Almost all non-US nationals who have traveled to the U.S. at least once are familiar with the little white (or green) card inserted into one’s passport upon admission into the U.S. (sample) Many people do not fully realize the significance of the Form I-94 — most importantly, it records the entry date into the U.S. and determines how long a foreign national is entitled to remain lawfully in the U.S. Form I-94 card is important document serving to establish valid status in the U.S. and to obtain certain benefits, including driving licenses.
Proposed Elimination of Form I-94
In the near future, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP, the agency which admits foreign nationals in the U.S.) is expected to stop issuing Form I-94s to most foreign national at the U.S. ports of entry. The Department of Homeland Security (which oversees CBP and Citizenship and Immigration Service) is instead proposing to use an automated entry system to record each nonimmigrant’s arrival. Travelers will receive a passport stamp annotated with their immigration status and the date their period of stay expires. After the I-94 is eliminated, CBP may create an online portal to allow nonimmigrants to check their status and period of stay and print out a record of their admission. But until such time, foreign nationals will only have their passport stamp to prove entry and validity of status.
It should be noted that foreign nationals entering at land ports of entry will, for the time being, continue to receive a functional I-94 card, as will refugees and some other classes of foreign nationals.
What the I-94 Change Means to Employers and Foreign Nationals
Currently, the I-94 card is used as proof of lawful immigration status and the permissible period of stay. In addition, numerous federal and state agencies use the I-94 to verify whether a foreign national is entitled to certain benefits, including a Social Security number, a driver’s license, among others. USCIS rules require nonimmigrants to carry the I-94 as proof of their status.
Further, along with a valid foreign passport, the I-94 is one of the documents used to verify a foreign national’s employment eligibility on Form I-9 and in the E-Verify database. Since Form I-9 require employees to present and employers to inspect the actual paper I-94 card, it is important for employers to expect, and keep abreast of, the upcoming changes. It is not yet clear how elimination of the I-94 will affect these critical procedures and requirements pertaining to completing the Form I-9. Though CBP has been meeting for some time now with interested government agencies about its paperless I-94 implementation program, specific plans to revise regulations that currently require Form I-94 are not yet known.
While we applaud the government’s efforts to create a more efficient paperless system of recording foreign nationals’ entry information, the impact of eliminating the paper Form I-94 is significant and, in many cases, not fully understood and analyzed. We will continue monitoring this subject and provide updates to our clients and readers. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help you. Also, please visit us again or subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you obtain related immigration-related news and announcements.