Posted by Frank Gogol in Immigrants | Updated on May 29, 2023
When you enter or leave the United States, you will get something that is known as the I-94. If it’s your first time visiting the U.S. or you travel there for education purposes, you may be confused by the I-94 form and you might not know why you need it. Well, if you’re going to stay in the U.S., no matter if it’s for the short term or long term, you must know what Form I-94 is. In this article, we will look into I-94 so you understand exactly what it implies.
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What Is an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record?
The I-94 form, also incorrectly called a “1-94” form sometimes, is a document that helps authorities keep track of people coming into the U.S. or leaving. It serves as proof that you entered the country legally. The form is also known as the “Arrival/Departure Record”.
On top of the entry and departure information, the I-94 also includes information about the visa status of the traveler, as well as details about the permitted stay duration.
As soon as you enter the country, you will receive this document. People who enter at a land port of entry will be given a paper version of it, while those who enter by sea or air travel will get an electronic form. Until 2013, people would receive a paper version regardless of their travel type. This way, they were able to surrender the paper when they left the country, making it known that they departed.
Everyone who enters the U.S. will require the I-94 form. The exceptions include lawful permanent residents, citizens, returning resident aliens, and the majority of Canadian citizens who are in transit or visiting. Some individuals who do not get an I-94 travel record will have to fill out an I-94W form, or an I-95 form. They will serve the same purpose that the I-94 does.
While you’re in the U.S., it’s crucial to keep a copy of the form with you, because it could help prove your legal status so you don’t have problems with the authorities.
Electronic I-94 Record
Electronic records were introduced in 2013 when Customs and Border Protection started issuing them. When any foreign person comes into the U.S., an electronic I-94 arrival/departure record is generated by the CBP. But when this happens, the number is unknown to the traveler. In order to find out what their number is, people who come into the U.S. must go to the I-94 CBP website. This will allow them to get the electronic record so they can have it at hand when they need to show it to the authorities.
Paper I-94 Record
Everyone used to get a paper I-94 form when they got into the U.S., or at least this was the case until May 2013. While air and seaports are not generating electronic I-94 forms, there are still situations when paper versions are given. Paper forms are issued for people who enter the country at the land border ports of entry. People like refugees, aliens, some parolees, and asylees also receive the paper version of the I-94.
Form I-94 for Adjustment of Status
The I-94 form is important proof for people who applied for adjustment of status. It is actually key evidence for most packages for adjustment of status. The document allows the individual owning it to enter the country lawfully and have lawful status. Therefore, this can help them when it comes to moving forward with the status adjustment process.
If you cannot find the form, you can replace it. When the form is incorrect, it is possible to update it so it includes the right information. Also, when there is no I-94 available, you can use an alternative for lawful entry proof.
How Much Does the I-94 Form Cost?
The good thing about the I-94 form is the fact that it costs nothing. You will not have to deal with any fee in exchange for it. This rule applies whether you are traveling by air, sea, or land. Also, it does not matter whether you got an electronic or paper record – you won’t have to pay anything for it.
When you arrive at the land border entry port, you have the opportunity to apply for a provisional I-94 either one week or less before the day you arrive. You can apply for it online, and this will cost you $6. In this case, you will have to deal with a fee, but it is something that decreases the amount of time you wait in line at the border when you arrive.
If you got into the U.S. after April 2013, you could also obtain a copy of your record for free. In order to get earlier records, though, you will have to submit Form I-102, and then pay a filing fee of $445.
Bear in mind that even though no fee is necessary to obtain an I-94 form, you still have to spend a lot of money on the entire immigration process, so you need to be prepared.
Here are some I-94 questions that people ask quite commonly:
How can I find my online I-94 travel record?
Finding your online I-94 travel record is easy – all you have to do is go to the CBP online portal and enter your information, like your passport details and your name.
What if my I-94 travel record is incorrect or incomplete?
In those situations when your I-94 contains errors or is incomplete, you can take some steps to fix these things. You will have to get in contact with USCIS. They will make sure to listen to the issue and work on fixing it. In order to get in contact with them, you can either call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 or schedule an in-person interview at one of the local USCIS offices.
I’ve lost my most recent I-94 card! What should I do?
You can easily get another copy of your travel record by logging into the CBP website. It costs nothing, so this issue will be solved very easily. However, if you entered the U.S. before April 2013, then things can get a bit more complicated and you will have to spend some money in the process.
How can I print or download my I-94 form?
All you have to do is log into the CBP I-94 website. There will be some instructions on your screen, telling you how to download or print the record.
Can I combine paper and electronic I-94 travel records?
When you enter the country by air and get an electronic record, but then leave at a land border and get a paper record, things can be complicated. Your departure may not be recorded automatically. So, you will need to prove that you left the country before the visa expiration. You can do so by asking for an entrance stamp in the passport from the Mexican or Canadian authorities. Also, make sure to keep pay stubs, receipts, or tickets.
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As you can see, an I-94 is important to have if you want to prove your legal entry. Whether it’s in paper or electronic form, make sure to keep this document somewhere close to you because you might need it. We hope our article has offered you all the information you need on Form I-94.