CBP Plans to Eliminate I-94 Card (Arrival/Departure Record)

168923_ready_to_go.jpgThe U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it will be eliminating the I-94 card, an immigration document that was previously very important for foreign nationals.

Currently, every foreign national receives an I-94 card when he or she enters the United States. The CBP officer who checks the foreign national's passport, visa, and other immigration documents issues the card. The card contains an eleven digit number unique to the foreign national, the foreign national's name, date of birth, and visa status (such as F-1, H-1B, etc.) and date the status expires.

The reason why the I-94 card was so important is because it contained the date the foreign national's status expires. The foreign national must depart the U.S. or extend his or her status before the I-94 expiration date or the individual will be unlawfully present in the U.S., which leads to very serious immigration consequences.

Since the I-94 card has been so important for immigrants, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the CBP is going to eliminate it. The CBP offers two reasons for its decision. First, CBP feels that the I-94 card has essentially become unnecessary as the agency already maintains access to the same data that is provided on the card. Foreign nationals provide that information when they initially apply for their visas at U.S. consulates, and the consulates transmit the information back to CBP upon approving and issuing visas.

Second, CBP anticipates that eliminating the I-94 card will save the agency time and money. The agency has estimated that the costs of producing the I-94 cards, both financially and in terms of manpower, amount to $19 million a year.

In consideration of these factors, CBP will be eliminating the I-94 card completely. In its place, the CBP has proposed creating an admission stamp to be placed in foreign nationals' passports. The stamp will have a handwritten notation that states the visa status and expiration date.

Concern over the proposed admission stamp prompted CBP to agree that it would consider instituting an online system that would allow foreign nationals to confirm that the date of their status expiration is correct. The online system would also have a function for foreign nationals to print out an admission record receipt.

(It is important to note that, at the present time, I-94 cards will still be issued to some classes of foreign nationals such as refugees.)

Since these changes are still under discussion, several questions remain unanswered concerning how the elimination of the I-94 cards will relate to other immigration filings. For example, many of the forms utilized by USCIS to process immigration benefits (such as the I-129, I-140, etc.) request the applicant's I-94 number and date. Although CBP has stated that it has communicated its plans to eliminate the I-94 card to USCIS, to date USCIS has not released a statement noting whether or not it will update its forms to reflect the change.

Additionally, and very importantly, the decision to eliminate I-94 cards may also affect immigrants' abilities to obtain driver's licenses. Many state motor vehicle bureaus utilize databases that link a foreign national's legal status to the I-94 card. Once the I-94 card is eliminated, these states would likely have to alter their databases in order to allow for the input of the foreign national's admission stamp to verify their status. These and many other changes can be expected once CBP solidifies its plans for the elimination of the I-94 card.

The Gee Law Firm recognizes the importance of this proposed change and will be following these developments very closely in order to best advise our clients regarding these issues. To speak to one of our skilled attorneys, contact us at 650-293-0270.

Additional Blog Posts

CBP Updates for Traveling with Green Cards, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 28, 2012
Applying for an Immigration DREAM is actually a Complex Process, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, August 16, 2012

by Michelle Gee