In response to the depletion of numeric-only numbers for Form I-94 arrival/departure records, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began to use alphanumeric “numbers” (i.e., composed of letters and numbers) in May 2019. This change has no impact on the validity of I-94 cards and numbers already issued, which will remain valid until their expiration dates.
Since 2013, the United States has been utilizing electronic Form I-94 to keep track of foreign nationals’ U.S. entry and exit records. This initiative was an effort to streamline the entry process through automation. This also enabled travelers to access their own electronic travel records online and to help increase accuracy and transparency of records. Travelers have been able to access their electronic I-94 Arrival Record (an 11-digit numerical code) to verify immigration status or employment authorization directly through CBP’s website. Travelers also are able to access their five-year travel history to the U.S. there as well. Under the new CBP format, the first 9 digits and the 11th digit will be made up of numbers, while the 10th digit will be a letter.
The rest of the arrival process remains the same. Upon arrival in the U.S., a CBP officer will inspect the foreign national and, if entry is granted, the officer will stamp the foreign national’s travel document (usually, a passport) with the date of admission, class of admission (i.e., visa category), and the date by which the traveler has to depart the U.S. (absent any extension). If the traveler requires a paper I-94, CBP can accommodate that by a secondary inspection process (which often means a long wait and additional questioning). Travelers arriving at land borders are still processed the “old” way – paper I-94s are issued. The U.S. has requested that those who are issued (or still have) a paper I-94 surrender it to their commercial carrier or to CBP upon exiting the U.S. CBP estimated that elimination of paper I-94 records would save $15.5 million a year, as well as 20 seconds of wait time per traveler entry.
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