[author: Amy M. Landwehr]
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is in the process of automating traveler arrival/departure records. CBP will be eliminating the paper version of Form I-94, the white card placed in most foreign nationals' passports that denotes the date of their admission as well as their status and authorized period of stay, at international airports and seaports. Instead, the traveler will receive a stamp in their passport with a handwritten code of admission (such as H-1B or O-1) and period of admission. Under the plan, nonimmigrants arriving at land borders, and certain classes of arriving foreign travelers, such as refugees, will continue to be issued a paper Form I-94.
The reasons for eliminating the I-94 paper form are two-fold: (1) CBP already has access to the information gathered on the I-94 through the foreign national's application for a nonimmigrant visa and the Web-based Advance Passenger Information System (APIS); and (2) eliminating Form I-94 will save the agency money and resources.
Since first announcing its plans to implement a paperless I-94, CBP has received concerns from federal and state agencies about the impact on their programs that use the document for an identifier. For example, what will state Departments of Motor Vehicles/Departments of Transportation require? And, what will the Social Security Administration require for SSNs? CBP also has not yet fine-tuned an online systems query capability that must be in place before the paper record is eliminated. While implementation of the paperless I-94 is still some months away, it is clearly on the horizon.
Meanwhile, CBP has already implemented another change for certain arriving nonimmigrant visa holders. CBP officials are no longer stamping prospective or returning foreign students' Form I-20s and exchange visitors' DS-2019s at ports of entry. Instead, CBP is using an electronic system to adjudicate the individual's status notation. The stamping of the Form I-20 / DS-2019 had been a longstanding USCIS procedure, and thus USCIS is apparently reaching out to other agencies to inform them of the change, since many agencies require these stamps prior to granting benefits.