According to immigration laws, Form I-94 refers to the Arrival and Departure form that must be submitted by foreign nationals. It is to be submitted to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon entering and exiting the U.S.  CBP will review and stamp the form, which is require for final approval of admission for foreign nationals entering the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa.

The way that the Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record works is that the top portion is filled out submitted to CBP upon entry, which will then enter it into their official records. This is the Arrival record of the person’s arrival into the United States. The bottom part will then be retained by the person until they finally leave for their home country.  This is the Departure portion of form and should be submitted upon exiting the U.S.

Do I Need to Submit Form I-94 If I’m Taking a Short Trip Outside the U.S.?

No- if you are traveling to the U.S. under a non-immigrant visa, you might have plans to exit the country during your stay. Non-citizens who plan to take a short trip of 30 days or less to Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean Islands do NOT need to submit their I-94 form for the trip (though it may be required when traveling to countries besides these).

The I-94 form is only to be turned in to CBP when they are leaving the U.S. to return to their home country.

What If My Immigration Status Has Changed? Do I Need a New Form I-94?

It’s often the case that a nonimmigrant visitor may desire to apply to change their nonimmigrant status to a different one. Or, they might want to apply for an extension of their current or previous nonimmigrant status. Under these circumstances, they may need to submit an updated Form I-94.

The new I-94 will usually be attached to their approval notice if they’re approved for the change in immigration status. The newer I-94 will reflect any changes such as adjustments or extensions to their visa status as well as any new limitations or authorizations.

What If I Didn’t Submit a Form I-94?

Failing to submit a Form I-94 can result in difficulties for the foreign national if they are trying to re-enter the country in the future. This is because failing to submit the Departure record form may cause the system to indicate that the person has overstayed their previous visa.

This can be corrected if the person submits their I-94 Departure form to CBS. This can be done through mail, though there may be very specific procedures to follow, which may require the assistance of an attorney.

Delays caused by circumstances not under the control of the person may be a legitimate excuse for failing to submit an I-94. These can include cancelled/delayed flights or medical emergencies. However, the person will need to submit proof of such circumstances when submitting their I-94 through mail. 

To validate their departure time, CBP may consider several pieces of information, such as:

  • Photocopies of entry/exit stamps in the person’s passport, showing the date of when they left the U.S. or entered into their home country
  • Boarding passes (original copies are preferred)
  • Other supporting photocopies, such as:
    • Dated wage slips or pay stubs to prove that they began working in their home country after departure from the U.S.
    • Bank records indicating dates of transactions performed in the person’s home country
    • School attendance records verifying the person’s presence in a school at their home country
    • Credit card receipts indicating the date and location of purchase transactions

Again, compiling such evidence may require some understanding of both international and U.S. immigration laws and policies. You may wish to seek the assistance of an attorney if you need help verifying your departure date from the U.S. This will help you to avoid re-entry issues if you wish to travel to the U.S. in the future. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Form I-94?

Form I-94 is one of the most important documents for non-citizens traveling to the U.S. for a temporary visit.  If you have any questions or need assistance with Form I-94, you may wish to hire an immigration attorney. An experienced lawyer can help advise you on immigration laws, and can assist you in filing and submitting your I-94. Also, if you’ve come under investigation for an I-94, or are being required to submit additional information, an attorney can provide you with additional guidance and representation on such matters.