CBP plans to phase out paper I-94’s
Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has recently announced plans to eliminate Form I-94, the paper form given to nonimmigrants arriving in the US (with a few exceptions, including nonimmigrants traveling under the Visa Waiver Program). CBP would keep an electronic record of arrival of nonimmigrant aliens, and would place an admission stamp on the passports of the arriving nonimmigrant alien instead of handing out a paper Form I-94. The stamp would contain a handwritten note reflecting the status and authorized period of stay.
While CBP had originally announced plans to introduce the elimination gradually with pilot programs in a few locations, it now appears that the elimination could be imminent and system-wide. New indications are also that paper I-94s would be eliminated for those aliens arriving by air or seaports, but would stay in place for aliens arriving to the US through a land border.
It is worth mentioning that eliminating the paper I-94 may have significant practical repercussions in other benefit application areas. For example, current I-9 regulations provide that employers can accept a foreign passport and a properly endorsed Form I-94 or Form I-94A as proof of employment eligibility and identification; I-9 regulations and instructions will now need to be revised accordingly. As another example, the Social Security Administration published a guidance in May 2012 regarding the documents that nonimmigrant aliens may submit to show employment authorization in the US, and the guidance still refers to Form I-94. Many current government regulations, documents and databases, whether at the Federal or State level (i.e. state motor vehicle bureaus), will need to be revised to reflect the elimination of the paper Form I-94.
There is only limited information available at this point on how CBP will manage the admission process without Paper I-94s or when the elimination will be initiated exactly. As CBP may put in place the new system unannounced, please advise your employees of the impending change and the need once it is in effect to send us copies of the passport admission stamps. This will enable us to assist with the monitoring of their nonimmigrant status. We will endeavor to keep you updated on these developments, whether at the immigration law level or with respect to other areas, such as I-9s and Social Security numbers.