March 27, 2013

CBP Announces Automation of Form I-94

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has issued an interim final rule that will streamline admissions to the U.S. by eliminating the paper I-94 card issued to nonimmigrant foreign nationals upon entry to the U.S. Historically, the I-94 card has been the primary document to show a foreign national is maintaining valid status in the U.S. The I-94 card is also used by employers when completing Form I-9, Departments of Motor Vehicles when issuing a driver's license, and the Social Security Administration when issuing Social Security numbers. This rule will go into effect on April 26, 2013.

CBP is eliminating the paper I-94 card for two reasons:

  • CBP already has access to the information on the card through information provided by the foreign national when submitting an application for a nonimmigrant visa at a consulate abroad and through information submitted through the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS).
  • CBP expects to save significant time and money by eliminating the form. 

Rather than issuing a paper I-94 card, CBP will create an electronic Form I-94 based on information in its database. Foreign nationals will be able to access this information as of April 26, 2013 on the CBP website. Foreign nationals will be able access the system using identifying information (including their passport number) to print out the electronic I-94 card. They will be able to use this printout to show evidence of lawful admission and status in the U.S. CBP has indicated the electronic I-94 card will be available to the foreign national immediately after entry to the U.S. CBP has spent the last year meeting with stakeholders to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible and expects stakeholders will need to make no changes in current processes as foreign nationals will now be able to present a printout from the website rather than the paper I-94 card issued at the port of entry. 

For now, the automated process will apply only to foreign nationals arriving by air or sea. If arriving by land, the foreign national will still receive a paper Form I-94 card. In addition, CBP will continue to give a paper I-94 card to those who request one. They will also issue a paper I-94 card to limited classes of foreign nationals, including certain refugees, asylees and parolees or whenever else they deem appropriate. CBP will continue to stamp the foreign national's passport and will annotate the stamp with the class and duration of admission. 

The printout obtained from the website will be used as proof of admission and status. This will affect many federal and state programs, including:

  • Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification: The current Form I-9 allows employers to accept a foreign passport and Form I-94/I-94A as evidence of valid employment authorization in the U.S. 
  • Issuance of Social Security numbers: The Social Security Administration requests passports and I-94 cards to determine if a foreign national is eligible for a Social Security number.
  • USCIS forms: Most USCIS forms request the I-94 number as evidence the applicant or beneficiary has maintained lawful status. Approval notices issued by USCIS include an I-94 card.
  • Issuance of a driver's license by state motor vehicle departments: Many states require proof of valid immigration status before issuing or renewing a driver's license. Production of a valid I-94 card is typically required for status verification. The driver's license expiration date is also tied to the expiration date of the I-94 card.
  • Automatic Visa Revalidation program: Immigration regulations currently allow individuals to re-enter the U.S. without a valid visa in limited circumstances. One requirement of this program is that the person has a valid I-94 card. 

CBP will add a definition to the regulations that allows for the collection of Form I-94 in either print or electronic form.

The Faegre Baker Daniels immigration and global mobility team will cover this and much more at our annual immigration seminar on May 7, 2013, in Minneapolis. Updates on the I-94 card automation and other news will be discussed during the What's "Trending Now" in Business Immigration portion of the seminar.

For more information, and to register, click here.

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