Form I-94 is a key immigration document that requires close attention to ensure it is accurate and current.
One of the most important documents you will ever need in navigating U.S. immigration is the I-94 Form. The I-94 Form is no longer a little white card stapled into your passport. That little white card was replaced two years ago by an online system and this is where it gets tricky.
When you go through the immigration inspection at the airport, the officer will stamp your passport but will NOT give you an I-94. The date stamp in your passport verifies your entry into the U.S. The I-94 is the controlling document that determines the period during which your non-immigrant status is valid. So how do you get an I-94? That is going to be your responsibility to find online.
Once you are near a computer and a printer, you must print out your new Form I-94 by going to https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/. To access your I-94 you will need to know your exact name as it appears in your passport, the date and status in which you arrived, your birthdate and your passport number. You will then be able to access, download and print out your I-94. You can also access and print out your entire I-94 history as well.
Now comes the hard part. You must check carefully to make sure that the expiration date on the I-94 is correct. If you are a student or a J-1 exchange visitor, your expiration date will be D/S which means ‘duration of status’ as determined by your I-20 if you are a student or your DS-2019 if you are a J-1 exchange visitor. If you have a working non-immigrant visa status you will have a “valid until” I-94 date that corresponds to the date on your I-797 Notice of Approval. Make sure the dates are the same. Sometimes CBP will allow 10 extra days “grace period” at the end of your stay. E-2 visa holders with a valid visa should be given two years of authorized stay on every single entry even if they only have 4 days left on their visa.
What to do if there is an error? The best strategy is to discover the error as soon as it occurs. In the event of a true error, the best thing to do is to go to Deferred Inspections either at the airport or your nearest USCIS office – you don’t need an appointment – and explain what happened and ask the officer to correct your I-94. If it is indeed agency error, the officer will fix the I-94. Another way to correct an error on the I-94 is to take a trip overseas and come back in with a correct stamp in your passport and hopefully a correct I-94.
Whatever you do, the Form I-94 is YOUR responsibility and you must make sure it is correct and up-to-date at all times. You will always need it.