Everything to Know About the I-94 Form: Arrival-Departure Record Number

Everything to Know About the I-94 Form: Arrival-Departure Record Number

Form I-94 is the key to your arrival and departure from the United States. It is an essential document in your immigration process that shows the dates that you are able to enter and leave the country during your stay here in the United States.

What is an I-94 Form?

Form I-94 is also known as the Arrival/Departure Record. Its purpose is to keep track of your travel history. When you come to the United States to visit as someone who is not a U.S. citizen, your I-94 form tracks when you enter and leave the country. The importance of an I-94 form is that the document proves you entered the United States legally. Form I-94 also gives you the date that you must exit the United States.

Your I-94 travel record is a document that can be on tangible paper—where it is attached to your passport when you enter the United States—or it can be an electronic form. If you come to the United States by boat or plane, you will most likely have an electronic version of Form I-94. Otherwise, you will probably have the paper version of your travel record.

Your I-94 form is an essential part of your immigration journey, as it is the key to your entry into the United States.

What Is Form I-94 Used For?

Your I-94 form is a legal document meant to prove to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that you can enter the country legally. It is actually issued by CBP. The form is used to track your legal entry and exit to and from the United States. The form itself is used to both let you know what the duration of your legal stay is and to let CBP approve your entry. Without Form I-94, you will not be able to enter the U.S.

When you first arrive in the United States, your passport and I-94 form will have an Admit Until Date. These dates are your arrival and departure dates, which are generally the dates until your visa expires.

Along with a tangible (or digital) Form I-94, you will also be given a unique code assigned to your travel record. A new code is given to you every time you enter the United States. You can use this code in situations like gaining employment—if necessary—and for interactions at your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record for Traveling

If you are allowed to travel to and from the U.S. on your visa, you will use your Form I-94 to record your travels. Again, this is to track every entry and exit in and out of the U.S. to show that you have legally stayed in and exited the country. This also shows that you did not overstay your visit to the United States during your visa time frame.

If you have any questions about whether or not you are allowed to depart and return within your “Admit Until Dates,” speak to an immigration attorney about your specific visa regulations.

Who Needs an I-94 Form?

Any foreign national who falls under the following categories need an I-94 form:

  • Anyone admitted to the U.S. with a visa
  • Anyone already in the U.S. and adjusting their status
  • Anyone extending their stay in the U.S.

Really, most people who arrive in the United States from another country who are either not U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) need an I-94 form.

Who Does Not Need an I-94 Form?

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. You do not need nor will you be given a Form I-94 arrival-departure record number if you:

  • Are a U.S. citizen
  • Have an immigrant visa
  • Are entering via the Visa Waiver Program
  • Are entering via the Compact of Free Association
  • Are reentering via automatic visa revalidation
  • Are coming to the U.S. for a temporary stay as an employee on an airline flight crew

It is always best to check with an immigration attorney about whether or not you fall into any of the exempt categories. Even if you do not need an I-94 form, you may need another visitor form for legal entry into the United States. An immigration attorney can walk you through what those forms may be and how to obtain them.

How Can I Get an I-94 Form?

You will be given an I-94 form when you arrive in the United States. You will need to present your passport and approved visa to the CBP agent at your port of entry. The CBP agent will then:

  • Put your information into an electronic tracking system
  • Stamp your passport
  • Give you a tangible I-94 form document which they will sign, if applicable

The CBP will also give you a stamp that shows your status for Form I-94 class of admission, admitted until date, and current date of admission.

If you are not given a tangible form, then you will be issued an electronic Form I-94 arrival-departure record number and record. You can visit CBP’s I-94 form webpage to get your I-94 record. You can also find additional information about your Form I-94 arrival-departure record.

If you are entering the U.S. at a land border port of entry, you will be given a physical copy of your Form I-94. The CBP agent will attach the card to your passport.

When leaving the United States, you will return your I-94 form back to CBP, proving that you departed the country by the legal date of your departure and did not overstay your visa’s expiration date.

Additional Forms Needed

  • Your approved visa
  • Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document—this form can be used when you need a new or replacement Form I-94; you can also use it if you have a Form I-95*
  • Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker—this form may be needed if you wish to extend your stay and your employer needs to petition for you

What Is an I-95 Form?

Form I-95 is the Crewman’s Landing Permit, which is also given by CBP. It follows the same guidelines as Form I-94, including:

  • Showing the date of arrival to the United States
  • Showing the date of departure/authorized stay dates

These forms are given to a person visiting the U.S. for ship or aircraft operations.

Is an I-94 Form Free?

Yes, the I-94 form is free. There is no fee since one is given to you by CBP when you arrive in the country.

If you wish to expedite your entry once you arrive, you can apply online for a provisional I-94 form. Though it is unnecessary, you may find it helps speed up your waiting time at the border. The cost to apply is $6.

Other Fees Associated With Your Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number

If you need to replace your I-94 form, you have to pay a fee with your application. Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document includes a $445 fee. Again, before you apply for a replacement, check with your immigration attorney. You may be able to get a copy of your travel record at no charge.

Even though your arrival-departure record number does not include a fee itself, legal entry into the United States does, as most visas have filing and application fees associated with them. You will need to pay whatever fees are required to apply for your specific nonimmigrant visa.

Extending My Stay or Adjusting My Status With an I-94 Form

Your I-94 form is used for travel and gives you your departure dates. But what happens if you adjust your status, obtain a green card, or extend your stay in the U.S.?

You will actually be issued a new I-94 form. If you are applying for your U.S. visa extension of stay, then your admissions record number will change. Your new documents will then be used to show that you are in the United States legally.

You will also need to file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. When your extension is approved, you will be granted your new I-94 form with your updated departure date.

Important note: We recommend that you keep all previous I-94 forms. If you are trying to go through the process of adjusting your status, your current I-94 form is useful evidence to support your case. The I-94 form for K-1 visa adjustment of status is a vital piece of information. It is one of the required documents when you are going through the K-1 adjustment of the status process.

Should I Get Legal Help for My Form I-94?

It is always a good idea to have an immigration attorney on your team when handling immigration law. An immigration attorney can help you throughout your visa process. Before you even arrive to the United States to get your I-94 form, you must go through the extensive process of applying for a visa.

Applying for a visa, requesting an extension on your visa (and therefore an extension on your Form I-94), or adjusting your status are all extensive processes. Having the guidance of an immigration attorney can help make the confusing process of dealing with immigration law less stressful. We can help with due dates, organization, and ensuring all necessary forms are filed correctly.

Reach Out to an Experienced Immigration Attorney

The experienced immigration attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. have over 70 years of combined experience. We know the importance of an I-94 form and have helped many of our clients correctly file the form in order to begin their immigration process.

We can help you every step of the way through your immigration process, discuss your green card eligibility, and support you as you start on your path to the United States. Contact us today at 312.444.1940 or fill out an online contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!

We're looking forward to hearing from you!