Travel Season Reminder: Check Your I-94 Card Expiration Date22 Jun 2022
With the summer travel season upon us, many readers of MurthyDotCom are planning long-awaited trips abroad to visit family and friends. Not in their plans is a problem with the expiration date on the I-94 arrival / departure card upon returning to the United States. The importance of checking the expiration date on one’s I-94 card is often overlooked, and such an oversight can lead to serious problems. This discussion of the I-94 card expiration date provides reminders and suggestions as to how issues surrounding the I-94 card should be addressed.
Common Issues with I-94 Card / Early Expiration Date
An individual arriving at a U.S. port of entry (POE), which could be an airport, seaport, or land crossing, must be inspected by an officer from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). A foreign national seeking to enter the United States using an H1B or H-4 visa must show the CBP officer a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) H1B approval notice, in addition to a valid H1B or H-4 visa in the unexpired passport.
Problems arise when one who is entering the U.S. does not carry or present the most recent H1B approval notice. Concerns are also raised when the CBP officer relies upon the petition expiration date (PED) from the visa, rather than an extended expiration date in a more recent H1B extension. This results in the designation of an earlier, incorrect expiration date on the new I-94 card.
The same issues apply to many other nonimmigrant categories. It is not unusual for a traveler to leave the airport or other POE without checking the newly issued I-94. Complications are compounded as the person fails to notice these mistakes, which is frequently the case, until a significant period has elapsed.
Expiring Passport May Lead to Shortened I-94 Expiration Date
Another common problem occurs when one enters the United States based on a passport with an expiration date that is approaching. While the individual may carry an I-797 approval notice that is valid for several more years, the CBP normally issues only an I-94 card that is valid until the expiration date of the passport. Thus, the individual may be admitted for far less time than the duration that was anticipated, based on the I-797 approval notice. This, too, creates problems if it goes unnoticed until well after entry into the U.S.
When to Check I-94 Card
The best time to check one’s I-94 card is when it is first issued, before leaving CBP’s primary inspection area at the POE. CBP now ordinarily issues I-94s electronically, which the traveler can find online almost immediately after issuance. If the foreign national realizes that a mistake has been made on the I-94, the individual can raise the concern with CBP at the airport or other POE, and hopefully resolve the error even before leaving the POE. If the I-94 error is not detected until after leaving the POE, it may still be possible to address the matter through a CBP deferred inspection site.
What may seem like a small oversight regarding one’s I-94 can spiral into a very challenging immigration situation. Checking one’s I-94 online soon after being admitted to the United States can help avoid significant problems months or years later. Anyone requiring additional assistance with an I-94 issue is welcome to schedule a consultation with a Murthy Law Firm attorney.
While some aspects of immigration have changed in significant ways in the years since MurthyDotCom began publishing articles in 1994, there is much that is still the same. From time to time, clients of the Murthy Law Firm are referred to articles, like this one, which remains relevant and has been updated for our readers.
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