As of May 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will start issuing alphanumeric numbers on the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. To date, Form I-94 contained a unique 11-digit number that appeared on all hardcopy I-94 cards and electronic I-94 records. Going forward, Form I-94 will contain an 11-character combination of numbers and letters to avoid a potential depletion of numeric-only numbers.
What is Form I-94?
The Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record is a unique document issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to every foreign national upon each entry to the U.S. Form I-94 is primarily issued electronically and retrieved from CBP’s website, but in some limited cases it is issued in hardcopy as a small white card stapled to the foreign national’s passport.
Form I-94 indicates the foreign national’s specific status, most recent date of entry and the status expiration date.
Why is Form I-94 important?
Form I-94 is the document that confirms a foreign national’s status in the U.S. and governs the period of authorized stay. While there are many other documents related to an individual’s status in the U.S. (visa stamp, I-797 approval notice, PED date, endorsed Form I-129S), Form I-94 is the most important document as it reflects a foreign national’s authorized status and confirms how long the individual can remain in the U.S.
For this reason, it is critical that foreign nationals review their I-94 card or electronic I-94 record upon each entry to the U.S. In the event Form I-94 is issued incorrectly, there are avenues to have it corrected. However, it is the individual’s responsibility to review each Form I-94, identify any mistakes and take appropriate action to get Form I-94 corrected.
How will Form I-94 change?
Currently Form I-94 contains a unique 11-character number that consists of nine digits, followed by two digits. Beginning May 2019, CBP will issue Form I-94 with alphanumeric combinations that contain nine numerical digits, followed by a letter as the 10th character and a numerical digit for the 11th character. Unexpired Form I-94s that were issued in the previous format will remain valid through the validity date shown.
Foreign nationals should continue to monitor Form I-94 upon each entry to the U.S. and make note of the status issued, validity date and unique alphanumeric ID.