ITA - Office of Travel and Tourism Industries
Visitor Arrivals Program (I-94 Form) - Program Description
ITA - Office of Travel and Tourism Industries
I-94 Program

For decades, U.S. immigration officers issued the I-94 Form (Arrival/Departure Record) to foreign visitors (e.g., business visitors, tourists and foreign students) who lawfully entered the United States. The I-94 was a small white paper form that a foreign visitor received from cabin crews on arrival flights and from U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the time of entry into the United States. It listed the traveler's immigration category, port of entry, data of entry into the United States, status expiration date and had a unique 11-digit identifying number assigned to it. Its purpose was to record the traveler's lawful admission to the United States.

  What is the I-94 Form/Card (Arrival/Departure Record)?

The I-94 Form has been used for approximately 50 years by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its predecessor agency the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Prior to April 30, 2013, the I-94 Form was a white paper card and was issued by airline crew members and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of DHS, to certain aliens at lawful arrival into the United States or when changing status in the United States. The I-94 Form is used to document arrival and departure, lawful admission, and evidence of the individual's approved length of stay and the terms of admission. The individual keeps the I-94 Card as the official record of admission and permission to remain in the United States. The importance of this Card is paramount to maintenance of an individual's immigration status.

When departing the United States, an individual must surrender his I-94 Card except if travelling to Canada, Mexico, or contiguous islands other than Cuba for a period not to exceed 30 days, in which case the individual may be able to use an unexpired I-94 Card to reenter the United States.

The I-94 Card and a visa stamp are two separate documents. A visa stamp is issued to an individual by a U.S. consular officer outside of the United States. Having a valid visa does not necessarily guarantee entry into the United States. The CBP has the authority to grant or deny admission to the United States, and only the CBP officer has the authority to determine how long an individual may remain in the United States. This is why the I-94 Card was the most important document for foreign nationals entering the United States and why I-94 Automation is a significant change for the United States.

  What has Changed?

Effective April 30, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) completed Phase 2 of the I-94 Automation project, basically eliminating the paper version of the I-94 Form/Card, as it had done in 2010 for the I-94W, for all travelers at U.S. air and sea ports of entry.

On April 30, 2013 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Customs and Border Protection (CBP) rolled out its program to automate the I-94 white card (I-94 Form) process for foreign nationals entering the United States by air (at U.S. airports including U.S. immigration preclearance facilities located outside the United States) or by sea (at U.S. seaports). Since then, CBP has no longer issued paper Form I-94s, but rather has created an electronic record of admission and stamping the foreign national's passport, including date of entry, port of entry, immigration category (B-1, B-2, F-1, etc.) and status expiration date. This eliminated the paper I-94 admission cards for most travelers. However, foreign nationals arriving at a land border continue to receive a paper Form I-94A from CBP.

  Why I-94 Automation? What are its Benefits?

One major advantage of I-94 Automation is "time management." Automation will eliminate most of the duplicative paper I-94 Form process and reduce wait times at immigration processing which will facilitate entry of all travelers at air and sea ports of entry. Automation of the I-94 will increase efficiency and streamline the admission process. The automation process will also facilitate security and travel while saving CBP an estimated $15.5 million a year. And CPB estimates all foreign travelers will save, on average, eight minutes spent filling out the paper I-94 Form and those who lose the I-94 Form will save the $330 fee and 25-minute time burden for filling out the I-102 Form to replace a lost I-94 card.

With I-94 Automation, I-94 data quality is much improved. I-94 Automation greatly reduces data entry errors when compared to manual data entry by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Prior to Automation, CBP mailed the I-94s from each port of entry to their processing center for manual data entry into a DHS database. This process would create a minimum 5 to 10 day lag time to as much as a three month lag from the time the foreign national entered the United States until the arrival record was recorded. Also, Automation markedly improves tracking the identification and tracking of the departure record of foreign national travelers after they exit the United States.

Automation markedly improves tracking the departure of foreign national travelers when they exit the United States and diminishes delays that were occurring for data entry of departure records. This is a key improvement, as it helps to more accurately determine if non-resident visitors stay within the United States one or more nights.

