All About the (Paperless) I-94

by Ashley Emerson Mendoza


Starting on April 30, 2013, US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) made a major change with the I-94 procedure. Except for certain cases, CBP eliminated the issuance of paper I-94 cards when foreign nationals arrive in the US (for visitors from Visa Waiver Program countries, I-94s were eliminated last July). Now, upon entry to the US, instead of receiving a paper I-94 card, most foreign nationals will receive only an admission stamp in their passport. This admission stamp notes the date and place of entry, category of admission, and expiration of stay. CBP will upload the foreign nationals’ information into its new electronic I-94 system, and foreign nationals can, at a later time, print their I-94 document at CBP.gov/I94.

We have seen many questions arise about this in the last few months so we thought we would address a few here:

What is the I-94?

First implemented over fifty years ago, the I-94 is a document given to foreign nationals that (1) tracks arrivals and (indirectly) departures to and from the United States, and (2) is evidence of legal status in the US for foreign nationals in their category of admission (for example, H-1, O-1, L-1, F-1, and so on). The I-94 document is distinct from both a foreign national’s visa stamp (the stamp processed into a passport by a US Embassy abroad) and the admission stamp (which, as referenced above, is the ink stamped into a foreign national’s passport noting the date and place of entry and expiration of stay along with the handwritten category of admission.

How do I view and print the I-94 information?

Go to: CBP.gov/I94. Enter each field as it appears on the travel document (visa stamp, advance parole, etc.) used to enter the United States.

1.  Family Name - Enter the family name as it appears in the Family Name or Surname field on the travel document used to enter the United States.

2.  First (Given) Name - Enter the first (given) name as it appears in the First or Given Name field on the travel document used to enter the United States. Do not include middle names, nicknames, or titles.

3.  Birth Date - Enter the date of birth in the MM/DD/YYYY format (e.g., March 4, 1960 is 03/04/1960).

4.  Passport Number - Enter the passport number as it appears on the passport biographic page. The passport number may contain numbers and/or letters. Please closely distinguish between the two. Some commonly confused characters are the number zero (0) and letter ‘O’ and the number one (1), and the letter ‘I’.

5.  Country of Issuance - The passport country of issuance is the country of citizenship as it appears in the passport. The country of citizenship is the passport issuing authority, regardless of the country the passport was physically obtained in.

6.  Date of Entry - The date of entry refers to the date the foreign national entered the United States. This date can be found on the entry stamp located in the passport.

7.  Class of Admission - The class of admission can be found on the entry stamp in the passport. Class of admission is typically two to three characters, which may contain numbers or letters.

Do I need to print out my I-94 every time I enter the US?

Generally, the admission stamp in the passport (along with any visa stamp and I-797 approval notice) is all foreign nationals need, particularly if the stay is brief; however, it is still recommended that foreign nationals print a physical copy of their I-94 information, as they may need to provide it for I-9 purposes, or when applying for a driver’s license or Social Security number, or if applying for a change of immigration status from within the US. Moreover, although USCIS has stated it will accept the photocopy of the admission stamp for a change of immigration status, the immigration forms still require an I-94 number. This matter is still being discussed and we hope for guidance on this issue in the near future. 

What if there is an error in the arrival information?

Foreign nationals should advise their employer or lawyer right away. CBP has indicated that foreign nationals can get this information corrected by visiting, or in some cases telephoning, a Deferred Inspections Site.

There are over seventy Deferred Inspections Sites throughout the United States and the outlying territories. The Deferred Inspections Site staff is available to review and issue the necessary documents to remedy errors recorded on arrival documents issued at the time of entry to the United States relating to several issues including: improper non-immigrant classification, inaccurate biographical information, or incorrect period of admission, as appropriate. The Deferred Inspections Sites will only correct errors made at the time of entry.

Any designated Deferred Inspections Site or CBP office located within an international airport should be able to correct this information, regardless of where the actual document was issued. Mail-in procedures are generally not available.

What if the I-94 cannot be found in the online system?

