Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Updated: I-94 Document Been Converted To Electronic Format

Overview Of I-94 Form:

The Form I-94 is issued by DHS to certain aliens upon arrival in the United States or when changing status in the United States. The Form I-94 is used to document arrival and departure and provides evidence of the terms of admission or parole. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of DHS, generally issues the Form I-94 to aliens at the time they lawfully enter the United States.

Aliens use the Form I-94 for various purposes such as completing employment eligibility verification (the Form I-9), applying for immigration benefits, or to present to a university to verify eligibility for enrollment. Information gathered on the Form I-94 is also used for statistical purposes.

Transitioning to an Electronic Form I-94:

The Form I-94 is currently a paper form. For aliens arriving by air or sea, the carrier distributes the Forms I-94 to the aliens required to complete the form while en route to the United States. The alien presents the completed form to the CBP Officer at primary inspection. The officer stamps the Form I-94 and the alien’s passport, detaches the bottom portion of the form, which is the departure portion, and returns it to the alien along with the alien’s passport.

The admission stamp contains the port of arrival and date of arrival and is annotated with the class of admission and admitted-to date. The top portion of the form—the arrival portion—is sent to a data entry facility where the information on the form is entered into CBP’s computer systems. The departure portion of the Form I-94 retained by the alien may be shown to government or other stakeholders when required. The alien turns in the departure portion of the Form I-94 upon departure, generally to the carrier; the carrier returns the forms to CBP.

With the implementation of the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) following 9/11, CBP now collects information on aliens traveling by air or sea to the United States electronically from carriers in advance of arrival. CBP also now uses the Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS), which draws information from APIS, to electronically document an alien’s arrival and departure. Thus, for aliens arriving in the United States by air or sea, CBP obtains almost all of the information contained on the paper Form I-94 electronically and in advance.

The few fields on the Form I-94 that are not collected via APIS are either already collected by the Department of State and transmitted to CBP or will be collected by the CBP Officer from the individual at the time of inspection. Thus, the same data elements found on the paper Form I-94 will be collected and maintained in the electronic Form I-94. This means that CBP no longer needs to collect Form I-94 information as a matter of course directly from aliens traveling to the United States by air or sea.

Therefore, CBP is transitioning to an automated process whereby CBP will create an electronic Form I-94 based on the information in its databases. This rule makes the necessary changes to the regulations to enable CBP to transition to an automated process. At this time, the automated process will apply only to aliens arriving at air and sea ports of entry. In order to make this a seamless transition, CBP is making the electronic Form I-94 available to aliens through a website.

Though in some cases CBP collects APIS information for travelers arriving in the United States via methods of transportation other than commercial air and sea, CBP does not consistently receive APIS information for these other methods or in some instances is unable to consistently access the information at the time the traveler presents him or herself for inspection. Thus, at this time, CBP will still need to collect Form I-94 information directly from travelers arriving by other methods of transportation. CBP anticipates expanding the automation of the Form I-94 to other methods of transportation in the future.

Benefits Of Automating I-94:

The automation provides immediate and substantial benefits to the traveling public, to carriers, to CBP and other stakeholders. This automation will eliminate most of the duplicate paper Form I-94 process and reduce wait times at passenger processing, which will facilitate entry of all travelers. The automation will eliminate the paper Form I-94 for most air and sea travelers and, within, the 8-minute time burden; this would result in an estimated total reduction of 9.6 million Forms I-94 completed by paper, and an estimated reduction of 1,276,800 paperwork burden hours.

The automation will also save the time and expense associated with lost Forms I-94, as travelers will simply be able to print out a new copy from the website if needed rather than file an I-102, as currently required, which has a fee of $330 and a time burden of 25 minutes. CBP estimates that the time to access the website and print the electronic Form I-94 to be 4 minutes.

CBP anticipates the total net benefits to both domestic and foreign entities in 2013 range from $76.5 million to $115.5 million. Separately, CBP anticipates a net benefit in 2013 of between $59.7 million and $98.7 million for foreign travelers, $1.3 million for carriers, and $15.5 million for CBP. Net benefits to U.S. entities (carriers and CBP) in 2013 total $16.8 million.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Is I-94 form been eliminated?
A. No. The I-94 form is simply converted to an electronic format. The I-94 form is still valid and required by various government agencies.

Q. From which date will I-94 document be converted to electronic format?
A. This rule will be effective from April 26, 2013.  However actual conversion to digital format will start from April 30, 2013.  Moreover, it will be implemented at different times depending on the location of POE (port of entry).

The locations of port of entries will be phased in four week period such that port of entries in certain cities will be the first week of May, followed by different ports of entries in the second or third week, and all remaining port of entries in the fourth week

Q. What website should I visit to print I-94 document?
A.  The website is: www.cbp.gov/I94. The website would be active from April 30, 2013.

Q. Can anybody print out my I-94 document?
A. To access the Form I-94 through the website the traveler will need to input information from his/her passport; thus, a third party without access to the traveler’s passport will not be able to access the Form I-94 from the website. If needed, aliens may print out a copy of the Form I-94 from the website and present it to third parties in lieu of the departure portion of the paper form.

Q. Who will not be eligible for electronic I-94 document?
A. Individuals who go through secondary inspection, such as asylees, refugees, and parolees (using EAD/AP) will be provided a paper copy of Form I-94 by a CBP officer. Also individuals traveling to US other than air or sea will also be provided a paper copy of I-94 by CBP officer during port of entry. This means if you are entering US via land (driving from Mexico/Canada), you will be issued a paper I-94.

Q. What about my current I-94 document?
A. Your current I-94 document is still valid and will continue to be valid (till the expiry date listed on it). This rule is applicable only AFTER you (re)enter US from April 26, 2013.

Q. Does this mean USCIS (or other agencies) will no longer require a paper copy of I-94 document?
A. USCIS will continue to require applicants to submit a paper copy of Form I-94 when requesting certain benefits. Other government agencies, such as State Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs), also require a paper copy of Form I-94. Moreover, nonimmigrants who are authorized to work may present a paper copy of Form I-94 to their employers during the employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) process.

Q. The current I-94 paper copy includes (a) class of admission and (b) how long the visitor can stay in US. How would people find out these data  with electronic version of I-94 document?
A. We haven't received any clarification on that. One possibility is that they might stamp passport with new dates and admission class (e.g. Parolee, etc). Other option is for people to log into CBP website mentioned above and look up these details.

You can read the 56 page PDF rule here: http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2013-06974_PI.pdf

We will update this post as the government releases more details on this implementation.

Update (April 3):

CBP has released FAQ and POE implementation details. Please see the link below:
http://blog.mygcvisa.com/2013/04/update-i-94-automation-process.html

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