What is the Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record?
The Form I-94 is an immigration form issued by the Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP). It is issued to all aliens who are admitted to the United States as well as those aliens who seek adjustment of status or an extension of stay while in the United States. The Form I-94 has the date on which the alien was admitted to the United States and the date on which he or she must depart. Each Form I-94 also includes a Form I-94 number.
For a long time, the Form I-94 was always issued in paper format. However, beginning on April 30, 2013, the CBP began issuing many Form I-94s electronically. All aliens will have an electronic Form I-94 generated except for those who are admitted at a land border port of entry, who still receive paper Form I-94s.
In addition, the CBP’s Form I-94 website contains an alien’s travel information as it has been entered on his or her current passport going back five years. However, it is important to note that the travel information does not constitute an “official” government document and, therefore, may not take all travel into account or be completely up-to-date.
Importance of the Form I-94
When an alien intends to pursue immigration benefits, or even certain government benefits that require proof of status, he or she must submit documentation verifying his or her immigration status. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) almost always requires proof of lawful entry into the United States for those seeking benefits. The Form I-94 will usually suffice as proof of lawful entry. However, merely being able to produce the Form I-94 does not guarantee eligibility for a benefit nor serve as proof that the alien has maintained lawful status subsequent to his or her lawful admission.
Retrieve a Form I-94 Electronically
In order to retrieve a Form I-94 from the CBP website, the alien must visit the CBP’s website at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home. The website contains detailed instructions for retrieving the Form I-94. The alien will be required to enter his or her full name, date of birth, passport number, and passport country of issuance as it appears on the passport that he or she had used to obtain the Form I-94 being requested.
Retrieve a Lost Paper Form I-94 With No Electronic Record
If an alien loses his or her paper Form I-94, and there is no electronic record on the Form I-94 website, he or she may file the Form I-120, Application for Replacement/Initial Non-Immigrant Arrival/Departure Document, with the USCIS. The filing fee is $330.00 as of October 14, 2016.
Viewing Travel History on the Form I-94 Website
A person may also retrieve his or her travel history for the previous five years associated with his or her current passport. The forms are located online at the Form I-94 website. The process is similar as for retrieving a Form I-94. Please note that, in addition to the caveats noted in section one, the travel information will only be that which is associated with the alien’s current passport. In order to retrieve travel information outside of the five-year window or travel information associated with a different passport, an alien must make an inquiry with the CBP.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests
An alien or his or her attorney may also seek information regarding his or her arrival/departure record associated with a specific passport by filing a FOIA request with the CBP. If an alien no longer needs the information requested, he or she may cancel the request by using the FOIA request number.
The CBP’s move toward Form I-94 automation means that many Form I-94s have to be retrieved online. The Form I-94 website also allows the alien to retrieve certain travel information associated with his or her current passport. Aliens seeking immigration benefits, extension of stay, or adjustment of status are well advised to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. In addition to helping with complex application processes, an experienced immigration attorney will be able to assist if there are any issues involving the retrieval of an alien’s Form I-94 or his or her travel history.