With this new technology in place, CBP creates an electronic I-94 Form based on the information in its databases. Following 9/11, CBP implemented the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) which collects information on aliens traveling by air or sea to the United States electronically from carriers before arrival.

Currently at CBP's primary inspection station, the officer has access to the APIS passenger information on inbound flights. During the entry process, the arrival record is created from the following: APIS, the integration of U.S. Visit-entry (photograph and fingerprints), data from the visitor's ESTA (VWP citizen) or Department of State visa data, a passport scan, interview results and the visitor signature.

CBP also now uses the Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS), which draws information from APIS, to document an alien's arrival and departure electronically. Because CBP does not currently collect advance travel information from aliens arriving by land, this automation will not apply to land ports of entry at this time. Visa information has long been made available to CBP by the U.S. Department of State via the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD). Therefore, CBP obtains almost all of the information contained on the paper Form I-94 electronically and in advance.

  Have Paper I-94 Cards now been Completely Eliminated?

No, there are a few exceptions. Paper I-94s are still issued to foreign nationals entering the United States by land (U.S. land ports of entry), via Mexico and Canada, from overseas destinations. Also, certain classes of foreign nationals will continue to receive paper I-94 cards, including refugees, asylees, parolees and travelers entering without a passport. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can choose to issue a paper I-94 card at any time if it feels it is necessary. And travelers will be able to request a paper I-94 card when entering the United States. However, they will be automatically sent to secondary inspection to receive the paper I-94 card. CBP will continue to mail these paper I-94s from each port of entry to their processing center for manual data entry into a DHS database.

  When is the electronic Form I-94 record created?

An electronic I-94 record is created when a traveler arrives in the United States. No piece of paper is issued at the air or sea port of entry. Rather, a CBP officer creates an electronic record and the traveler receives an admission stamp in his/her passport which reflects the class of admission (such as B-1, B-2 or F-1), the date of admission and the admit-to date. More specifically, the electronic Form I-94 record is created during the inspection process at the time of admission when the CBP officer pulls information from the traveler's APIS (Advance Passenger Information System) record and any CCD (Consular Consolidated Database) record, and enters any additional data obtained during the inspection process. The same data elements found on the paper Form I-94 are collected and maintained in the electronic Form I-94. Any information the CBP officer would have written or stamped on the paper form at the time of admission is entered into the electronic form. The departure record is created from APIS (Advance Passenger Information System) using the Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS) to match the departure to the correct arrival record.

  How does I-94 Automation Impact the Foreign National Traveler?

I-94 Automation means that foreign national visitors no longer need to fill out a paper form when arriving to the United States by air or sea. The automated system generates an electronic arrival record with the same data elements that were found on the paper I-94 Form. CBP stamps the traveler's passport upon arrival to the United States. The stamp includes information regarding the traveler's class of admission, the admission date, and the duration of admission into the United States. This automation streamlines the entry process for travelers, facilitates security and reduces federal costs.

  Will the New I-94 Automation Process Impact International Traveler's Entry into the United States?

I-94 Automation will not impact a foreign national traveler's entry into the United States. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will continue to issue the I-94 Form to all travelers previously requiring an I-94, but the form will be created in an electronic format (if the traveler enters by air or sea). A paper I-94 will not be issued (except at land ports of entry).

  How does I-94 Automation Impact Processing Travel Information in the I-94 Database?

For traveler arriving to the United States by air and sea, their arrival information is recorded into the I-94 database at the time of entry. Prior to Automation, when a foreign national entered the United States, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regularly experienced delays in processing entry of arrival information into their database.

  How are Foreign National Departures from the United States Recorded?

Travelers will do nothing differently when exiting the United States. Upon departure, if a foreign national was issued a paper I-94 card, then their card needs to be surrendered to the commercial carrier or to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If a foreign national was not issued a paper I-94 card and their entry was recorded electronically, CBP will record their departure using manifest information (APIS data) obtained from the carrier.

  Has I-94 Automation Impacted CBPs Ability to Track Departure Date Data?

I-94 Automation has created more comprehensive departure date data for many more records that had been blank in the past (2013 and prior years). In 2013 and prior years, blank departure dates were problematic because federal agencies weren't able to determine the reason for the missing date. This was especially true of land records.

