Retrieving a Form I-94

 

Introduction: Purpose of the Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record

Retrieve a Form I-94The Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, is an immigration form issued by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The Form I-94 is issued to aliens who are admitted into the United States as well as those who seek adjustment of status or an extension of stay while in the United States. The Form I-94 displays when an alien was admitted and when he or she must depart. Each Form I-94 also comes with a Form I-94 number.

To learn more, please see the CBP's Fact Sheet on Form I-94 Automation [PDF version].

Form I-94 Automation

The Form I-94 was issued in the form of a card until April 30, 2013. Starting on April 30, 2013, the CBP implemented I-94 automation, meaning that I-94 numbers and information were generated electronically, but the CBP still issues a physical Form I-94 only to those who are admitted at a land border port of entry. The CBP no longer issues Form I-94 cards for air and sea travelers.

Under the current system, the CBP records an alien's travel information in its Nonimmigrant Immigration System (NISS). In short, this is the information contained on a Form I-94. An alien may access his or her records via the CBP's Form I-94 website. In general, the Form I-94 website maintains arrival/departure record information going back five years. If an alien needs to procure history outside of the five-year window, he or she will be required to make a formal request of the CBP to conduct a query on the older or expired passport.

It is important to note that the Form I-94 does not necessarily contain complete travel information. The CBP explains that the travel history may not reflect:

  • Land/border arrivals departures;
  • Closed loop cruise arrivals/departures;
  • Air carrier reservation updates.

Furthermore, the information may not reflect United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updates such as changes of status, extensions of stay, or adjustment of status. This is because the CBP and USCIS are distinct agencies, and USCIS updates may not be immediately reflected in CBP forms.

The CBP explains that there is no necessary action to take if an alien finds that his or her Form I-94 travel information is incomplete. The CBP documents derive from a number of sources, and the travel history is not an official record for legal purpose.

Travel information for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) is not found on the I-94 website.

Why One May Need to Retrieve a Form I-94

The information on the Form I-94 regarding date of lawful entry and date of departure is very important in the immigration context. This is especially the case when a nonimmigrant intends to pursue immigration benefits. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (specifically the USCIS in the matter of most benefit requests) almost always requires proof of lawful entry into the United States for those seeking immigration benefits. The Form I-94 will suffice as proof of lawful entry into the United States.

It is important to note that a Form I-94 record does not guarantee eligibility for any benefit or prove that a person is maintaining status. For example, a person on H1B status may be able to present a Form I-94 number with departure date that shows that he or she was lawfully admitted in H1B status and that he or she is present within his or her departure date, but still be foun to have violated his or her H1B status in one way or another.

Retrieving an Form I-94 Electronically

The best way to retrieve a Form I-94 electronically is to visit the CBP's Form I-94 website. As of October 12, 2016, the URL for the website is https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.

In order to retrieve a Form I-94, an applicant will need the following information from his or her passport.

1. First Name/Surname

The applicant must enter the name that is on his or her travel document in order to retrieve a Form I-94. If the applicant has concern about the name that he or she should use, the applicant may consult the machine readable zone at the bottom of the passport. This will contain the name that would be recognized by the Form I-94 website. The applicant cannot use his or her middle name(s), nicknames, or titles.

2. Date of Birth

The applicant must use the date of birth that appears on his or her travel document.

3. Passport Number

The applicant must enter his or her passport number as it appears on the passport biographic page. Passport numbers may also contain letters.

4. Passport Country of Issuance

This will be the applicant's country of citizenship as it appears on the passport. The country of citizenship is the legal issuing authority regardless of the country in which the applicant physically obtained his or her passport.

Additional Information Required for Those Applying for a New Form I-94

Those who are applying for a new Form I-94 will be required to submit the same information as those seeking to retrieve a Form I-94 online, along with the:

  • Visa Country of Issuance (this will always be the United States for Form I-94 purposes);
  • Visa or Border Crossing Card Number; and
  • Visa Date of Issuance.

Retrieving Lost Paper Form I-94 With No Electronic Record

If a person loses his or her paper Form I-94 and there is no electronic record on the Form I-94 website, he or she may file a Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Non-Immigrant Arrival-Departure Document, with the USCIS [link]. The filing fee is $330.00.

Viewing Travel History

An alien may retrieve his or her last five years of travel history on the CBP's Form I-94 website. As we explained earlier, the travel history is for informational purposes and is not an official document. Accordingly, the travel history may be incomplete. The process for retrieving travel history on the Form I-94 website is similar to the process for retrieving a Form I-94. An applicant must enter his or her name, date of birth, passport number, and passport country of issuance as it appears on the passport. The CBP will only provide travel association associated with the specific passport. For information associated with other passports or more than five years old, an inquiry will have to be made with the CBP.

Freedom of Information Act Requests (FOIA)

An alien may also file a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) with the CBP. Among the things that a person may seek with a FOIA is his or her arrival/departure history associated with a specific passport. Upon making a FOIA, a person may cancel the request by using his or her FOIA request number. Before undergoing such a process, an applicant may want to consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance on the records that the CBP may actually have and whether there is an easier way to obtain the necessary information by using the Form I-94 website.

Conclusion

Retrieving a Form I-94 is often an important step in demonstrating eligibility for an immigration benefit with the USCIS. In addition, retrieving one's travel history may also be important in the context of seeking certain immigration benefits. If a person is seeking an immigration benefit or otherwise has difficulty retrieving a Form I-94, he or she should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance.