Navigating the Nuances of the I-94 Form: A Guide for Nonimmigrants in the U.S.

The I-94 form is a critical document for nonimmigrants in the United States. Issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and sometimes by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the I-94 records a visitor’s arrival and departure, serving as evidence of their legal status and allowed duration of stay. Understanding and regularly checking the validity of the I-94 is essential to avoid complications.

Potential Consequences of Ignoring I-94 Validity

Failing to keep track of the I-94 expiration can lead to several serious issues:

Unlawful Presence: Overstaying can accrue “unlawful presence,” leading to future admission bars to the U.S.

Voided Visa: A visa may be voided due to overstaying, complicating re-entry.

Employment Issues: Overstaying can result in unauthorized employment, affecting legal work status.

Status Adjustment Issues: It becomes difficult to change or extend status, or adjust status (e.g., to permanent residency).

Visa Denials: Future applications for nonimmigrant visas might be denied if overstaying is recorded, as it suggests non-compliance with visa terms.

Issuance and Checking of I-94

CBP officers typically issue an I-94 record electronically upon initial entry. In some cases, especially for Canadians and certain other nonimmigrant categories, it’s still issued in paper form. Each subsequent entry may result in a new I-94 issuance or revalidation of the existing one. Travelers should check their I-94 and travel history after each entry for accuracy, accessible through the official CBP website.

USCIS also issues I-94s at the bottom of I-797A notices when approving changes or extensions of nonimmigrant status. For example, while the main part of an I-797A may grant work authorization for a period, the I-94 attached could provide a grace period of ten additional days allowing the holder to stay in the U.S. without work authorization.

Special Considerations for Non-Six Month Club Countries

The Six Month Club includes countries whose passports are recognized as valid for six months beyond the expiration date on the passport. For countries not on this list, CBP will limit the I-94 validity to the date within six months of the passport’s expiration. This can significantly shorten the authorized stay compared to what might be expected based on visa validity or USCIS approvals.

Grace Periods and Extensions

After employment termination, certain nonimmigrants can remain in the U.S. for up to 60 days or until the I-94 expires, whichever is shorter. Moreover, filing a timely extension application can automatically extend work authorization for up to 240 days while USCIS reviews the application.

Conclusion

The I-94 form is a vital document for maintaining lawful status in the U.S. Nonimmigrants must be proactive in checking their I-94 records, understanding their validity, and ensuring they comply with the terms of their admission to avoid any complications with immigration or employment. 

Contact Our Experienced Immigration Attorneys At NPZ Law Group Today

If you or your family members have any questions about how immigration and nationality laws in the United States may affect you, or if you want to access additional information about immigration and nationality laws in the United States or Canada, please do not hesitate to contact the immigration and nationality lawyers at NPZ Law Group. You can reach us by emailing info@visaserve.com or by calling us at 201-670-0006 extension 104. We also invite you to visit our website at www.visaserve.com for more information.