Online I-94 Information Useful, but Only for Entry / Exit Information01 Jul 2020
In May 2014, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) made it possible for travelers to access their respective I-94 arrival / departure records. This database provides a person’s most recent I-94 admission record as well as entry and departure records for the past five years. This system is a great tool from a recordkeeping perspective and makes it easier for travelers to determine whether any corrections need to be made. It has also, however, created some unanticipated confusion and anxiety in foreign nationals who mistakenly believe the online system is supposed to track status changes or extensions granted after they have been admitted to the United States.
Online System Only Tracks Entry / Exit Details – Not Updated with USCIS Information
The online CBP information only contains arrival and departure records, including details of the electronic I-94 issued at the time of entry. It does not necessarily reflect one’s current status. Many individuals change, extend, or adjust status from within the United States. This typically is done by filing an application or petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Approvals issued by the USCIS are not reflected in the CBP travel information. As explained on the CBP website, “The info returned may not reflect applications submitted to or benefits received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
Example of How CBP Site Information May Not Reflect One’s Actual Status
Venky arrives at a U.S. airport on October 1, 2019 and is admitted in H-4 status. Venky immediately checks the online CBP system, which correctly indicates that he was admitted on October 1st in H-4 status and shows a status expiration date of September 30, 2022. The following year, Company A files a petition with the USCIS on behalf of Venky requesting that his status be changed to H1B for a period of three years. The petition is approved and the USCIS issues an approval notice that includes a paper I-94 reflecting Venky’s H1B status with an expiration date of September 30, 2023.
At this point, if Venky checks the CBP system, it still will indicate that he is in H-4 status with a 2022 expiration date. This is not an error and Venky does not need to take any steps to ‘correct’ the information – it is simply that the CBP system is only designed to provide entry and exit details. So, while Venky has been granted H1B status valid through September 30, 2023, based on the I-94 issued by the USCIS a year after he was admitted, the CBP system will not be updated until and unless Venky leaves the United States and returns in H1B status, based on Company A’s approved petition.
The online I-94 system maintained by the CBP is an excellent tool that provides a far greater level of convenience than the legacy paper-based system. Ideally, there eventually will be a system designed to include more comprehensive immigration status information, including extensions and/or status changes granted by the USCIS. For the time being, however, foreign nationals should recognize the limitations on the scope of the existing system and not become needlessly alarmed based on travel-related details on the CBP site.
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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