a subdivision of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), that processes entries and exits at ports of entry (land, sea, and air) as well as deferred inspection sites. Note that OFO is distinct from the United States Border Patrol, whose responsibility is to patrol the rest of the border to monitor for unauthorized border-crossing.
At a port of entry
The most common place of issue of Form I-94 is at ports of entry, including airports, sea ports, and land ports. The form is issued electronically at airports and sea ports but can be issued both electronically and as a paper form at land ports.
For air and sea travel, the process begins even before the alien has departed for the United States: the alien's air and sea carrier collect information about the alien (such as passport number) and send this information to CBP.
At the port of entry, the arriving alien is screened by an officer from the CBP Office of Field Operations. If the CBP officer is convinced, based on the alien's documentation and all other evidence submitted, that the alien can be admitted into the United States, the officer issues a Form I-94 to the alien. The form specifies the status in which the alien is admitted (this should be consistent with the alien's visa) and the expiration date of the alien's stay in that status (for some statuses, the expiration date is entered as "D/S" indicating that the alien can stay as long as the underlying status is valid).
At air and sea ports, the form is issued electronically and the officer also stamps the alien's passport. The I-94 can be retrieved at any time using an online retrieval tool. At land ports, only paper forms are issued for people who have not informed the CBP of their arrival in advance. However, in September 2016, CBP announced that land travelers who inform the CBP in advance and pay a $6 fee can get electronic Form I-94s issued at land ports of entry.
At a deferred inspection site
In some cases, the officer at the port of entry may not be able to make a decision as to whether to admit the alien. This could be due to missing documentation, need for further review of the case, need for a maintenance of status and departure bond, or other similar reasons. In this case, the port of entry can issue the alien a Form I-546, asking the alien to complete the process at a deferred inspection site, as well as a temporary Form I-94, with expiration date at most 30 days in the future. The process of admission of the alien and issuance of a long-term Form I-94 is then completed at the deferred inspection site.
Deferred inspection sites can also be used to correct errors in Form I-94s issued at ports of entry.
Exceptional cases where a Form I-94 is not issued
Form I-94 is only issued to people who are not United States citizens or permanent residents. Among these, it is not issued in the following cases:
- For people from Mexico with Border Crossing Cards, if they are entering by land and plan to travel only a few miles into the United States for a short period of time. In case of longer durations of stay or travel deeper into the United States, the alien should obtain a Form I-94 at the (land) port of entry.
- For people entering via the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Historically, the CBP recorded arrival and departures under the VWP using Form I-94W. However, the I-94W is no longer used. It has been deprecated since 2010, and all VWP travelers need to obtain an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States. 
- For people entering the United States from one of the countries in the Compact of Free Association. These people are issued a Form I-94A.
- For people re-entering the United States using automatic visa revalidation. In this case, the new entry is considered to have occurred using the I-94 issued at the previous entry, and a new Form I-94 is not issued.
- For crew members of air and sea vessels landing in the United States. These people are issued a Form I-95 instead.
USCIS Form I-94
In case of an extension of stay or change of nonimmigrant status within the United States, the USCIS can issue its equivalent of Form I-94 as part of the I-797A approval notice. This applies to two main types of forms:
- Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, which can be used by a person already in the United States with authorization to change status to a temporary worker status. Note that Form I-129 can also be used by people currently outside the United States, but in that case, a Form I-797B approval notice is issued instead, and this does not include a Form I-94. Rather, in this case, the approval notice is used to obtain a temporary work visa, that the alien then uses to enter the United States and get a Form I-94 from CBP at the port of entry.
- Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, which is used to change nonimmigrant status or extend one's stay on an existing status (beyond the expiration date of the Form I-94). An approval of Form I-539 is always accompanied by the USCIS issuing a new Form I-94.
Note that for students on an F visa, the I-94's expiration date is listed as "D/S", for duration of status. Thus, stay is extended by having the student's SEVIS record updated and a new I-20 issued, without a new Form I-94 being issused.
Automation at sea and air ports in 2013
The switch away from paper Form I-94 to electronic Form I-94 was carried out in 2013. The change to I-94 definition to allow for the electronic format was recorded in the Federal Register on March 27, 2013.
- April 30: Chicago O'Hare, Charlotte Douglas, Orlando International, Las Vegas, Miami International, and Houston's Bush Intercontinental.
- May 7: Major air and sea ports corresponding to field offices in New York City, Boston, Buffalo, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta, Tampa, Puerto Rico, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, and Houston.
- May 14: Major air and sea ports corresponding to field offices in San Francisco, Tucson, Arizona, El Paso, Texas, Seattle, Portland, Oregon (including Alaska), Los Angeles, San Diego, and Laredo, Texas.
- May 21: All remaining air and sea ports.
Availablity of online history
On April 30, 2014, CBP announced a new retrieval tool that travelers could use to obtain their travel history and print their most recent Form I-94.
Availability at land ports starting late 2016
- Form I-539
- Electronic System for Travel Authorization
- Visa Waiver Program
- Automatic visa revalidation
- "Arrival/Departure Record Process Changes for Foreign Visitors Arriving via Air or Sea". U.S. Customs and Border Protection. December 20, 2013. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "Difference between visa stamp and arrival departure record". ImmiHelp. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "H-1B: Form I-797 Types – A, B and C". H1B Wiki. August 21, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
- "Non Immigrant Visa Denials: 10 Mind Boggling Facts!". Harlan York. Retrieved 2015-08-05.
- Schulz, Karen. "How to Obtain and Use a Border Crossing Card. A border crossing card can be handy, if you realize that it is not like a green card, and allows only short visits to the U.S. with no employment privileges.". NOLO. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "Arrival/Departure History Now Available on I-94 Webpage". U.S. Customs and Border Protection. April 30, 2014. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "Get Most Recent I-94". U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- Hermansky, Jennifer (October 12, 2016). "Online I-94 Application Now Available for Travelers at Land Ports of Entry". Lexology. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "CBP makes online I-94 application, payment available to travelers". September 30, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "Inspector's Field Manual, Chapter 17. Inadmissible Aliens". Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- Jackson, Sara. "Returning Green Card Holders: How to Handle a Deferred Inspection Appointment. If your green card doesn't work to get you back into the U.S. after foreign travel, you may need to attend a Deferred Inspection appointment.". NOLO. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
- "Deferred Inspection". U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
- "Questions and Discussion Topics. U.S. Customs and Border Protection -- NAFSA Liaison Call" (PDF). May 21, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
- "Form I-94W - Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record". U.S. Customs and Border Protection. January 13, 2014. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "DHS Reminds Visa Waiver Program Travelers of ESTA Requirements Effective Today" (Press release). Department of Homeland Security. 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
- "Automated Processing for VWP Applicants".
- "What is the difference between I-94 and I-94A?". Avvo. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "Automatic Revalidation". United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
- "Automatic revalidation for certain temporary visitors". United States Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
- "I-95 Period of Validity". U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "Form I-95 - Crewman's Landing Permit". January 13, 2014. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "I am a nonimmigrant. How do I change to another nonimmigrant status?" (PDF). United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- "Definition of Form I-94 To Include Electronic Format". Federal Register. March 27, 2013. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "Updates On DHS Plans To Automate Form I-94 Process". August 12, 2013. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "End of Paper I-94 / New I-94 Automation Guidelines". University of Chicago. April 30, 2013. Retrieved December 29, 2016.