I-94 Form

(Arrival/Departure Record)

The entry and exit of holders of U.S. nonimmigrant visa or ESTA in the Visa Waiver Program to and from the U.S. will be documented using the I-94 form (arrival/departure record).

 

What is the I-94 form?

The so-called I-94 form or entry form initially documents entry and exit into or from the U.S. of travelers holding a nonimmigrant visa or an approved ESTA authorization, i.e. participants of the Visa Waiver Program.

In the I-94 form, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, CBP for short, stores simple data identifying the traveler - such as name, passport number, flight details, etc. - hence the name "Arrival / Departure Record". The I-94 form serves as proof of lawful entry or departure of foreign persons.

At the same time, the document serves as proof of legal status (= residence status) within the United States, in addition to important documents such as the U.S. visa or passport, including the entry stamp.
Almost all travelers visiting the United States receive an I-94 form upon arrival, except for e. g.:

  • U.S. citizen
  • holder of an immigrant visa (Green Card)
  • the majority of Canadian citizens  under certain conditions
  • Mexican nationals on entry with a Border Crossing Card (for short stays)
  • Crewmember (C-1/D or D visa)  these usually receive an I-95 form
  • Persons entering the Automatic Visa Revalidation process

Within certain procedures, foreigners who legally reside in the U.S. already may also receive a new I-94 form from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For example, if the residence status is extended within the U.S. (Status Extension) or changed (Change of Status). The approval letter from the USCIS (Approval Notice) will then contain a new I-94 in paper form, which must be added to the passport to document the new (legal) status. In addition, this information is also deposited and available in the electronic system, i. e. on the official I-94 website.

How do I get my I-94?

Since May 2013, the I-94 entry form has been electronically generated and entries into and out of the U.S. are automatically registered online with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Therefore, non-U.S. citizens entering the United States by plane or ship do not need to pre-fill an I-94 in paper form at the border or on the aircraft / ship. Upon entry, only the passport (including the U.S. visa) and, if necessary, additional documents must be presented to the border official, depending on the visa category. The data is then recorded by scanning the passport and is recorded electronically in the system of the U.S. authorities.

Persons entering with a U.S. visa or the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) will then have the electronic version of the entry form available on the official I-94 website immediately after crossing the border. After entering the country, the current I-94 can be viewed logging in online using the passport data. The USCIS/CBP store all relevant information about the residence status:

  • I-94 number 
  • surname 
  • date of birth 
  • passport information 
  • day of entry 
  • visa category under which you entered 
  • date of latest permitted departure

We recommend that all travelers check the details on this website and print out their I-94 form immediately after entering the United States.

Image of the online I-94 form

The online form I-94 contains all relevant information regarding the residence status

 

In addition to the electronic collection of data via the I-94 form, all foreigners are usually additionally given a stamp on the passport when they enter the United States, which in turn indicates

  • the day of entry
  • the visa category 
  • the date on which the traveler must leave the U.S. again.

Prior to the introduction of the I-94 Electronic Form or I-94 Automation, all U.S. visa holders had to hand-fill the I-94 form and visa-free travelers with the I-94W form by hand. The form then had to be completed in full to the border official, presented together with the passport (and visa, if applicable) at the counter. A section of the I-94 or I-94W form was then stapled into the traveler’s passport and had to be handed over upon departure. Only then was the timely departure documented. Today, the departure is automatically recorded electronically.

Note: Electronic I-94 automation only affects people arriving in the United States by plane or ship.

I-94A vs. I-94

Foreign travelers entering the United States by land (via Canada or Mexico) must continue to fill out the I-94 paper form (also called I-94A) and leave on departing the United States. Only then will the timely departure be documented.

Image of the I-94A form

I-94A form, source: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/form-i-94

 

As of September 2016, land-based travelers have the option of requesting preliminary I-94 by electronic means in advance of the journey. Thus, the entry by land can be expedited and more comfortable.

The registration of entry by land can be done up to six days before entering the U.S. by completing the special online form for "Land Border Crossings". For this you need:

  • first and last name
  • date of birth
  • nationality
  • passport number
  • issuance and expiration date of the passport
  • possibly visa number and date of issue of the visa

At the end of the process, a fee of 6 U.S. dollars will be charged, which can be paid by PayPal, debit or credit card, but is non-refundable. Travelers receive a receipt for their own documents. Thanks to the receipt of the provisional I-94 in paper form, the U.S. border guards at the port of entry can use the passport to call up the respective data record. Please note that you must arrive within seven days of submitting your application and must carry all the documents you have provided in the online form. The further entry procedure at the border (short interview, possibly delivery of the biometric data, etc.) does not change.

