The entry and exit of holders of U.S. non-immigrant visas or ESTA authorization participants in the Visa Waiver Process to and from the U.S. will be documented using the I-94 immigration form (arrival/departure record). Simple data that is used to identify travelers, including name, passport number, flight details, etc., will be stored electronically using the I-94.
Since May 2013, the I-94 immigration form has been generated electronically. Therefore, travelers entering the United States with a visa by air or sea no longer have to fill out the I-94 form at the border. Upon entry travelers need only show their passport (and U.S. visa) as well as possibly other documents to the border officer depending on the visa category. Data is collected by scanning the passport, and it is electronically transmitted to the system maintained by the U.S. authorities.
Before the introduction of I-94 automation, all holders of U.S. visas had to complete an I-94 Form by hand when entering the United States. The form had to be filled out completely, and then it had to be presented to the border officers together with the passport and U.S. visa at the counter. A section of the I-94 form was stapled or attached to the traveler’s passport and then removed when leaving the country.
However, I-94 automation only applies to persons who arrive by air or sea in the United States. Visa holders who enter the U.S. over land (from Canada or Mexico) must continue to fill out the I-94 in paper form and to submit it when leaving the USA. However, since September 2016 travelers now have the opportunity to apply electronically for a temporary I-94 in advance of their trip. This now makes entries by land faster and more convenient. At the border, the border officer will bring up your record using your passport and provide you with a printout of the filled-out I-94 form. The other entry procedures at the border (short interview, scanning of biometric data, if necessary, etc.) remain the same.
Visa holders can access the electronic form of the Arrival/Departure Record on the official I-94 website. You can view your current I-94 form on the Internet after you have entered the country using your passport information. At this point the USCIS/CBP stores all relevant information about your residence status: I-94 number, name, date of birth, passport information, date of entry, visa category that was used to enter the country, and the latest date by which the person must leave the United States. We recommend that all travelers carefully check all of their details directly on this website after entry and print out the form.
Since May 1, 2014, the itinerary (arrival/departure history) has also been made available online. The following two options can be requested by U.S. travelers:
Travelers that have used different passports to enter the United States over the years must make separate requests for each passport number. The website is not able to merge all of the data into a single Travel History.”
The U.S. authorities distinguish between the visa and the so-called residence status. The validity period of your visa only determines the period of time during which you are allowed to use this travel document.
The need for a paper version of the I-94 form has indeed been eliminated, but the border officers will continue to note the residence status directly in the passport. This takes the form of an entry stamp confirming the date of entry, the visa category, and the date on which the person must leave the United States at the latest. Therefore, the traveler will continue to find the most important data in his passport book.
Since May 2013, departures by air or sea are noted in the respective travel information of the airline or shipping company. This travel data is transmitted to the U.S. authorities. Travelers are therefore not required to take any further action. Before the introduction of the electronic I-94, traveler departures were documented in the section of the I-94 that was issued at the border.
Now only persons who enter overland (e.g., by car) will continue to receive a paper version of the I-94. This must be submitted when leaving, even if the traveler will later leave the United States by air or sea.
We recommend that all travelers directly check the details of the admission stamp in their passport immediately after passing through border control. If travelers detect any errors, (e.g., an incorrect entry date or wrong visa category), they should immediately (before leaving the airport/port) bring the issue to the attention of the border officers and request that the stamp be changed.
In order to make sure that there are no errors in the electronic I-94, travelers should in addition log into the website of the CBP in order to make sure that the data there matches. If any errors are noted, changes may only be made at so-called deferred inspection sites.
If you want to apply for a Social Security Card, an American driver's license, or a general work permit (EAD), we strongly recommend that you keep a printout of your electronic I-94 with you during the application process.