Form I-94, the Arrival/Departure Record, is a form used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to keep track of the arrival and status of people who enter the U.S. through ports of entry who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Since April 30, 2013, CBP no longer issues paper-based I-94 cards, and now only the record electronically, where it can be accessed online at: www.cbp.gov/I94 .
I-94 records are typically issued automatically each time a foreign national (excluding a lawful permanent resident) enters the U.S. through a port of entry and are typically done free of charge, but admissions through a U.S. land border (crossing over from Canada or Mexico) are different. Foreign nationals entering the U.S. through a U.S. land border must affirmatively apply for and pay $6.00 for an I-94 record.
Travelers can apply for and pay for their I-94 online up to 7 days prior to arriving at a land port of entry: www.cbp.gov/I94. Applying in advance of travel speeds up the admission process at the port of entry, and ensures that the traveler has a record of their status once in the U.S. This I-94 application fee is collected online via PayPal or credit/debit card and is non-refundable.
Travelers will receive a provisional I-94 after submitting their application and payment online. The I-94 application will collect information that is otherwise collected in-person at the land port of entry, to include information such as biographic information (name, date of birth, country of citizenship), passport details, visa details (if applicable), and petition/Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) number (if applicable).
The provisional I-94 record created in advance of travel, however, does not guarantee that the traveler will actually be allowed to enter the U.S. In order to finalize the I-94 issuance process, a traveler must present themselves at a land port of entry within 7 days of their application and submit biometrics, if applicable, and be interviewed by a CBP officer. Travelers should be prepared to show evidence of their residence, employment, and/or travel plans, if requested by the CBP officer.
If the traveler does not complete their I-94 issuance process within 7 days of their application, their provisional I-94 will expire and they will have to reapply and the pay the fee again. There are no refunds if the I-94 is not issued within the 7 day period or if the traveler is denied entrance to the United States.
A foreign national’s status (excluding lawful permanent residents) is typically based on the period of admission given at the time of their last entry into the U.S. Upon every entry into the U.S., every foreign national client should review their I-94 record to track their status, expiration, and to ensure they were admitted properly. Failure to apply for and obtain an I-94 record through a land-border may result in the traveler not knowing the period of their admission (status), inadvertently overstaying or violating their visa, or even risking future admissions to the U.S. or deportation proceedings. Contact an immigration attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. if you have questions or issues related to your I-94 record.