New I-94 Website Feature Helps Foreign Nationals Avoid Overstaying in the U.S.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has recently announced that they will now remind travelers via email and a new feature on the I-94 website of the last possible date they must depart the U.S. to comply with the terms of their admission. Currently, only eligible Visa Waiver Program travelers can utilize the new “Compliance Check” feature on the I-94 website to check how much longer they can legally remain in the U.S. without overstaying the terms of their admission. However, CBP has advised that further updates to the I-94 website are expected to incorporate additional nonimmigrant travelers.

To check the status of their admission in the U.S., eligible travelers can visit the I-94 website, click on the “View Compliance” icon and enter their name, birthdate, passport number and passport country of issuance. This check will inform travelers of how many days are remaining on their admission or how many days they have remained in the U.S. past their admitted until date.

If a traveler has overstayed the terms of their admission, the new I-94 website feature will provide the individual with information regarding what to do next. An overstay is someone who was lawfully admitted to the U.S. for an authorized period, but remained in the U.S. beyond his or her lawful period of admission. Overstaying the terms of your admission is significant as many overstays are not eligible to adjust or extend their status in the U.S. and in some cases, may trigger unlawful presence bars when they ultimately depart the U.S.

Although the new “Compliance Check” feature is currently only available to eligible Visa Waiver Program travelers, all travelers can check their admit until date on the I-94 website. To check their admit until date, travelers can click the “Get Most Recent I-94” icon and enter their traveler information (name, birthdate, passport number and passport country of issuance). It is important for travelers to be advised of their admit until date as periods of admission can vary widely depending on the traveler’s class of admission and/or visa type. For example, individuals traveling to the U.S. as B1/B2 visitors are admitted for a fixed period of time whereas students traveling to the U.S. in F-1 status are admitted for duration of status (D/S), which is based on the completion of a degree program.

Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, is of utmost importance for nonimmigrant visitors as it provides proof of their lawful admission to the U.S., which is necessary to verify alien registration, immigration status and employment authorization. Notably, in May 2013, CBP automated the I-94 system for travelers arriving to the U.S. by air and sea. The automated system eliminated the need for paper forms and manual data entry by allowing CBP Officers to create the I-94 record at the time of inspection.

More recently, in September 2016, CBP also launched an online I-94 application and payment option for travelers arriving at a land port of entry. Individuals may provide their biographic and travel information and pay the $6 fee online up to seven days prior to their entry.

These changes/upgrades to the I-94 system demonstrate CBP’s continued commitment towards improving the international travel experience for both U.S. citizens and visitors to the U.S. The new I-94 website feature makes it much easier for travelers to find their last possible departure date and to comply with their terms of admission.

Is DHS About to Blunder? A Cost-Beneft Analysis of Abandoning Form I-94

Claiming that abandoning Form I-94 will save $17 million dollars to the agency, the Department of Homeland Security, together with its sister government agencies, are planning to dismantle the Form I-94 record of admission as we know it today.  (Form I-94 is the little white card that is stapled into a foreign national’s passport upon entry into the U.S. to evidence the status in which they are being admitted and the authorized duration of their stay.)

The I-94 not only serves to record the entry and departure of every foreign national, it also serves as important evidence of lawful immigration status in other applications. For example:

  • Employers for Form I-9 Verification
  • Social Security Administration for issuance of Social Security Cards (if applicable)
  • State DMV’s for issuance of driver’s license (if applicable)
  • Status Identification for Law Enforcement (Police, Airport Personnel, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS)

While eliminating the I-94 sounds good in theory, the cost savings may back fire in many ways. Questions that immediately jump out are - Who will populate the information to be captured once the I-94 is eliminated? How will the information be recorded in the foreign national’s passport? How would other government agencies be trained to understand the new methodology that would be used when DHS hasn’t yet figured out how to document the foreign national once the I-94 is eliminated?

From a safety perspective, the time that is used by the officer in reviewing the information on the I-94 together with the applicant allows that officer to question the applicant, view his body language and make other assessments regarding that individual. Will that be lost by automating the I-94 process? Is this going to put our nation at a greater risk? Is $17 million dollars that important in the overall scheme and budget of DHS?

History indicates that every time DHS has tried to streamline a process, the evil forces in the world figure out a way to take advantage and circumvent the process, leaving us exposed to a greater danger.

Can you accrue unlawful presence if admitted as a B-2 and annotated by CBP as "N/C" (Non-Controlled)?

Question: I am a Canadian citizen. I was recently denied entry into the U.S. because CBP stated that I was inadmissible for a ten-year period due to a previous period of unlawful presence.  

Several years ago, I entered the U.S. in B1/B2 status. On my passport, Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) did not stamp a date by which I had to depart, but rather CBP stamped my passport with the designation: “N/C”. During that stay, I remained in U.S. for three (3) years (volunteering for my church). 

In April, I tried to enter the U.S. with my R-1 Approval Notice issued by USCIS. After being questioned by CBP, I was denied entry into the U.S. and found inadmissible due to “unlawful presence.” CBP officers informed me that since I overstayed my B1/B2 status, I am now inadmissible to the U.S. for ten (10) years and must apply for a waiver if I want to enter within that ten-year period.

Did I accumulate unlawful presence even though there was no date stamped on my passport telling me when I had to depart the U.S? Will I need a waiver? If so, which one and how long does it take?

Answer: Given the brief facts you have stated, while I can provide you with some general advice, I cannot provide you with a detailed professional analysis without learning more about your case.

Your question about the designation of “N/C” on your passport and its relation to “unlawful presence” highlights how some Canadians are not given a specific date to leave the United States.

Generally, when a foreign national enters the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa, they are be given an authorized time period in which they may remain. Once that time period has ended, if they have not otherwise sought to extend/change their status, they must depart the U.S.  If they do not depart the U.S., any periods of unlawful overstay could result in a "unlawful presence" bar which may prevent them from re-entering the U.S. for a given time period.

Read More