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The U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently announced that it has submitted a rule that will automate Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record to streamline the admissions process for individuals lawfully visiting the United States. Form I-94 provides international visitors evidence they have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. which is necessary to verify alien registration, immigration status, and employment authorization. The automation means that affected visitors will no longer need to fill out a paper form when arriving to the U.S. by air or sea, improving procedures and reducing costs. People currently entering the US on the visa waiver program need to register their entry on the ESTA system. This rule effects persons holding an actual visa (a non-immigrant visa).

“Automation of the I-94 will increase efficiency and streamline the admission process,” said CBP Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar. “Once fully implemented, the process will facilitate security and travel while saving CBP an estimated $15.5 million a year.”

Travelers wanting a hard copy or other evidence of admission will be directed to www.cbp.gov/I94 to print a copy of an I-94 based on the electronically submitted data, including the I-94 number from the form, to provide as necessary to benefits providers or as evidence of lawful admission. (www.cbp.gov/I94 )

One of the obvious issues here is that Nonimmigrant arrivals will have no way to make sure that the information handwritten on their passports matches up with the electronic data captured by CBP at time of admission. There will be confusion arising from the fact that nonimmigrants coming through land borders will still get valid paper I-94 while those coming by air or sea will not receive a functional I-94.

The concerns raised about syncing the I-94 numbers to the Form I-9 and E-Verify processes have yet to be fully addressed by any DHS agency, for now.

Also, every worker who is hired needs to have a I-9 filled out for them. It is highly uncertain how I-9s will be completed since the combination of a valid foreign passport and valid I-94 is often used under List A for I-9 compliance. We hope that the website which allows the print out of the I-94 will provide this information.

[Employers] have concerns about properly completing Form I-9 after the I-94 has been eliminated. Many employers have spent a lot of effort and time on training HR personnel in connection with I-9 compliance and the I-94 card has traditionally been a vitally important document in connection with the I-9 process.

This new initiative is certain to be bumpy and we hope that things will be as smooth as possible for our clients with non-immigrant visas.