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What is the Form I-94 Travel Record?

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Nearly every foreign traveler to the United States has an I-94 travel record (also known as “Form I-94” or “I-94 Form”). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials issue Form I-94 to foreign travelers entering the United States. CBP officials use Form I-94 to track arrivals and departures of non-citizens visiting the United States. This article explains Form i-94 in-depth, including how it is used, how to access yours, and answers to some frequently asked questions.

Table of Contents

What is Form I-94?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) gives foreign visitors an electronic or paper Form I-94 when they enter the United States. This form keeps track of non-citizens entering and leaving the United States. The record proves you entered the United States lawfully and indicates the date you must leave. 

Before May 2013, most foreign visitors received a paper Form I-94. They had to return this form to the CBP to record their departure information when leaving the country. Now, most visitors receive an electronic Form I-94. However, this is not directly issued to you. You need to go to CBP’s website and click on “Get Most Recent I-94” on the webpage to obtain your form. 

In certain situations, some foreign visitors still get paper I-94 records. CBP still issues these at land border ports of entry. Electronic I-94 records are for air and sea ports of entry. CBP officers also give paper Form I-94 to specific categories of individuals, such as refugees, some asylees, and parolees. 

Mexican nationals who enter the United States with a border crossing card usually do not get I-94 records. However, you can request one if you are traveling into the United States beyond the 25-mile limit. 

How do immigration officials use Form I-94?

Immigration officials use Form I-94 to check how long you’re authorized to stay in the United States. Your passport admission stamp and I-94 record show your “Admit Until Date.” The date indicates how long you can stay in the country. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer who provides your entry stamp on your passport may also write “Duration of Status” or “D/S” as your “Admit Until Date.” “D/S” means you can stay in the United States until your visa expiration date or for as long as you remain in your authorized non-immigrant status. For example, if they have post-completion OPT approval, students on F-1 visas can stay in the United States even after their visa stamp expires, as long as they remain students. They will need to renew their visa stamp after leaving the United States so they can re-enter in F-1 status to continue working on OPT.

The I-94 travel record also indicates when you entered and left the United States in the past. This record can be essential to prove you entered the country lawfully and did not overstay your visa. You may also need this information for specific government agency processes, such as applying for a driver’s license. 

If you extend your stay or adjust your status after arriving in the United States, such as getting a green card, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will give you a new Form I-94 or another document to show your lawful status. 

Who needs to have an I-94 form?

People entering the United States who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents most likely need an I-94 form. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) automatically issues this document upon your arrival. You may not have to get one if:

  • You are entering through the Visa Waiver Program or Compact of Free Association
  • You are using a Border Crossing Card, 
  • You are re-entering using an automatic visa revalidation as a visa-holder temporarily visiting Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean, or
  • You are entering temporarily as a flight crew employee. 

Certain visitors are exempt from filing Form I-94. If you are a visitor with a visa waiver, you no longer need to file Form I-94W and instead can easily access your arrival and departure information online. However, flight crew members should file Form I-95. These have a similar purpose of providing travel history, like a regular I-94. You should check with a CBP officer when you arrive in the United States if these situations apply to you. 

How do you get a Form I-94 travel record?

After you arrive in the United States, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent will examine your passport and non-immigrant visa. They will then enter your information into an electronic tracking system and stamp your passport. You may receive a paper I-94 card if you are entering by land. If you enter by sea or air, you will receive one electronically. 

Suppose you receive the form electronically as an air or sea traveler. In that case, you will likely receive printed instructions about accessing it. You can also easily view your record online or download and print out a copy through CBP’s official website

If you arrive by land, you will likely receive a paper version. It will be a small white card attached to a visitor’s passport. Make sure to give this paper I-94 to the officer when leaving the United States. This form will track your departure and show you did not overstay your visa.

What is the I-94 number?

After CBP provides you with an I-94 form, you will get a unique code that connects to your record. This code links to a specific entrance to the United States. Every time you enter, you will receive a different I-94 number. You can find this number on your paper card or your electronic record. It may be required by your employer or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if you are applying for a driver’s license. 

Until May 2019, the I-94 numbers were 11 digits of numbers. Now, they are 11 digits but a mix of letters and numbers. However, unexpired I-94 forms based on the old system are valid until they pass their “Admit Until Date.”

Frequently asked questions about Form I-94

Check out these answers to frequently asked questions about Form I-94, including whether there is a separate form from the travel record, the cost to get a Form I-94, what happens if you have both paper and electronic versions, how to access the online form, and what to do if your information is incorrect. 

Is there a separate form for the I-94 travel record?

There is no separate form because the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record is the “form.” Immigration officials call it “Form I-94,” but it is not an actual form - it’s just a record of your arrivals and departures. You won’t have to file a form - CBP will automatically issue you one when you enter a border crossing. 

How much does it cost to get Form I-94?

There is no fee for the I-94 form, regardless of whether you enter the United States by land, sea, or air, and whether your form is paper or electronic. 

If you are arriving at a land border port of entry, you can apply online for a provisional I-94 one week or less before your arrival date. This form costs $6 and is not mandatory, but it can make your wait at the border shorter. 

You can also get a copy of your I-94 travel record for free if you enter the United States after April 2013. If you entered before then, you could request a copy of your record by submitting Form I-102, “Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document,” and pay the $445 fee. 

What happens if you have both paper and electronic I-94 records?

If you receive an electronic record after arriving in the United States by sea or air but leave by land, your departure may not be automatically recorded because paper I-94 records track land departure. 

However, you still want to prove you left the country before your visa expired. You can do this by requesting an entrance stamp in your passport from the Canadian or Mexican border officials. You can also keep any transportation tickets, receipts, or pay stubs to prove your departure. 

How can I access my online I-94 record?

To access your I-94 form online, you can use the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s online portal. To log in, you need to correctly enter your information, including your name and passport number. If you can’t find your I-94 travel record, you can check the guidelines on how to enter your information correctly and seek further assistance. 

What if my I-94 record is incorrect?

If there is an error, you need to contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to correct the mistake. You can schedule an in-person interview at a local USCIS office or call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283. 

If this error occurred when you first entered the United States, you need to visit a local CBP deferred inspection site or port of entry to correct it. 

What if my I-94 record is missing?

Most I-94 records now exist online. You can just download a copy of your travel record from the CBP website for free. 

If you entered before April 2013, you could request a copy of your earlier records by filing Form I-102, “Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document,” and paying the $445 filing fee. 

Conclusion

If you want to get your Form I-94 to apply for a green card, it can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you want to apply for a green card but can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!

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