Late August, I wrote about the I-94 Automation process currently being administered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In a follow-up, CBP recently acknowledged the fact that the paper I-94 record has been “long-established and well known practice” for many foreign travelers but stopped short of providing any real updates on the process, other than confirming the long delay current automation is taking.
In the meantime, what entry and exit information is the government tracking and how should practitioners inform their clients of these potential changes?
Tracking Entry and Exit Data
The days of paper trails may be nearing an end but until that time officially comes, the government is still grappling with multiple electronic systems to track and trace the whereabouts of certain foreign nationals.
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) encoded passports facilitate the easy scanning of foreign travelers information by CBP upon entry and international airlines upon departure. On my last trip into the U.S. at a land port of entry, CBP was actively scanning passports.
- The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indictor Technology Program (US-VISIT) is the all-encompassing electronic matrix created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that stores foreign nationals’ automated biometric entry/exit data, as well as conducts immigration violations, criminal records and more.
- Within the US-VISIT framework lie the Arrival and Departure Information Systems (ADIS). Form I-94 entry and exit information by land, sea and air ports of entry are stored and used by ICE, CBP and USCIS. ADIS allows the government to “validate whether a nonimmigrant visitor has possibly remained beyond his or her authorized period of stay.”
The challenge DHS, specifically CBP currently has, is facilitating an accurate, privately stored database that can track information of certain foreign nationals. In the past, DHS has admitted that ADIS does not always have access to all of the complete arrival/departure records, which weakened DHS’ ability to determine if certain FNs had indeed overstayed. While there is little opposition to CBP wanting to automate the I-94 card to save on long-term costs, the concern most stakeholders have is CBP keeping the public informed on this process.
Managing Client Expectations
This is where the role of the practitioner is critical. Whether you are at a private firm, a solo practitioner or working for a community organization, clients should be apprised of the risks upon entry, overstay, and upon departure.
By keeping updated on legal developments, actively tracking client information, and advising clients of the risks, you can successfully managing client expectations, empowering them to make informed decisions.
- Keeping updated on the law means actively understanding what changes CBP, USCIS and ICE have adopted regarding entry and exit procedures. You can subscribe to our newsletter to get regular updates as well as subscribe to updates direct from the various DHS agencies and/or AILA.
- Actively tracking client entries and exits will allow you to accurately tabulate status periods. While many ports of entries are still issuing paper I-94 cards (though this will be phased out), your clients may soon be only receiving an entry stamp in their passports. How are you tracking this data? Is the entry information correct? Is the status correct? By tracking this information in a case management database, you can actively monitor issues that may need redress at a Deferred Inspection office.
- What risks do your clients face for too much time spent either in the U.S. or abroad? The current electronic matrix may well be tracking your clients’ stays in the U.S. to determine overstays. What system have you implemented to ensure clients are informed in advance of possible overstays? Additionally, legal permanent residents who stay abroad for extended periods of time and re-entering the U.S. without re-entry permits may be subjecting themselves to potential bars, particularly if their exits and entries have been captured in the electronic database by DHS.
As DHS increases automation of data, practitioners must keep up with technology. The days of hoping clients will provide you with copies of their entries and leave the U.S. on time may be long gone. Successful practitioners will take this opportunity to remain actively informed of their clients’ travel plans and regularly remind them of the risks.
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