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Questions about Form I-94

I-94 is one of the first forms you will fill out on arrival to the United States if you are not a citizen. The validity of your I-94 is usually determined by the type of visa you hold and the customs officer at your port of entry. It is an important document until your departure. Your travel plans and stay is determined by the I-94. To learn more, below are some of the top I-94 questions.

Is there any legal process to get an I-94 period extended? Can a person travel to another country such as Mexico or Canada for a few days and get a new I-94 on re-entry to U.S.?

The only legal procedure to extend the period of an existing I-94 is to apply to extend the visa. At your port of entry, when you first arrive, you can request the customs officer set your I-94 for a particular length of time, but there is no guarantee you will be granted this request as the I-94 period is at the discretion of U.S. Customs. Extension is based on the discretion of USCIS and they are not required to provide any reason for denial. If the extension is denied, your visitor visa will be cancelled. In most cases, a challenge many foreign nationals face when they apply to extend a visitor visa is the processing time usually extends beyond the expiration date of the I-94.

Travelling to another country such as Mexico or Canada for a few days to obtain a fresh visa stamp and thereby a new I-94 is a tactic the officials are aware of. You could possibly be denied re-entry into the U.S. in such a scenario.

My I-94 form is damaged but the important information is still visible. Will this raise issues while applying for a H1B visa? How long does it take to replace the I-94?

If all the relevant information is visible on the damaged I-94, it would be worthwhile to use it for the visa and it is unlikely you may face any issues with the visa. The replacement of I-94 usually takes between two to four months. When you do not have a need or urgency for the I-94, it would be sensible to request USCIS for a new I-94 using Form I-102.

Can a person on a B1/B2 visa who has extended stay on I-94, marry a US citizen? What is the next step after marriage?

The main requirement is that the marriage should be genuine. You should also have completed more than 60 days since your last visit to the U.S. After marriage an ”adjustment package” may be filed. This consists of the following forms:
  • I-130 – Petition for Family Member
  • I-485 – Application for Lawful Permanent Residency
  • I-765 – Application for Work Permit
  • I-131 – Application for Travel Permit
  • I-864 – Affidavit of Support
  • G-325a – Biographic data

All the above forms need to be filed with supporting evidence and applicable filing fees. The main supporting evidence or documents are as follows:
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce certificates if applicable
  • Proof of spouse's U.S. Citizenship
  • Proof of legal entry into the US
  • Financial documents of the US citizen over the last year
More information can be obtained from the website: www.uscis.gov

Can the date of I-94 be extended to match the H1B expiration date?

For a new I-94, a person can either leave and re-enter the U.S. or apply for extension of status with the USCIS. I-94 determines lawful status. Thus even if the visa is valid for three years and the I-94 for two years, the I-94 takes precedence.

What are the options in case of wrong filing of I-94 in I-485 application or loss of I-94 while leaving the country?

USCIS will provide a chance to rectify the mistake of wrong filing by sending a Request for Evidence (RFE) when the I-485 is up for review. I-94 is issued only on arrival to the US and not on departure. You can report the loss of I-94 at a deferred inspection site who could guide you further. In most situations they will ask you to document your exit from the U.S. to prove that you left in time. Below is the link to the concerned offices: http://www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/toolbox/contacts/deferred_inspection/deferred_inspection_sites.ctt/deferred_inspection_sites.pdf

Whether you are a first time traveler or an immigrant, Form I-94 plays a major role with respect to your stay in the U.S. It determines your period of stay in relation to the visa held and is important if one wishes to extend, change status, marry, re-enter, and so on. In any scenario, being informed of the specifics of Form I-94 is helpful.
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