Foreign nationals should first ensure all data is correctly entered into all applicable fields. Although CBP has stated it will draw the name for the I-94 from the travel document used to enter the US, this is not always the case. The following tips have helped to recover the electronic I-94:

- Check the passport, visa, and copy of the submitted form DS-160 (if available) for name variations. Try entering the name as stated on each document;

- Enter the first and middle name (if any) in the First Name field, with a space in between. Do this even if the middle name is not stated on the passport or visa;

- Switch the order of the first and last names. Some countries state the name in the passport as first name, last name, rather than the more standard order of last name, first name. This may cause the name to be recorded incorrectly in the CBP system;

- Enter multiple first names or multiple last names without spaces. If foreign nationals have two first names or two last names, type the first names without a space between them or the last names without a space between them (e.g., “Mary Jane” as “Maryjane” and De Silva “as “Desilva”);

- Check for multiple passport numbers on the visa and Form DS-160 (if available). If the passport number is listed differently than the current passport on any of these documents, enter the alternate passport number;

- Do not enter the year if included in the passport number. Some passport numbers may begin with the year in which the passport was issued, causing the number to be too long for the relevant field in CBP’s automation system. Try entering the passport number without the year (e.g., a passport issued in 2008 may have a passport number that starts with “08” followed by nine digits. Try entering the passport number without the “08”);

- Check the admission classification designated on the visa and compare it to the admission classification hand-written onto the admission stamp in the passport. There may be a slight variation--try both designations;

If the problem persists, foreign nationals should advise their employer or lawyer right away. If there is an error, the best place to obtain a correction is a CBP Deferred Inspections Site. See above for more information on Deferred Inspections.

How long is the admission record available?

Travelers will have access to their most recent admission record on the I-94 website for the duration of time they remain in the US. Once travelers depart the US, an admission record will no longer be available.

How do I confirm a departure has been properly recorded when I leave the US?

If the foreign national received a paper I-94 card upon arrival, it should be given to the travel carrier or to CBP upon departing the US. If the record was created electronically upon arrival, CBP will record the departure using flight manifest information obtained from the travel carrier.

Please note that visitors to land border ports of entry will still be issued a paper I-94 card. In some cases paper I-94 cards will also still be issued for individuals traveling to reinstate status, individuals who change status, or students who are issued an I-515 at the port of entry.

What are the benefits of the new process?

Travelers can expect more efficient passenger processing at ports of entry and will have access to view the I-94 arrival information online and print off multiple copies (eliminating expensive replacement costs).

Please note that individuals who change status through USCIS from within the US will still receive paper I-94 cards with the I-797 approval notice and will not be able to print the I-94 information online.

What are the risks of the new process?

The biggest risk stemming from the new process is that a critical error in admission information may go undetected if foreign nationals do not access and review their I-94 online. The consequences of such errors may have an immediate impact on foreign nationals. For example,  when foreign nationals are admitted in the incorrect status, possibly affecting their US work authorization. The consequences of these errors may also cause confusion down the road, for example when foreign nationals are admitted with a misspelling in their name, triggering database conflicts in the future. To combat this risk, every time foreign nationals enter the US they should print their I-94 document as soon as possible after entering the US and should check it for accuracy.

For more detailed information on the new I-94 process, view CBP’s fact sheet.

Happy Travels!

UPDATE JUNE 21, 2017: Effective May 31, 2017, US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) now reminds travelers of their last possible departure date from the US, according to the terms of their admission, by email as well as a new feature on the I-94 portal. With this new feature, eligible Visa Waiver Program travelers will be able to confirm how much longer they can remain in the US so as not to overstay the terms of their admission. CPB will provide further updates to the I-94 website to incorporate additional nonimmigrant travelers. “Terms of admission can vary widely for travelers based on their purpose of travel, visa, and classification,” CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan says in a statement. “This new feature makes it easier for travelers to find their specific admitted until date in order to comply with US immigration laws.”

Travelers will need to enter their name, birthdate, passport number, and passport country of issuance to check their admitted until date. Traveler who find they have overstayed the terms of their admission will receive information regarding next steps to take. An “overstay” is defined as “someone who was lawfully admitted to the United States for an authorized period, but remained in the United States beyond his or her lawful period of admission.” Periods of admission vary depending on the traveler’s class of admission. For example, the lawful admission period can be fixed with a definite end date, or based on the completion of a certain activity, such as for students completing a college degree. We recommend that those travelers who have overstayed their period of admission consult a qualified immigration attorney.