The United States and Border Protection (CBP) has announced plans to eliminate Form I-94, Arrival and Departure Record. Form I-94 documents proper admission and maintenance of status, showing critical admission including entry date, authorized period of period of stay, and class of admission. The impact of its elimination on the immigration process may be profound. The CBP has shared some key points regarding its plans to eliminate Form I-94 summarized below:
CBP cites two reasons for eliminating Form I-94. First, CPB already has access to the data gathered on Form I-94 because Aliens provide the information when submitting an application for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate. Furthermore, the information is provided to CBP through a web-based system, Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) used by commercial carriers and private aviation community to electronically provide required information to CPB (i.e. notice of arrival and/or departure of crew and passengers). Second, CBP expects to save time and money through the elimination of Form I-94. The CBP reports that about 30 seconds of officer time per entry relates to the paper form, which results in annualized costs to CBP amounting approximately $19 million for associated staffing resources.
Under the proposed admission procedures, nonimmigrant aliens will only be issued a stamp. The stamp will include a handwritten notation indicating the status and authorized period of stay. The CBP plans to create an electronic record for arriving nonimmigrant aliens, but CBP does not anticipate creating a receipt or other documentation (other than the stamp in the passport) for the alien. CBP is considering creating a web portal to allow nonimmigrant aliens to verify their status as stored in its electronic format, which would also allow nonimmigrant aliens the option to print an admission record receipt. The CBP tentatively plans to issue paper Form I-94 during the transitional period, even though the form would have no actual function or legal significance.
Nonimmigrant aliens arriving at air and those sea ports using APIS will no longer receive functional I-94, although as noted above a paper Form I-94 may be issued during the transition period. Those nonimmigrants aliens arriving at a land border, unless otherwise exempted, will continue to receive a valid paper Form I-94. In addition, certain classes of arriving aliens, such as refugees, will continue to be issued a valid Form I-94.
The elimination of Form I-94 will have extensive implications on many USICS petitions and application forms, such as forms for extension or change of nonimmigrant status (i.e. I-129, I-539), or forms for immigrant worker applications (I-140) or relative petitions (I-130), which ask for Form I-94. CBP has communicated with USCIS about its plan to eliminate Form I-94, but there are no known plans for USCIS to being replacing existing forms to reflect this change. It is also unclear whether USCIS will continue to issue Form I-797, Notice of Action, approving an application for change of extension of status with a Form I-94, and if so, whether the form number will be connected to the actual record of admission.
The employment eligibility and identification process will also be affected, specifically Form I-9 and E-Verify, as employers are currently authorized to accept Form I-94 or I-94A as proof of employment eligibility and identification.
Additionally, CBP reports that the Social Security Administration has already revised its documentation requirements to allow issuance of Social Security account numbers to qualified nonimmigrants.
The creation of electronic nonimmigrant alien admissions process is expected to reduce CBP database errors, as the database will be automatically populated with data provided in the nonimmigrant visa application and APIS. However, nonimmigrant alien category and admission dates will still be made in a passport by hand. As errors are inevitable, the CBP Deferred Inspection procedure will remain the point of contact to correction admission errors