Electronic I-94s Are Here: Key Information for Travelers and Employers

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On April 30, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began rolling out its new electronic I-94 system. By the end of May, paper I-94s will be eliminated for all foreign national travelers, except those entering at land border ports. This means that any foreign national traveler entering the United States at air and sea ports will receive only a notation in their passport with their entry date, type of status and the expiration date of their stay. Information will be recorded and retrieved by CBP by scanning the traveler’s passport.

Upon exiting the United States, travelers do not need to do anything differently. Those with paper I-94s will continue to surrender them to the commercial carrier or CBP upon departure, and those who entered with the new process will have their departure recorded via electronic manifest.

Accessing I-94 Records: To verify the information contained in an electronic Form I-94, travelers should go to the I-94 webpage on the CBP website to review their record. Travelers are also advised to print out a paper copy of the electronic I-94 information for their records. This record will be available only until the traveler's next entry into the United States, so it is essential for foreign nationals who intend on seeking visa extensions or legal permanent residence to maintain accurate and complete electronic I-94 records. Any errors discovered should be immediately reported to nearest CBP office so that they may be quickly corrected.

Maintaining Accuracy: In the new process, CBP will be relying heavily on the manifest arrival and departure records provided by the airlines to record entry and departure information for foreign national travelers. As a result, it is vital to ensure that personal information, such as name and date of birth, is correct and consistent throughout the traveler's documents and travel record.

I-9 Completion: The new electronic I-94 will make employment eligibility verification and I-9 form completion more complicated. The new I-9 form with an issue date of March 8, 2013, should be used for all new-hires and re-verifications. On this form, employees with temporary work authorization are now required to include their passport number and the country of issuance. Employers, when completing Section 2, List A, should record passport information and visa information. The expiration date of the employee's immigration status should be included in the employer's tickler system so that reverifciation may be completed on time. It is essential to take care not to confuse the expiration date of the passport or visa with the expiration date of the person’s legal immigration status, as they will rarely be the same.

Phased Implementation: Implementation of electronic I-94s began on April 30, 2013, and will continue through the end of May 2013. See the Automated I-94 Rollout webpage for implementation information and schedules. During the first week, the system was implemented at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (North Carolina), Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport, Miami International Airport and Orlando International Airport. During the second week, CBP expanded into major air and sea ports by region, including the air and sea ports in the New York/Newark, New Jersey, area, Boston and 10 other cities. Ports in Los Angeles and San Francisco, among other regions, are being implemented the week of May 14, along with pre-flight clearance stations abroad. The move to an electronic system is estimated to save the government $15.5 million per year.

For Further Information

If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact any of the attorneys in our Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Practice Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.