Form I-94, also known as the Arrival-Departure Record Card, is a form used by the U.S. Customs and
Border Protection (CBP) in order to keep track of the arrival and departure to and from the United
States of people who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
It is normally issued by CBP personnel at ports (which includes airports, seaports, and land ports)
of entry or deferred inspection sites. It is normally issued electronically at airports and seaports,
but can be issued electronically or in paper form at land ports.
For air and sea travel, the carriers collect information about you before you have even departed for
the USA and forward this to CBP. Once at the port of entry, an officer of the CBP Office of Field
Operations will screen you. If the officer believes, based on evidence and documentation, that you
may be admitted to the U.S., then a Form I-94 is issued to you.
At air and seaports, it is issued electronically and your passport is stamped. The form can be
retrieved at any time using an online tool. At land ports, only paper forms will be issued if you
have not notified the CBP of your arrival in advance, although you may pay a $6 fee and be given
an electronic form.
Where officers at ports of entry are unable to decide whether to admit you to the U.S. for any valid
reason, a temporary form may be issued which may last up to 30 days. In such scenario, you’ll need
to go to a deferred inspection site to complete the process.
A number of persons are exempt from having to use of this form, and this includes people travelling
to or through the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The ESTA was introduced in 2010
and all VWP now need to obtain ESTA prior to travelling to the U.S.
The system is now paperless, and most travellers entering the U.S. under the VWP who have an approved
ESTA will no longer need to fill out the I-94W form, nor will a green I-94W departure card be placed
in their passport. The I-94W form, however, will still be required at the land border.