October 14, 2014Client Alert

Travel Warning for Foreign National Employees: The Importance of Electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure Records

Until recently, foreign nationals received a paper I-94 Arrival/Departure record when entering the United States. The I-94 record listed the individual’s date of entry, class of admission, and the date on which the individual was required to leave the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) now keeps these records electronically, issuing paper I-94 records to foreign nationals only upon request. The I-94 record serves as proof of legal immigration status and is required in many circumstances, such as Form I-9 completion and driver’s license issuance.

Because foreign nationals no longer receive paper copies of their I-94 records, many do not monitor such records as closely as in the past. This trend may cause serious immigration-related complications. For example, almost without exception, CBP limits a foreign national’s authorized period of stay on his or her I-94 record to the expiration date of the individual’s passport. It is crucial that foreign nationals do not assume they have been authorized to stay in the United States for the full period listed on their U.S. visas or on their I-797 approval notices.  It is the date listed on the I-94 record, not the date listed on one’s visa stamp or approval notice that indicates the authorized period of stay. CBP errors, such as in the class of admission or admit until date listed on an I-94 record are equally problematic.

Neglecting to monitor one’s electronic I-94 record can lead to devastating results. Namely, a foreign national can inadvertently overstay his or her period of authorized stay. Likewise, the CBP could have mistakenly admitted a work-authorized foreign national into the United States under a class of admission that does not in fact allow the individual to be employed. Either scenario could have severe short-term and long-term implications for both the foreign national and his or her U.S. employer.

The most effective way to reduce the impact of such scenarios is for foreign nationals to monitor their electronic I-94 records. Employers should remind their foreign national workers of this requirement, especially when foreign travel is planned. After every entry into the United States, the foreign national should access his or her electronic I-94 record. (TIP: When attempting to access an I-94 record, note that CBP usually lists the foreign national’s name exactly as it appears on the passport.) The individual should verify that the date of entry, class of admission, and admit until date are listed correctly and should print a copy of the I-94 record.

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