I-94 Arrival/Departure Record FAQ
Updated on 03/12/2023
If you are a foreign national first time arrival to the Unites States, you must be very impressed how you were inspected at the international airport (or other port of entry). Upon entry, you will be issued an I-94. It is a very important document for any foreign national visiting the United States. Let’s learn more about it.
1. What is I-94?
I-94, officially known as Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, is a form used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intended to keep track of the arrival and departure to/from the United States of aliens (means people who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents).
2. Who may issue I-94?
The two agencies under the DHS: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have the right to issue I-94. Specifically, CBP issues I-94 to aliens when they enter the United States at ports of entry, including airports, sea ports, and land ports. USCIS issues its equivalent of I-94 as part of the I-797A approval notice when aliens apply for change or extend their nonimmigrant status in the United States.
3. Who will get I-94?
People who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents enter the United States legally will be issued I-94. In addition, people successfully change or extend their nonimmigrant status in the United States will be issued I-94.
4. Why I-94 is important?
I-94 is the proof that a foreign national was allowed entry into the United States. Not only does it prove that someone enters the United States legally, but it also says how long and in what nonimmigrant status they are allowed to stay. If you’d like to apply for change or extend nonimmigrant status or apply for green card through adjustment of status inside the United States in the future, you must submit a copy of I-94 together your application to prove you entered and/or stayed in the United States legally.
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5. Where to get a copy of I-94?
If you entered the United States legally after 2013 and have never changed or extended your nonimmigrant status in the United States, you may go to the website of CBP to get an electronic I-94 record for your most recent entry. You may also get your travel history at the same website.
If you entered the United States legally before 2013 and have never changed or extended your nonimmigrant status in the United States, you may find the paper I-94 card in your passport; normally it was attached to the page with your most recent entry stamp by CBP.
If you have successfully changed or extended your nonimmigrant status in the United States, you may find the I-94 part in the right bottom of the I-797 approval notice issued by USCIS.
6. How I-94 looks like?
After 2013, CBP switched away from paper I-94 to electronic I-94. Besides, USCIS issues I-94 as the part of the I-797 approval notice. So, there are three formats of I-94 as follow:
7. Why I can’t find the record of electronic I-94 at the website of CBP?
Please double check whether you enter the right information in its I-94 search page. If you ever changed or renewed your passport, please try to enter the information in the former passport and new passport separately. If the system continuously indicates no record found, then you can go to the nearest CBP port of entry or the nearest CBP deferred inspection office in person, to have the information updated. For locations and hours of operation visit the CBP’s website at https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports.
8. What if there is an error in the record of electronic I-94?
Similar as above, you need to go to the nearest CBP port of entry or the nearest CBP deferred inspection office in person, to have the information corrected. For locations and hours of operation visit the CBP’s website at https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports.
9. What if no I-94 in the I-797A Approval Notice?
First, you must figure out it is an error by USCIS or not. If it is an error by USCIS for sure, you may go to USCIS’s e-request page to file a request online to correct a typographic error in the approval notice. If USCIS approves your request, it will mail you an updated approval notice with I-94. If USCIS is reluctant to do so, you have no choice but to file Form I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document.
If it is not an error by USCIS and the I-797 Approval Notice is issued for an I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, without I-94 means USCIS approves the request for nonimmigrant working visa but denied the change of status request in the I-129 petition. If that the case, you should leave the U.S. to apply for a working visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate then re-enter the U.S. with the working visa. However, it is highly recommended to consult an immigration attorney before you leave the U.S. because you might have trouble in obtaining a working visa or trigger the 3-year or 10- year inadmissible bar.
10. What if there is an error in the I-797A Approval Notice?
Again, you may go to USCIS’s e-request page to file a request online to correct a typographic error in the approval notice. If USCIS approves your request, it will mail you an updated approval notice with I-94. If USCIS is reluctant to do so, you have no choice but to file Form I-102. USCIS will charge $445 filing fee. However, you do not need to pay the filing fee if USCIS made the error through no fault of your own.
11. What if paper I-94 issued before 2013 was lost?
Try you best to find its copy. If no where to find a copy of I-94, in most cases USCIS will still be fine with a copy of entry stamp in your passport because USCIS can check the I-94 record by itself in the system linked with CBP. Another option is to file Form I-102 to get a new paper I-94, which will cost you $445 filing fee.
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