Going Paperless! New Arrival/Departure-Record I-94 Process for Foreign Visitors

Going paperlessThe most significant white I-94 card stapled to the visa of passports for nonimmigrant foreign nationals in land and seaports around the United States is a familiar image to many travelers.  This form is used to prove admission to the United States and determines the length of time one many stay. The United States Customs and Border Protection recently announced its implementation of a new automated I-94 entry process, effective April 30, 2013 where the I-94 becomes paperless.  What does this change mean for travelers and governmental processes?

The US Department of Homeland Security cites that this new measure will, “streamline the entry process for travelers, facilitate security and reduce federal costs, saving the agency an estimated $15.5 million a year”.  This will decrease the usual paperwork substantially both for travelers and immigration officers.  While some people are under the impression that this signifies a complete change and may worry about the unavailability of these forms for reference, that is not the case.  Travelers requesting the document as evidence of admission for an immigration matter, proof of status, applying for a driver’s license in some states, work authorization, personal record or any other reason will be able to have the hard copy.  The printed copy will be available on www.cbp.gov/I94 to retrieve their electronically submitted data.  Moreover, officers will continue to issue the usual admission stamp on passports, accompanied by a note detailing the nonimmigrant’s status and time authorization of the visit.

In recent years with the green revolution and our efforts at becoming more environmentally friendly, traveler information is gradually being accumulated through electronic databases so the paperless I-94 is not a new idea.  Post 9/11 initiatives have already aimed at accumulating more data on the population; so much of the traveler’s identities have been in the government’s data system for quite some time.

As with every new measure the paperless I-94 initiative will necessitate some time to be fully adjusted and applied throughout the United States.  Travelers will have to:

  • Find access to the Internet.
  • Enter certain passport information in order to access the electronic I-94.
  • Companies and employers will have to learn to accept the hard copy printouts of the electronic I-94 data.

However, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will still require the hard copy I-94 from applicants even if the visitor does not receive the copy upon entry.  Other government agencies such as the Social Security Administration will also require a paper copy to ascertain whether a foreign national may receive certain benefits.

Ultimately, even though initially some slight complications may emerge on all fronts:  travelers, companies, and government agencies will have to adjust to the new change as a better alternative.  So many facets of our everyday lives are becoming automated and a development such as a paperless I-94 is inevitable.  The economic and practical benefits substantially outweigh the initial costs of adjusting to the change.

To view the implementation schedule at various ports, please see the following link: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/i-94_instructions/i94_rollout.xml

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