By: Helena Coric*
A recent decision by U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the end of October 2012 initiated the process to go paperless for the I-94 Form. The I-94 Form is the card used to indicate the date of admission, status, and authorized period of stay in the passport of a foreign national. This I-94 information is critical so that the foreign national may attain work authorization, be granted eligibility for a social security number, driver’s license, and admission to college, among other important matters.
Is it just the global green movement or do specific reasons exist for the paperless initiative? For one, the CBP has already accumulated the necessary I-94 information from the foreign national’s application for a non-immigrant visa and entered it into a web-based system. Once the web-based system is fully operational, the paper form will simply not be needed, as it will become redundant. A second reason is the financial cost, as the agency will inevitably save money and resources with the paperless version.
The paper version will be replaced at international airports and seaports with this update in traveler arrival and departure records.
How quickly will this change be implemented? A final date for the complete transition is yet to be confirmed. The paper form is set to be replaced by a stamp in the traveler’s passport, with a handwritten code of admission. But even this measure is not set to be implemented across the board, as non-immigrants arriving at land borders or refugees, for example, will still be given the paper version of the I-94.
This paperless move is not without its critics as federal and state agencies which use this form for identification purposes object. Of course this concern is shared by the public as well, as these foreign nationals begin to contemplate attaining alternate forms of identification. Clearly, this appears to be a gradual process as an online system free of flaws must be established prior to eliminating the paper record entirely. Yet, at the same time it is important to note that this is not the first time a governmental form has made the paperless transition. The I-94W or the Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record is one such form which has been automated in the past. CBP has confirmed that this change has reduced costs and travelers’ average wait time.
In a globalized world experiencing technological advances each day and realizing the importance of the environmental fight, paperless initiatives are inevitable. With the recent presidential election, even casting one’s vote via text message or email was a thought for the future.
*Helena Coric is an Intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.