Importance of Monitoring the I-94 Expiration Date22 Dec 2020
For nonimmigrants temporarily in the United States, perhaps the most important date to track is the expiration date of one’s I-94 arrival / departure record. The I-94 record used to be issued in paper form by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon arrival to the United States at an airport or other port of entry (POE). Since 2013, in most situations, one’s I-94 record is instead provided online. A paper I-94 can also be issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when one is granted an extension or change of nonimmigrant status from within the United States. If the USCIS issues an I-94 card, it will arrive attached to the bottom of an approval notice (form I-797).
Difference Between I-94 Expiration and Visa Expiration
The expiration date on a visa foil (commonly referred to as a visa “stamp”) in the passport and the expiration date on the I-94 record are often not the same, as they serve two different purposes.
The visa is only an entry document. The time that one is actually allowed to remain in the United States after entry could be much shorter or longer than the duration of the visa. The appropriate amount of time an individual is allowed to remain in the U.S. generally is indicated on the I-94 and is typically determined by the CBP at the POE or the USCIS, as discussed above.
It should be noted that, in certain situations, one’s I-94 may not have a set expiration date. For example, a person entering in F-1 student status typically is admitted for D/S, which signifies “duration of status” rather than a certain date. Situations such as this, however, go beyond the scope of this MurthyDotCom NewsBrief.
Implications of Failure to Extend I-94
The I-94 indicates how long a foreign national is permitted to stay in the United States provided the individual complies with the terms of status. Depending on the circumstances, remaining in the U.S. even a single day beyond the I-94 expiration date can cause immigration problems. Please see the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Differences Between: Lawful Status, Period of Authorized Stay, & Unlawful Presence (17.Dec.2018) for more details on the potential consequences.
Cannot Rely on Errors on the I-94 Card
If CBP or the USCIS inadvertently issues an I-94 with an incorrect expiration date – either providing an I-94 for a longer period than permitted by law, or for a shorter period that intended – a failure by the foreign national to notice this mistake and take appropriate action can lead to detrimental results.
Accordingly, foreign nationals are encouraged to check their respective I-94 cards immediately after issuance to verify the documents are free of errors. If a problem with an I-94 is discovered, one should move quickly to correct the error. The USCIS has made it clear that one should not rely upon an erroneous grant of more time in a nonimmigrant category than was requested or than one is eligible to receive under the law.
Expiring Passport May Lead to Shortened I-94 Expiration Date
Typically, CBP will not issue an I-94 with an expiration date that is beyond the expiration of the foreign national’s passport. So, while one may carry an I-797 approval notice that permits the issuance of a particular status for an extended period (e.g., an H1B approval notice valid for three years), if one’s passport expires prior to this date, the period of admission generally is similarly truncated.
If the foreign national’s passport is subsequently renewed while in the United States, this ordinarily has no direct impact on the I-94 expiration date. Generally, to extend the I-94, the individual must then either depart the U.S. and be readmitted or else apply for an extension of status.
Accordingly, foreign nationals are encouraged to check their respective I-94 records immediately after issuance to verify the documents are free of errors. If a problem with an I-94 is discovered, one should move quickly to correct the error. The USCIS has made it clear that one should not rely upon an erroneous grant of more time in a nonimmigrant category than was requested or than one is eligible to receive under the law.
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