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CBP Releases Details on Form I-94 Automation

[Updated March 27, 2013]  On March 21, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced it had submitted a rule for publication in the Federal Register on I-94 Automation.  The official published version will be available on the Federal Register on March 27, 2013 but in an advanced copy issued March 26, 2013, CBP sets out new definitions for the Form I-94, explains the reasoning behind automation, and details the new protocol for the electronic Form I-94. [Finally!]

The Current, Form I-94 Protocol

Foreign nationals who arrive via air or sea are asked to complete a paper Form I-94 to document their admission or parole into the U.S.  During the initial (primary) inspection, CBP officers will stamp the form with port of entry and date of entry, along with annotations to the class of admission and validity date.  The bottom portion of the Form I-94 is returned to the foreign national with the stamps and annotations.  The top half of the Form is physically forwarded to a data entry facility for input into CBP’s computer systems. Upon departure from the U.S., the foreign national returns their bottom portion of the Form I-94 to their carrier, who then returns it to CBP.

Why the Transition to Electronic Format?

Since 9/11, CBP has been collecting information electronically from air and sea foreign nationals before they arrive to the U.S. using the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS).  CBP also began using the Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS), which pulls data from APIS, to document the alien’s departure from the U.S. With both APIS and ADIS actively engaged, CBP no longer needs to issue a paper Form I-94 to foreign nationals arriving by air and sea, because the data is already being collected electronically. Thus, the Federal Register Rule will expand the current legal definition of “Form I-94” to include an electronic format.  The electronic Form I-94 will be official 30 days after the date of publication of the rule.

New Electronic Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

Foreign nationals arriving by air and sea will be issued an electronic Form I-94 which can be accessed on a secure website: www.cbp.gov/I94.  The site is scheduled to go live (and available to the public) after April 26, 2013.  Foreign nationals would need to input seven (7) identifying data fields in order to access their electronic Form I-94:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Passport Number
  • Country of Issuance
  • Date of Entry
  • Class of Admission

However, CBP, in its rule, does not officially indicate when a foreign national may log onto the website, after their initial entry into the U.S., to print their electronic Form I-94.  Would they have to wait a few days or would the data be immediately available after entry into the U.S.? Presumably, it would be immediate if all data is entered electronically but that has yet to be verified by CBP.

Update 3/27/2013: In a stakeholder teleconference on March 27, 2013, CBP confirmed that upon entry into the electronic system, a foreign national who enters a port of entry via sea or air port that has implemented I-94 automation will be able to immediately access (and print) their I-94 record on the website.

Who Will Still Receive a Paper Form I-94?

The current automation process contemplates issuing an electronic Form I-94 to only air and sea travelers.  Foreign nationals entering via land ports will still continue to receive paper Form I-94 until the system is ready to transition such travelers.  Automation will eventually expand to include land port entries, but at this time, CBP has not indicated a timeline for expansion. Also, certain classes of foreign nationals will continue to receive paper Form I-94:

  • Refugees
  • Asylees
  • Parolees
  • Any foreign national CBP deems a paper Form I-94 is appropriate

The Implementation Timeline for Automation Updated March 27, 2013:

CBP held a stakeholder teleconference on March 27, 2013 and revealed the following timeline for the various ports of entries to implement I-94 automation, which will begin on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 and continue over a four-week period in the following timeline:

Week 1 (April 30, 2013): Five pilot-ports of entries at the following international airports:

  • Charlotte International Airport
  • Orlando International
  • Las Vegas International
  • Chicago O’Hare
  • Miami International Airport

Week 2 (May 7, 2013):  All major air and sea ports within the following field office regions will be automated:

  • New York
  • Boston
  • Buffalo
  • Baltimore
  • Detroit
  • Atlanta
  • Tampa
  • Puerto Rico
  • Miami
  • Chicago
  • New Orleans
  • Houston

Week 3 (May 14, 2013): Pre-clearance ports of entries will be automated:

  • San Francisco
  • Hawai’i
  • Guam
  • Tucson
  • El Paso
  • Seattle
  • Portland
  • Alaska
  • Los Angeles
  • San Diego
  • Laredo

Week 4 (May 21, 2013): All remaining on ports of entries will be automated.

Benefits of Form I-94 Automation

CBP lists numerous benefits in saving time and money for the government, carriers, and travelers. One interesting benefit is the obsolescence of Form I-102.  Currently, foreign nationals who lose their Form I-94 must file a Form I-102 with USCIS for a replacement, at a whopping cost of $330.  Being able to print out the electronic Form I-94 on its soon-to-be-live website will help travelers save money.

Comments and Questions

The public is encouraged to submit comments within the next 30 day comment period on or before April 26, 2013.  You may submit comments identified by docket number USCBP_FRDOC_0001-1433 by one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking portal or via mail:

Regulations and Rulings,
Office of International Trade, U.S.
Customs and Border Protection,
Attention: Border Security Regulations
Branch, 90 K Street NE., 10th Floor,
Washington, DC 20229

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