Form I-94, Explained
How the I-94 arrival/departure record keeps track of your travel history — and why it matters
What is the I-94 travel record form?
The I-94 travel record, formally known as the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, is a paper or electronic document issued by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer to foreign visitors entering the United States.
The I-94 — sometimes incorrectly called a “1-94” form — is used to keep track of non-citizens entering and leaving the United States. It’s an important document because it proves you entered the country lawfully, and also shows the date by which you must leave the United States.
Until 2013, most visitors received paper I-94 travel records, which they surrendered upon leaving the country so their departures could be recorded. Now, most visitors arriving by sea or by air receive electronic travel records, but if you enter the U.S. by land you may still receive a paper form.
Either way, Form I-94 is a vital supporting document for many immigration purposes, so it’s important to understand how it works.
Receiving an I-94 travel record is just the beginning of your immigration journey. Boundless helps you build a tailored visa plan for every step of the process, from forms to your immigration interview. Get started today!
Start planning your immigration journey today with Boundless.
Who Needs an I-94 Form?
Most people entering the United States who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents get an I-94 travel record form automatically issued to them upon arrival.
Exceptions are made for those entering on the Visa Waiver Program or Compact of Free Association, using Border Crossing Cards, re-entering using automatic visa revalidation (a system used by some visa-holders who briefly visit Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean), or entering temporarily as part of an airline flight crew.
IMPORTANT: Some people who aren’t required to have an I-94 travel record must instead fill out a Form I-94W (for visitors using visa waivers) or Form I-95 (for members of a flight crew). These forms have a similar purpose to a regular I-94. Check with the CBP Officer upon arrival if you think this might apply to you.
The U.S. immigration system can seem complicated, but Boundless can guide you through the whole process from start to finish. Get started today!
How Do I Get an I-94 Card?
When you arrive in the United States, you’ll show your passport and visa to a CBP agent, who will enter your information into an electronic tracking system.
The CBP agent will stamp your passport to indicate that you entered the United States lawfully, and if you enter by land you’ll also receive a paper I-94 card. If you enter by sea or by air, you won’t receive a paper I-94, but will instead receive an electronic I-94 record.
Getting an electronic I-94 form
Foreign visitors arriving by air or sea will automatically be issued with an electronic I-94 travel record upon arrival. You’ll also get a stamp in your passport to show that you entered the country lawfully.
You’ll probably receive printed instructions about how to access your electronic I-94, but it’s easy to view your travel record, and download or print a copy for your records, using the CBP’s online system.
Getting a paper I-94 travel record
Foreign visitors arriving by land still receive the paper version of I-94 entry form — a small white card that is attached to a visitor’s passport.
It’s important to remember to hand in your paper I-94 when leaving the United States, since that’s how the U.S. government will track your departure and know that you left the country before your visa expired.
You’ll use information from your I-94 travel record for many immigration purposes. When you’re ready to get started on your immigration journey, Boundless offers unlimited support from our team of immigration experts, so you can apply with confidence and focus on what’s important, your life in the U.S. Learn more.
How is the I-94 Travel Record Used?
Both your stamped passport and your electronic or paper I-94 record will show your “Admit Until Date,” which shows how long you are allowed to remain in the United States. The CBP agent who stamps your passport may simply write “Duration of Status” or “D/S,” which indicates that you’re allowed to remain in the United States as long as your current visa remains valid.
The I-94 travel record also logs information about when you entered and left the United States, which can be important when you need to show that you entered the country lawfully, or that you didn’t stay in the United States beyond the period permitted by your visa. You may also find that you’ll need details from your I-94 travel record when dealing with government agencies, such as when applying for a driver’s license.
If you extend your stay or adjust your status after arriving in the United States — such as by gaining a green card — then U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will issue a new I-94 or other documentation to reflect your new situation. In such cases, the new documentation will be your primary way of showing your lawful status.
NOTE: Understanding your I-94 number
Once CBP approves your lawful entry and issues the I-94 form, a unique code will be assigned to your record. This number is linked to a specific entrance into the United States, so you’ll receive a different I-94 number each time you arrive in the country. The number, which you can find on your paper I-94 card or on your electronic record, may sometimes be required by a state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or your employer may need it for their records.
Until May 2019, I-94 numbers were an 11-digit string of numbers. Now, though, CBP has switched to using an 11-character alphanumeric code — a mix of numbers and letters. You won’t need to worry about this, since unexpired I-94 forms based on the old numeric system will remain valid until their “Admit Until Date” has passed.
How Much Does the I-94 Form Cost?
There is no fee for the I-94 form. That’s true whether you’re arriving by land, air, or sea, and regardless of whether you get a paper or electronic record.
If you’re arriving at a land border port of entry, you can optionally apply online for a provisional I-94 one week or less before your arrival date. Applying for a provisional I-94 costs $6, but can streamline the arrival process and minimize the time you spend waiting in line at the border.
Obtaining a copy of your I-94 travel record is also free if you entered the United States after April 2013. For earlier records, you can request a copy by submitting Form I-102 (officially called the “Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document”) and paying a $445 filing fee.
While there’s no fee for an I-94 travel record, immigrating can be an expensive process. USCIS recently announced that they plan on increasing immigration costs significantly in the coming months. The fee increase would double application fees for some visa categories, and the new fees could take effect as soon as summer 2023. To avoid the higher fees, it’s important to file your application before the rule goes into effect. Learn more about what Boundless can do to help.
Form I-94 FAQs
It’s easy to access your I-94 form using CBP’s online portal. You’ll need to make sure you enter your information — such as your name and passport details — correctly in order to log on.
If you can’t find your I-94 travel record using the online system, check here for official guidance on how to make sure you’re entering your information correctly, and to get further assistance if necessary.
If there’s an error in your I-94 travel record, you’ll need to contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to make the correction. You can schedule an in-person interview at a local USCIS office, or call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 for more information.
Keep calm! It’s normally an easy fix. Since most I-94 records are now kept electronically, you’ll usually be able to download a copy of your travel record from the CBP website at no charge.
In some cases, such as if you entered the United States prior to April 2013, the process can be more complicated and expensive. You can learn more about your options in the Boundless guide to getting a copy of your I-94.
It’s worth keeping a hard copy of your I-94 travel record in a safe place. To download or print out a copy of your I-94 card, simply log onto the CBP’s I-94 website and follow the on-screen instructions.
Electronic travel records are convenient in most cases, but things can get complicated if you receive an electronic record after arriving in the United States by sea or by air, but then leave the country at a land border crossing. At land borders, departures are still primarily tracked using paper I-94 travel records, so if you have an electronic record your departure may not be automatically recorded.
In such cases, you’ll want to make sure you have another way to prove that you left the country before your visa expired. One option is to request an entrance stamp in your passport from the Canadian or Mexican authorities. You can also keep transport tickets, receipts, or pay stubs to show that you left the United States before your visa expired.