Until recently, most visitors to the United States used to be provided with an I-94 Arrival-Departure Record upon admission. The I-94 is a white card that is usually affixed to the passport and bears an entry date, class of admission, and date of stay expiration. In the last few years, the Department of Homeland Security has begun digitizing entry records. As a result, visitors are no longer furnished these little white cards, except under limited circumstances. Instead, Customs and Border Protection has automated the process so that most entries by land and sea are electronically recorded. Visitors will still get their passports stamped, but will no longer receive the white cards.
What role does the I-94 play in an Adjustment of Status Case?
When applicants file for permanent residence in the US, they are electing to process their application through a process of called adjustment of status (vs. consular processing, where they will apply for their immigrant visas abroad). In order to file the green card case domestically, there are a number of eligibility requirements. One of the most important pertains to lawful entry. Section 245 of the Immigration and nationality Act (INA) says, in part, “the status of an alien who was inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States…”
Traditionally, the I-94 has always been strong evidence of one’s inspection and admission into the US. Generally speaking, presentation of one’s visa, entry stamp in one’s passport, and the I-94 will normally satisfy this eligibility prong.
What if I lost my I-94?
As mentioned previously, visitors are no longer furnished with a physical I-94. However, individuals may print out a copy of their electronic I-94 record of admission by visiting the Customs and Border Protection website at www.cbp.gov/I94. Most entries after April 30, 2013 will usually be recorded and maintained online at the cbp database.
For those who were previously issued a paper I-94 by CBP or USCIS but who may have lost or misplaced it, a duplicate may be obtained. A replacement may be obtained by filing Form I-102 with USCIS. The filing fee is currently $330 but is scheduled to rise to $445. The new fee becomes effective on December 23, 2016.
The absence of an I-94 or proof of inspection is certainly problematic, but an I-94, in and of itself, does not necessarily ensure that an adjustment of status case will be successful. It is merely one requirement, among many, that will be examined during the adjudication process. There are a number of other issues that stull need to be addressed, such as manner and purpose of entry; present immigration status (ie., lawful or expired); as well as applicable immigrant category (ie., is this person an Immediate Relative or does he/she fall within a preference category?). Do not assume that merely having an I-94 means one can apply for adjustment of status without any issues; on the other hand, the lack of an I-94 does not necessarily mean that one will not qualify either. For more information on the adjustment of status process and requirements, please contact our office. Remember that the above is general information or opinion only. It is not intended to serve or substitute as legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship.