Traveling to the United States can be fun and exciting, but it can also be stressful figuring out which visa and immigration documents you need.
Most countries will allow you to travel to the U.S. for 90 days or less without a visa. For more information about the Visa Waiver Program, visit the U.S. Department of State website.
If you plan on staying for longer than 90 days, whether for business or pleasure, you will need to have:
- An appropriate visa.
- Your arrival and departure information recorded by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will record your information using an arrival/departure record or I-94 form. If you’ve visited the U.S. before, you may be familiar with the I-94 form. Some changes have been made to the I-94 form that may affect whether or not you still need the paper form or not.
Electronic Arrival/Departure Record (I-94 Form)
If you’ve recently moved to the U.S., you may have noticed you didn’t receive an arrival/departure record (I-94 form) in your passport when you passed through Customs and Border Security.
This is because from April 26, 2013, CBP started automating your arrival and departure information so you don’t need to fill out the I-94 form if you arrive by air or sea.
Now when you land in the U.S., instead of a paper I-94, you will only receive a stamp in your passport showing the date you must leave the U.S. Your arrival/departure information will be updated electronically in the system automatically. For information on how to check your I-94 information, see the “Check Your I-94 Information” section below.
If you don’t have a foreign passport, you will be taken to a CBP secondary inspection office when you arrive in the U.S. You will receive a paper I-94, with the pre-printed number crossed out and your new electronic I-94 number written on it.
If your employer or any government agency asks for your arrival information, you can provide either your I-94 number or a print out of your I-94. See the “Check Your I-94 Information” section below to learn how to find this information.
NOTE: Most DMV offices require a print out of your I-94, they will not accept just your number. You can print your own I-94 by looking up your information online.
Why Go Electronic?
Having an electronic I-94 will make your entry into and departure from the United States faster and simpler by:
- Reducing paperwork, as you don’t need to fill out an I-94 form anymore.
- Having your information automatically updated into the system.
It won’t affect your ability to enter the U.S., nor will you have to do anything differently when you leave.
Paper Arrival/Departure Records (I-94)
Before the I-94 form became automated, you had to fill in your arrival details on a paper I-94 form when you arrived in the United States. Customs and Border Protection would have taken your arrival information and attached the “departure” portion of the I-94 to your passport. CBP would take the “departure” portion from you when you left the U.S.
Now if you arrive in the U.S. by sea or air, you will no longer receive the paper I-94 form. Instead, Customs and Border Protection will scan your passport, and your arrival information will be updated automatically in the electronic system.
There are, however, a couple notable exceptions:
- If you enter the U.S. by land from Canada or Mexico, you will still be issued a paper I-94 form when you pass through CBP.
- If you are a refugee, asylum, or a parolee, you may also still receive a paper I-94 form.
If you have a paper I-94 and leave the U.S. by land, make sure Customs and Border Protection take the “departure” portion of your I-94 from your passport. If they don’t, your records may show that you have overstayed your legal visit to the U.S. and you may be denied entry the next time you travel to the country.
If you have already left the U.S. but didn’t give your paper I-94 to CBP, send the form and any other documents that prove you left the country to:
DHS – CBP SBU
1084 South Laurel Road
London, KY 40744
For more information about turning in your departure record, visit the Customs and Border Protection website.
Check Your I-94 Information
You can look up your I-94 number and print out your record if you need proof of your arrival in the U.S. You will be able to access your I-94 record online until you leave the country.
To check your I-94 information, visit the Customs and Border Protection website and provide your:
- First name.
- Date of birth.
- Passport number.
- Country your passport was issued.
- Most recent date of entry into the U.S.
- Class of admission.
You will be given your I-94 number and expiration date. You can print out this form to carry with your passport as lawful proof of your entry into the United States.
Correct Your I-94 Information
If a Customs officer incorrectly admitted you into the U.S., visit a local CBP Deferred Inspection Site or port of entry to correct your information.
Revalidate Your Visa
If your visa status has changed and you need to update your I-94, you will need to present your paper I-94 and passport to Customs and Border Protection.
If you have an electronic I-94, you do not need to update your information with CBP. Your records will be validated automatically, and your expired visa will also be validated.
Your trip to the U.S. may be simpler now that you don’t have to worry about holding onto your I-94 form. You can stay stress-free knowing you can access your information easily wherever you have an Internet connection.
Stay safe, and welcome to the United States!