New Year’s Reminder for Individuals – Check I-94 Expiration Dates04 Jan 2023
Many aspects of immigration law are tied to expiration dates, grace periods, filing deadlines, and other date-driven matters. So, it is vitally important to keep informed and on top of calendar items and timelines specific to one’s immigration process. Many serious problems can be avoided by taking this simple step, combined with appropriate advance planning.
I-94 Expiration Dates for Nonimmigrants
Perhaps the most important date an individual in nonimmigrant status needs to bear in mind is the expiration date on the I-94. In most situations, the I-94 reflects how long a person is permitted to stay in the United States, provided that s/he complies with the terms of his/her status. Individuals typically need to plan to depart the United States before the I-94 expires, or else make a timely request to change or extend status.
Initially, the I-94 expiration date is generally set by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a U.S. port of entry (POE). After being admitted, if the individual is granted an extension and/or change of status, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) typically issues an I-94 card attached to the bottom of the I-797 approval notice.
An individual may view the I-94 issued by CBP by logging on to the official I-94 website. Travelers are urged to review their CBP I-94 information shortly after arrival to verify their allowed period of stay and identify any errors. Note, however, that 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. This was covered in the MurthyDotCom article, Online I-94 Information Useful, but Only for Entry / Exit Information (01.Jul.2020).
Identify and Address I-94 Errors
Occasionally, the CBP or USCIS may make mistakes when issuing I-94s. An incorrect expiration date may be provided, or the wrong class of admission may be inputted. These errors need to be promptly identified and corrected. Even if it appears the government’s entry of an erroneous expiration date works in the favor of the foreign national, such an error should not be relied upon. Any expiration date that extends beyond the period the individual is legally eligible to remain in the U.S. should not be ignored. Rather, the foreign national needs either to have the I-94 corrected, or, at the very least, to obtain competent legal advice on how best to proceed.
Visas Are Travel Documents; I-94 Cards Reflect Status
It is important to remember that the expiration date on a person’s visa “foil” (commonly referred to as a stamp) and the expiration date of the I-94 are not necessarily the same. The visa is only an entry document. The period one is actually allowed to remain in the United States generally is indicated on the I-94. For example, a person might be issued a 10-year, multiple-entry visitor (B-2) visa by a U.S. consulate. However, in most situations, s/he is only granted entry for six months, as reflected by the expiration date on the I-94. Overstaying the date on the I-94 can have serious consequences.
Extension or Change of Status – Don’t Forget Derivative Family Members
In most situations, each nonimmigrant who enters the United States is issued an I-94. Accordingly, when a family enters the United States together (such as an H1B worker who is accompanied by her H-4 dependent husband,) each I-94 must be checked for accuracy, and the status of each individual must be maintained. Extending the status of the principal H1B worker does not automatically extend the status of the dependent family members.
Failure to do something as simple as verifying that each family member remains in valid status can sometimes have catastrophic results. As explained in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Filing a Nunc Pro Tunc Request to Reinstate Status in the U.S. (01.Feb.2018), in some situations, it is possible to ask the USCIS to use discretion and provide relief for this type of oversight. But, the USCIS has immense discretion in approving or denying such requests. And, needless to say, it is much easier and cheaper to be proactive to avoid such problems, than it is to attempt to correct them after the fact.
In short, foreign nationals should take just a few moments to review their I-94s and ensure that the information listed is correct. This quick and easy step can help in avoiding serious future problems. Questions about one’s status or errors on an I-94 can be addressed by consulting 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.
Copyright © 2014-2023, MURTHY LAW FIRM. All Rights Reserved