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Avoiding Erroneous Overstay Violations

CBP I-94 retrieval systemNow that Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has fully implemented its program to automate Form I-94 at all air and sea ports-of-entry, travelers are finding that a few issues have arisen.  One of the main concerns is that the system is set up in such a way that an overstay violation may be triggered inadvertently, but with potentially serious consequences.  As such, the following are a few tips every nonimmigrant should be aware of.

  • If you are a foreign visitor to the U.S. who is entering by air or sea, the first thing you should do is obtain your I-94 entry information from  CBP’s automated system.
  • You must print your I-94 information while you are inside the U.S.  Once you exit the U.S., that record is deleted from the CBP system and cannot be retrieved.
  • Once you print it out, make sure all of the information was entered correctly by CBP.  Mistakes DO happen.
  • If you enter your entry information and the system does not “find” your information, try the suggestions listed in our previous post Automated I-94 pointers.
  • You must save all your I-94 information.
  • If you enter by air or sea but depart by land, you must record your departure.  In the past, when you were issued an actual I-94 card stapled into your passport, you would hand that in when you left the U.S. to evidence your departure.  With the new system, if you enter by land or sea, you aren’t given an I-94 card so CBP has nothing to take from you to document your departure if you leave by land.  This can prove detrimental for all nonimmigrants including Canadian and Mexican citizens.  Since there is no formal record when departing by land, a nonimmigrant (including Canadian and Mexican citizens) can be charged with overstay violations.
  • Overstay violations may result in deportation from the U.S., bars to reentering the U.S for a set period of time (usually three or ten years), and denial of other nonimmigrant benefits.
  • In order to avoid overstay violations, you must keep evidence of your departure such as:
    • Entry stamp into another Country;
    • Credit card charges and receipts from purchases in another Country;
    • Transportation tickets;
    • Picture with time and date stamp on the picture showing you near an identifiable landmark;
    • Picture with you holding a newspaper with the date from the foreign city; and
    • Any other evidence that will clearly show the date you were in another country.

While the information above applies to all nonimmigrants, Canadian and Mexican citizens should take special note of these suggestions.  Because most Canadians and Mexicans are not accustomed to recording entry and departure, overstay violations can be erroneously triggered.  Therefore, every time you enter the U.S. by sea or air and leave by land, you must keep record of your departure.
If you have any questions about avoiding overstay violations and the new automated I-94 system, please contact us.