When a foreign national enters the United States, they complete a small form for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) called the I-94. This form is then stamped by CBP with the date of entry and annotated by the border agent as to when the period of stay expires. This small card tells the person (and other government agencies and employers) whether the person is in the U.S. in a valid legal status.
CBP captures this information electronically, but also uses a contractor for manual data entry to the tune of $12-15 million per year. To save this duplicative process and payment, CBP has announced it will eliminate the paper I-94 card for most entries, most likely starting about April 20, 2013.
On March 21, 2013, CBP announced that it has issued a rule for publication. The rule would allow foreign nationals to print a paper I-94 after entry if desired by going to a website: www.cbp.gov/I94. The site is to be live within 30 days of the rule’s publication.
While the rule still could be changed or delayed, information from several sources indicate that elimination of paper I-94s will be reality except for those requesting asylum, those being “paroled” into the U.S. and people put into removal proceedings at entry. However, the rule may be implementing on a rolling basis, with some ports of entry continuing the paper-based I-94 until the process has been fully functional.
If you are not given an I-94 at entry, the border agent should explain why (an information sheet is being planned for distribution at ports of entry). Because of the frequent need for I-94s, including proving immigration status to local law enforcement in some states and potential use for I-9 completion, we advise that you print a hard copy as soon as possible after entry and keep it with you.
More to come.