Paper Form I-94 Eliminated

By Roy Maurer Mar 27, 2013

​U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it’s doing away with the familiar paper Form I-94 for most users. The paper card has greeted most foreign nationals arriving in the United States for the last 50 years.

Stating that the move would ease entry into the U.S. and save millions of dollars in processing costs, the agency formally submitted new rules March 27, 2013, that would automate the form and make it electronic.

Form I-94 provides international visitors with evidence they have been lawfully admitted to the U.S., which is necessary to verify alien registration, immigration status and employment authorization.

The automation means that affected visitors will no longer need to fill out a paper form when arriving to the U.S. by air or sea.

Paper Forms I-94 will still be provided to those without a passport, such as refugees and asylees.

The change will become effective on April 26, 2013, and will be implemented at air and sea ports of entry in a phased approach beginning April 30, CBP said. The phased implementation should take about one month, a CBP official told SHRM Online.

The Form I-94

Currently, CBP issues a paper Form I-94 on arrival to most foreign nationals entering the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, exempting visitors from the Visa Waiver Program countries. Visa Waiver entrants have been using an electronic process for their Forms I-94W since 2010.

The I-94 card governs the foreign national’s period of authorized stay and contains his or her nonimmigrant status, the expiration date of the stay and a unique identifying number. The form is used to document status in the United States, the authorized length of stay and departure. The form is also issued when an alien changes immigration status within the United States. Biographical information, visa and passport information, and the address and phone number where the alien can be reached while in the United States are collected on the form. The form is used for various purposes such as completing employment eligibility verification, applying for immigration benefits or to present to a university to verify eligibility for enrollment.

Transition to Automated Form

Visitors complete the current paper form while en route to the United States and present the completed form to the CBP officer at primary inspection. The officer stamps the form and the alien’s passport, detaches the bottom portion of the form, which is the departure portion, and returns it along with the passport. The admission stamp contains the port of arrival and date of arrival. The top portion of the form—the arrival portion—is sent to a data entry facility where the information is entered into a CBP database. The alien turns in the departure portion of the Form I-94 upon departure, generally to the air or sea carrier (airlines or sealines), which returns the forms to CBP.

Since 2001, CBP has collected information on travelers by air or sea to the United States electronically from carriers in advance of arrival. Thus, for people arriving in the United States by air or sea, CBP obtains almost all of the information contained on the paper Form I-94 electronically and in advance. Therefore, the agency is transitioning to an automated process whereby it will create an electronic Form I-94 based on the information in its databases. The rule makes the necessary changes to the regulations to enable CBP to transition to an automated process.

Travelers wanting a hard copy of the form or other evidence of admission will be directed to (which will go live April 26, 2013) to print a copy of their I-94. To access the form through the website the traveler will need to input information from his or her passport.

CBP will still need to collect Form I-94 information directly on paper forms from travelers arriving overland from Canada or Mexico. The agency anticipates expanding the automation of the form to these travelers in the future.

Benefits of Transition

The automation provides immediate and substantial benefits to the traveling public, to carriers, to CBP and other stakeholders, the agency said. “The automation will eliminate most of the duplicative paper Form I-94 process and reduce wait times at passenger processing, which will facilitate entry of all travelers.”

The automation will also save the time and expense associated with lost Forms I-94, as travelers will simply be able to print out a new copy from the website if needed rather than file an I-102, as currently required, which has a fee of $330.

Additionally, carriers will no longer have to print, store and distribute the forms, and CBP will not have to process them.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy.

Related Articles:

Time to Start Using New Form I-9, SHRM Online Global HR, March 2013

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