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 United States 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 likely not receive an annotated stamp his/her passport.
The I-94 card matters because it is proof that the foreign national is lawfully present in the United States, 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 2 different formats.
- Electronic I-94, for foreign nationals who last entered via air since May 2013 (see instructions below on retrieval of the I-94), or by land or sea for everyone who entered after May 2, 2022; or
- Paper on an 8” x 11” sheet (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. Note that USCIS extensions of I-94 cards are not updated in the CBP website until after a person has travelled and then entered the United States.
It is imperative that the foreign nationals either exit the United States or file an extension to extend their stay in the United States, on or before the I-94 card expiration date. There are penalties if a foreign national stays in the United States 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.
Also, it is a common practice for U.S. officers to match I-94 based on the foreign national’s passport expiration date. So even though the person may be entitled to a longer I-94, the I-94 will often be shortened to an earlier date, if the passport will expire before the expected duration of an I-94. This can result in foreign nationals unknowingly overstaying their status.
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. Again, 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.