I-94: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

In another section, we discussed the significance of the I-94 records generated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). By way of quick review, these are the electronic records created whenever travelers other than U.S. Citizens or Green Card holders come to the United States by boat or plane, and paper documents generated when foreign travelers enter the country via so-called land borders. The reason they are so important is because they show when, where and how a foreign traveler entered the country, how long they are allowed to stay and when (or if) they left.

The ability to access information on the I-94 is critical if you are a non-immigrant visitor who wants to extend your stay, or if you’re an immigrant who wants to obtain benefits or change your immigration status while you are here.

And that brings us to the topic of this post.

What should you do if I-94 form is lost or stolen?

What if you can’t find the associated information on the CBP’s official I-94 page?

What if your travel history is incorrect? Or what if your I-94 is simply expiring?

The first and most important thing to do in any of these circumstances is to keep calm. It is scary, but it is not the end of the world. There are solutions for all of these problems, which we will share here.

First of all, let’s talk about what can be done if a paper copy of an I-94 is mislaid, taken or rendered illegible. Before you do anything else, it is very important that you report the loss or theft of your I-94 to the local authorities (police). Then, if you’re a nonimmigrant visitor, you can simply apply for a new one at the local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. To do so, you’ll have to fill out another form called the Form I-102 and pay the required fee. Since you won’t be able to supply the original I-94 (as required), you must also provide information from passport. This includes a copy of the passport page that was stamped when you came into the country. Unfortunately, failure to submit any of this material along with the proper form will result in delays until you can provide valid proof of your identity, reasons for being in the United States and the damage to or  loss or theft of your I-94 form.

The CBP’s official I-94 website provides comprehensive information about how to replace your lost, stolen or damaged paper I-94 form. This is also the site to visit if you want to get your I-94, check your travel history, get proof of your visitor status, or verify how much longer you can legally remain in the United States.

To obtain any or all of these records, you must sign an electronic disclaimer on the site in which you acknowledge that you are conducting the search on your own behalf, on behalf of someone for whom you are a legal guardian, or for someone who has given you permission to do so. You must also be prepared to provide certain information from the travel documents used to enter the country. This usually includes the document number, country that issued it, your first name, last name (surname) and/or date of birth.

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Although this sounds simple, there may be times when you can’t find what you’re looking for on the site. This is definitely annoying and frustrating, especially if you’re just trying to get a copy of your I-94 number so you can print it out — but don’t get too upset. There are some simple things to try if a record can’t be found. Here are a few: 

  • Enter your name exactly as it appears on the appropriate travel document.
  • Try putting your first and middle name in the “first name” field, using a space to separate them.
  • Try putting your surname in the “first name” field, and first name in the last name or surname field.
  • If you have a compound first name, such as “Sally Sue” or last name, such as “Smith Jones” try putting it in the appropriate name field as one word, with no spaces, dashes or hyphens.
  • If you have multiple travel documents or forms, check the passport number on each one and try them in the appropriate field.
  • Check for discrepancies between the classification listed on a visa and the one noted on the passport stamp. If they’re different, try entering both in the appropriate field.

If that doesn’t work:

  • Try entering your name as it appears on your airline ticket or boarding pass.
  • Try swapping the month and day in your date of birth.
  • You can also try putting a space between the letter(s) and numbers in your passport number.
  • If your passport “booklet” number is different than the number on your photo page, try entering the booklet number instead.
  • Finally, check to make sure that your valid visa isn’t in an old passport. If it is, try entering the old passport number instead of the new one.

If all else fails, contact the nearest CBP Deferred Inspection Office. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it may be possible to resolve the issue over the phone. However, there may also be times when you need to visit the office in person.

Being unable to find what you’re looking for is just one of the issues you might encounter on the CBP’s official I-94 website. This is because the site provides access to your recent travel history — but only for convenience rather than official purposes. As a result, the information may not be accurate — and this can create serious problems if you are trying to obtain immigrant benefits from USCIS or related agencies.

In the  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on the site, CBP refers anyone with concerns about inaccurate information to the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP). This program is specifically designed to provide assistance for anyone who has questions about or wants to resolve “difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at transportation hubs, like airports and train stations, or crossing U.S. borders…” You can access it online by visiting dhs.gov/trip or you can send a letter noting your concerns to DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) 601 South 12th Street, TSA-901 Arlington, VA 22202.

If you find incorrect information in your travel history or any other records related to the paper or electronic I-94, the CBP encourages you to contact the nearest Deferred Inspection site, and provides a list of locations on its website. You can find it by going to cbp.gov and then clicking on the “Ports” link at the bottom of the page.

Last but not least, you may be wondering what your options are if your I-94 is about to expire. USCIS urges anyone in this situation to submit a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-Immigrant status, as soon as possible. This is so the agency has plenty of time to receive and process your application before your I-94 expires, and your status as a legal visitor ends. As soon as this happens the Department of Homeland Security can initiate deportation, even if your I-539 application is pending.

As you can see, most issues related to the electronic or paper I-94 can be easily resolved. In a worst-case scenario, however, contact an experienced immigration attorney who can provide valuable assistance with these matters.

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