What is an I-94?
An I-94 Form is a record of arrivals of foreign nationals (not U.S. citizens; or lawful permanent residents, also called “green card” holders) who are coming to the U.S. on a temporary status. U.S. law calls these foreign nationals “nonimmigrants,” and covers all temporary visa classifications (B, H-1B, L-1, TN, etc.). The I-94 is issued by the U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) Officer upon the arrival of a foreign national. The I-94 can come in an electronic or paper format. As of April 30, 2013, the majority of I-94s are created electronically and no paper is issued. The foreign national will be provided an annotated stamp his/her passport, in addition to the I-94.
The I-94 card matters because it is proof that the foreign national is lawfully present in the U.S., and for persons in a work authorized status, confirms that the foreign national is work authorized, and is used on the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form (the employer completes this for all U.S. employees).
The I-94 card comes in 3 different formats.
- Electronic, for foreign nationals who last entered via air since May, 2013 (see instructions below on retrieval of the I-94);
- Paper, for foreign nationals who entered via land or sea; or
- Paper on an 8” x 11” sheet of paper (a “Form I-797”) for foreign nationals who had their status changed, amended or extended by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Regional Service Center.
It is imperative that the foreign nationals either exit the U.S. or file an extension to extend their stay in the U.S., on or before the I-94 card expiration date. There are penalties if a foreign national stays in the U.S. beyond their authorized period of stay. The penalties vary, depending on the time the foreign national “overstays” the authorized period. Please see Clark Hill’s website for more detailed information.
A foreign national can access their electronic I-94 record, and their U.S. arrival history, through the CBP website here. Clicking on “Get Most Recent I-94” allows the foreign national to retrieve the I-94 number, current entry date, class of admission, and expiration date. However, the website does not reflect any status changes, extensions of stay, or other changes that were granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. This website also allows the foreign national to access entry records going back five years from the request date, by clicking on “Get Travel History.” Both documents are printable on this CBP website.