It should be noted that when entering the country by land, a section of the I-94 paper form will be attached to the passport. Travelers must be careful when leaving the country to leave this section at the border - not only when leaving the country by land, but also by air or sea.

Under certain application procedures, foreigners may also submit a new I-94 form from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For example, in the case of status extensions or status changes within the U.S. (i.e. without departure and reentry).

Arrival/Departure History

Since May 1, 2014, the itinerary (Arrival/Departure History) is also available on the official I-94 website. The following two options can be requested by the U.S. traveler:

  1. Get Most Recent I-94: At this point, details of the recent entry are listed, so the current I-94 including the current residence status displayed.
  2. View Travel History: Based on the recorded "I-94 Records", the itinerary (entries and exits) for the past five years is displayed.

Persons traveling with different passports to the United States over the years must make another inquiry with the second passport number. There is no merger of the data in a single travel history.

Where is the residence status or the date of departure noted?

Leaving the U.S. is usually not a particular hurdle. Most U.S. travelers know how, but not always when they have to leave the United States.

Please note in this context that the U.S. authorities distinguish between the visa and the so-called residence status (noted in I-94). The validity period on the visa only determines the period during which you may use this travel document to enter the United States. The residence status and thus also the date of departure or the period of stay will be redefined by the U.S. border official each time when entering the U.S. This differs very often from the validity of the visa.

The residence status can be found in two places:

1. The data collected on entry and status can be accessed by the traveler on the I-94 website. Foreign travelers must leave the United States at the latest on the date indicated on the electronic I-94 receipt. For certain categories (such as the J-1 or F-1 visa), only "D / S" (= duration of status) is noted. Certain special rules apply here.

2. Although the paper version of the I-94 form has been dropped, except for land-based entries, the border guards still record the residence status directly in the passport. This is done in the form of an entry stamp confirming the date of entry, the visa category and the date on which the person must leave the U.S. at the latest. The most important data, the traveler will therefore continue carrying in his passport.

With the help of a special function in the I-94 form, travelers can also request the latest possible legal departure date at any time after having entered a few biographical details or call up the remaining days in the granted travel period.

The feature can be retrieved on the I-94 website in the "View Compliance" section by entering

  • first and last name
  • date of birth
  • passport number
  • issuance country of the passport.

As a result, the traveler receives information about how many days he can still remain in the U.S. or by how many days he has exceeded the allowed departure date.

Since January 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will also send reminder reminders 10 days prior to the end of their residency status to remind them of their timely departure. Thus, travelers can better plan their departure and no longer get themselves into the situation of missing the timely departure by mistake. Initially, this e-mail reminder will only be given to Visa Waiver Program Travelers (ESTA), but the system will gradually be extended to non-immigrant visa holders as well.

The purpose of this feature and e-mail notifications is to give travelers an extra reminder to respect the allowed time frame of their stay so they do not overstay. Briefly explained: Exceeding the permitted stay period (= overstay) can lead to problems with future U.S. travels and entries, including visa refusal and entry bans, and should always be avoided.

If an overstay occurred nonetheless, the traveler will be informed by e-mail and forwarded to the I-94 page, where the next necessary steps will be communicated.

By the way: It is of course possible for U.S. travelers to clearly recognize without this function or reminder e-mail, when their residence status in the U.S. ends. On the I-94 website under the heading "Get Most Recent I-94", travelers can view their current I-94. Among other information, it lists the departure date. In addition, travelers at the border get a stamp in their passport, where once again the date is noted, by which the person must leave at the latest.

Attention: Travelers are obliged to leave the United States in due time – so they have to make sure themselves to keep an eye on their allowed maximum period of stay.

Return I-94 form at departure?

Since May 2013, the departure by plane or ship is recorded on the respective travel information of the airline or the shipping company. These automatically transmit the travel data to the U.S. authorities. Travelers are therefore not required to take any further action.

Exception: Only persons entering by land via Mexico and Canada (e.g. by car) and who continue to receive a form I-94A on paper, must hand in the section remaining in the passport, even if they then leave the country by air or sea. Only by handing in the paper form I-94A on departure can the traveler document the timely departure from the U.S. If this is not done, problems may occur for the next entry into the U.S. You can find out how to rectify this problem retrospectively with the U.S. authority CBP.

Entry Stamp Control

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.

Where can I print my I-94?

Travelers who are already in the U.S. and who would like to see their current status, or those who need a copy to submit elsewhere, can view, download and print the current I-94 form on the I-94 website.
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.

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