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CBP Mulls Elimination of I-94 Card

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on 08/13/2012 that it plans to eliminate Form I-94: Arrival/Departure Record. This document plays an essential and vital role in proving lawful admission, maintenance of status, and expiration of authorized stay to nonimmigrant aliens. The elimination of the I-94 is already causing great concern on how this will impact immigration processes and how CBP will now monitor admission.CBP stated that two main reason for eliminating the I-94 are (1) CBP already has access to the information gathered on the I-94 cards; and(2) Elimination of the paper I-94 card will save time and money.
When a nonimmigrant alien attends a visa appointment at the U.S. Consulate, they submit an application which is then transmitted to CBP through the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS). The APIS web-based system provides CBP with all the required information on the alien’s stay in the U.S. (such as status and period of stay) which then was listed on I-94 card. By eliminating the I-94 card, CBP asserts that it will save time and reduce costs. According to CBP, the cost to issue I-94 cards in terms of manpower, time and processing is approximately $19 million. In addition, to the $17 million it costs per year for CBP to mail I-94 forms collected by airlines.
While CBP has valid reasons, the elimination of the I-94 will require many immigration practices and policies to change. Currently, one proposed solution to this change is CBP’s plan to issue an admission stamp in the nonimmigrant’s passport. This stamp will include the date of entry and a handwritten note stating the status and authorized period of stay.
Another potential impact of this change is that many forms issued by USCIS (i.e. I-129, I-130, I-485, & etc.) request an I-94 number. At this time, there are no plans to change these forms. Furthermore, the issuance of the I-94 on the bottom of an approval notice for an application to change or extend status might have to change. Currently, it is unknown if the control number on the I-94 that appears at the bottom of a Form I-797 approval notice will truly be connected to the actual record of admission.
The elimination of the I-94 card also impacts state bureaus, such as the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, and may impact employment verification. The DMV relies on the I-94 card when issuing a driver’s license and setting the expiration date to a nonimmigrant alien. The I-94 was also used as one valid proof of employment eligibility for I-9 employment verification.
Originally, CBP was slowly going to start to eliminate the I-94 card in late summer of this year, but now plans are for imminent system-wide elimination. Nonimmigrants arriving by sea or air will no longer receive a functional I-94 card. Instead they may receive a paper Form I-94 which does not provide a control number and therefore will not be connected to any record relating to the alien. As for aliens arriving by land, unless otherwise exempted, they (for now) will still receive a valid I-94 card.
While it may be some time before the I-94 is completely eliminated, procedures are changing and not all of the resulting consequences are known. Berardi Immigration Law recommends that nonimmigrant aliens keep a log of all entries and departures which would include your entry and departure dates, and time and classification of entries.  Such a detailed record  may prove helpful in a future with no I-94 cards.
Berardi Immigration Law stands ready to assist so you can cross the border with confidence.  Contact us today.