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Immigration Update

April 1, 2013

Paper I-94 Cards Being Phased Out

Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced a rule that changes the Form I-94 (also known as an “I-94 card”) in order to allow an I-94 to be issued in electronic format, as well as in its current paper version.  The purpose is to streamline the I-94-issuing process and make I-94 data entry more efficient.  Currently, foreign nationals arriving in the U.S. complete a paper Form I-94 which is stamped by a Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officer at the U.S. port-of-entry.  The stamp contains the date of admission, the visa type, and the date until which the foreign national is permitted to remain in the U.S.  The departure portion of the Form I-94 is retained by the foreign national to be shown to government officials as needed, and to employers as part of the I-9 process.

This new rule will impact international air travel.  Because CBP already has a database that collects information on travelers arriving by air and by sea, they already receive most of the information contained on the Form I-94 electronically before an individual arrives in the U.S.  The remaining pieces of information are collected either by the Department of State, or from the passenger upon arrival in the U.S.  All of this information will now be collected electronically.  This new rule has not yet been extended to individuals who arrive in the U.S. through a land port-of-entry and who receive paper Forms I-94 (e.g., Canadians and Mexicans who enter the United States at a land border crossing and seek admission in a work visa classification such as L-1A or TN) when entering the U.S.

The rule could become final within the next 30 days.  Once final, CBP will phase in the electronic I-9 form.  Foreign nationals arriving by air or by sea will no longer complete a paper Form I-94 prior to arrival and will not present the Form I-94 in paper form to a CBP inspector at a U.S. port-of-entry.  Instead, upon the person’s arrival, the CBP officer who inspects the individual will upload the I-94 information into an electronic database, including all the information that the officer would have written on the paper I-94 card.  The CBP officer also will continue to stamp the traveler’s passport at the time of inspection, and will annotate the stamp with the class of admission or parole and its duration.

Foreign nationals who want a paper copy of their electronic I-94 will be able to access and print their electronic Form I-94 via a website that CBP has established for this purpose: www.cbp.gov/I94.  Travelers to whom an electronic Form I-94 has been issued will be able to log on to the website using identifying information and print a copy of the electronic Form I-94.  The printout from the website can be used with a foreign passport as a List A document for I-9 purposes.  The foreign national will need to log in to the CBP website, print the Form I-94 from the CBP website, and present it to their employer along with their passport to complete the new I-9 form.

Moore & Van Allen will continue to monitor the status of this proposed regulation and will provide updates on developments relating to this new rule as it impacts our clients.  If you have questions regarding the new electronic I-94, please contact a member of the MVA Immigration Team