Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New I-94 Process for Artists Touring the United States

United States Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has announced that, effective April 30, 2013, artists and performers (as well as everyone else) entering the U.S. will no longer receive physical I-94 forms. The process will now be electronically automated!

Form I-94 is the official arrival/departure record issued to foreign artists and travelers when they enter the U.S.. This form is also issued to those who adjust their status while in the U.S. (ie: change from F to O), or who extend their visas. The I-94 confirms the foreign individual’s status or visa category (O, P, F, B1/B2, etc.) and the departure date by which they must leave the U.S. When the foreign traveler leaves, they surrender the I-94 either to the commercial airline carrier or to CBP directly. The I-94 information and the date of departure are then entered into a database to verify that the traveler did not overstay the required departure date.

Up until now, every artist entering the U.S. (except, occasionally, Canadians, depending on when and where they enter) has been given a paper Form I-94 to fill out (most often while waiting in line to enter the U.S.), the bottom half of which is stamped with their status and departure date and returned to them by a CBP officer.

While the departure date most often corresponds with the visa classification period approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a CBP Officer at the port of entry has the complete and unfettered discretion to issue a sooner departure date or extend the departure date by up to 10-days. Regardless, the artist MUST leave the US by the date stamped on the I-94 regardless of what was approved by USCIS or written on their visa. The I-94 form is not only important for establishing the official departure date, but it is also used to verify immigration status by employers, schools and universities, and various governmental agencies. For example, it is necessary to obtain drivers licenses and social security numbers. The I-94 is also required by USCIS when an artist is currently in the US and files a visa petition to extend their visa. In such cases, the petition must include a copy of the I-94 to show that the artist was validly admitted and is currently “in-status.”

Beginning on April 30, 2013, CBP will no longer require foreign visitors to fill out a paper Form I-94 upon arrival to the U.S. by air or sea and will no longer issues paper I-94 forms in return. Instead, CBP will gather the arrival/departure information automatically from the foreign artist’s electronic travel records and, upon entry of the artist into the U.S., will enter their status and departure date electronically. (Because advance information is only transmitted for air and sea travelers, CBP will continue to issue a paper form I-94 “at land border ports of entry”—which is government-speak for Canada and Mexico.)

With the new CBP process, a CBP officer will stamp the passport of each arriving artist. The admission stamp will show the date of admission, class of admission, and the departure date by which the traveler must leave. Travelers wanting a hard copy or other evidence of their valid admission and immigration status will be directed to a special website (www.cbp.gov/I94) where, using their passport numbers and names, they can access and print as many physical copies of their I-94 as they need for employers and for other purposes. (Please note that this site will not be active until after April 30, 2013)

Artists will not need to do anything differently upon exiting the U.S. If the artist did not receive a paper Form I-94, CBP will record the departure electronically via manifest information provided by the carrier or by CBP. If the artist was issued a paper I-94, they will continue to surrender it to the commercial carrier or to CBP as before.

CBP will phase-in the Form I-94 automation at air and sea ports of entry throughout April and May. Foreign artists will continue to receive the paper Form I-94 until the automated process arrives at their port of entry.

You can read more about CBP’s plans and schedule to automate Form I-94 at:

CBP has also issued a fact sheet that includes frequently asked questions regarding the impact of automation, visa revalidation, passenger processing times, and more. You can access that at:

CBP contends that this automation will streamline the entry process for travelers, facilitate security, and reduce federal costs by saving the agency an estimated $15.5 million a year. That remains to be seen. Whether or not CBP effectively informs the myriad of other state and federal agencies whose employees are trained to look for a physical I-94, and whether or not those state and federal agencies will actually understand that the process has changed and accept a print out from a website, and whether or not CBP actually gets its website to work, also remains to be seen. Only time will tell.

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