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Form I-94

Hey there! If you’ve traveled to the U.S., you might have come across Form I-94. This form, also known as the Arrival/Departure Record, is issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when you enter the country. It’s essentially a record of your entry and exit, showing the date you arrived, the visa status under which you entered, and how long you’re allowed to stay. Nowadays, most of this information is recorded electronically, but it’s still crucial to know about your I-94 status because it directly affects your stay in the U.S.

What is the I-94 form used for?

Form I-94 is used to track the arrival and departure of non-U.S. citizens entering and leaving the country. It records important details such as the date of entry, visa category, and the duration of stay authorized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Who must file Form I-94?

Typically, you don’t have to file Form I-94 yourself; it’s issued to you by CBP when you enter the U.S. Almost all non-U.S. citizens arriving by air, sea, or land need an I-94, except for certain visa-exempt individuals, such as Canadian citizens entering for short visits.

What is an I-94 work permit?

An I-94 itself is not a work permit. However, the information on your I-94 can determine your eligibility to work in the U.S. For instance, if you enter the U.S. on a work visa like H-1B or L-1, your I-94 will show your authorized stay and work status.

Do I need an I-94 if I have an ESTA?

Yes, even if you enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program with an ESTA, you will still receive an I-94 record. The ESTA allows you to travel to the U.S. without a visa, but your arrival will be documented with an I-94.

Is the I-94 the same as a visa?

No, the I-94 is not the same as a visa. A visa allows you to seek entry to the U.S., while the I-94 shows the terms of your admission, such as how long you can stay. Think of the visa as your ticket to the U.S. and the I-94 as your permission slip for how long you can stay and under what conditions.

How long is an I-94 valid for?

The validity of an I-94 depends on the visa category under which you entered the U.S. It could range from a few days to several years. Your I-94 will indicate your "Admit Until Date," which specifies the last day you’re allowed to stay in the U.S. for that visit.

Is I-94 for everyone?

Most non-U.S. citizens need an I-94 when they enter the U.S. There are a few exceptions, such as certain Canadian visitors or those entering under specific visa waivers. However, if you’re coming to the U.S. for work, study, or extended stays, you’ll likely need an I-94.

What if I don't have an I-94?

If you don't have an I-94, you might face issues proving your legal status in the U.S. You can retrieve your electronic I-94 record from the CBP website if you entered by air or sea. If you entered by land, you might need to contact CBP or visit a port of entry to get a replacement.

Why doesn't the U.S. have exit immigration?

The U.S. doesn’t have exit immigration because it relies on entry records and airline manifests to track departures. When you leave the country, airlines submit passenger information to CBP, which then updates your departure in the system. This method simplifies the exit process and avoids long lines for outbound travelers.

I hope this clarifies any confusion about Form I-94. Understanding your I-94 status is essential for complying with U.S. immigration laws. If you have any more questions or need further assistance, feel free to reach out. Safe travels!

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