  What is the Benefit of having More Comprehensive Departure Date Data?

The 2014 I-94 Program data now reflect better conformity with UNWTO's one-plus night definition of a traveler. An accurate determination of how many nights were spent in the United States has not been possible until the completion of the I-94 Automation project. To account for the number of nights, the 'departure' record must be captured and matched to the arrival document. And in the past, the collection of the departure record was dependent on the rigor of airline gate agents and the ability of each departing visitor to tender their I-94 departure document. Evidence has indicated that a significant number of departure records were not turned in. But with the I-94 Automation project complete at air and sea ports, it is possible to now be more inclusive of one night stays given that the arrival-departure record match is now more complete and accurate.

  If 2014 I-94 Data reflect Better Conformity with UNWTO's One-Plus Night Definition of a Traveler, does that mean You Now Count other Types of Persons who have entered the United States and stayed at Least One Night but were not Counted in the Past as a "Traveler," such as Foreign Students and Persons on Work Visas?

Foreign national students (e.g., F-1, M-1 visa types) have always been included in the I-94 counts of overseas travelers. However, work visa types have not been included in I-94 counts of overseas travelers and there has been no decision to include them now.

  How is the inclusion of One-Night Stay Travelers in 2014 affecting the I-94 Data for Comparison to the Prior Year?

With the inclusion of one-night stay travelers in 2014, year over year percent changes, 2014 vs. 2013, overstate the percent change in volume for all overseas countries. 2014 and 2013 U.S. arrivals data from overseas countries are basically not comparable. But keep in mind that I-94 overseas arrival volumes in 2013 were understated. Statistics Canada and Banco de Mexico visitors data are not affected by this change.

  Has I-94 Automation Impacted how the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) Releases I-94 Arrivals?

Yes, with I-94 Automation (April 30, 2013) CBP introduced new business rules governing I-94 creation which are now based on a given traveler's Country of Citizenship as indicated by the passport Country of Issuance. The Country of Residence is another field that is 'sometimes' captured in the new system. And the increase use of Automated Passport Control (APC) Kiosks (May 2013) through U.S. airports is capturing data in keeping with this new business rule. Only when available, does CBP now populate the Country of Residence field in the I-94 data base.

As a result there has been an increase in I-94 records with no residency data (Stateless records). In 2014 519,000 records were processed where the Country of Residence field was vacant, 1.5% of all overseas records. However, during the first four months of 2015 approximately 300,000 records (11% of all overseas records) were missing residency data, affecting mainly international visitors from Visa waiver Program countries, specifically the United Kingdom. NTTO identified this large spike of Stateless records and determined that it was necessary to re-run 2014 and 2015 I-94 data to include a methodology change where the Country of Citizenship is used as a substitute for those I-94 records with missing Country of Residence data.

As CBP completes all automation activities, NTTO and CBP will continue to work together to provide the most accurate arrivals count for U.S. international visitation. Our cooperative relationship on the I-94 Program has provided the U.S. government and its stakeholders with a consistent, reliable trend line of I-94 historical visitation data since 1960. We believe that once the current data backlog is addressed and business rules aligned, NTTO will be able to provide more accurate and timely arrivals data than it has been in past years.

  Are there Other Factors Impacting the Release of I-94 Arrivals?

Yes, there is no improvement in CBP's long standing I-94 data entry backlog. Since the National Travel and tourism Office (NTTO) is completely dependent upon the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Customs Border Protection (CBP) for receipt of the raw I-94 arrivals data there is little that NTTO can do to resolve the current data lag in delivery of timely I-94 arrivals.

  Since I-94 Automation, has the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) made Any Improvements in how I-94 Arrivals Data are Reported?

Yes, with I-94 Automation, the NTTO has completed the largest upgrade since 1996 to the Summary of International Travel to the United States report. Improvements to the 2014 and 2015 reports include Port of Entry (All Modes) Tables that now include data for seven new U.S. ports and arrivals data for nine world regions and 45 countries. The Port of Entry (Air Only) Tables have been enhanced to now include five new U.S. ports, two new regions and arrivals data for nine world regions and 45 countries. NTTO believes that the 2014 and 2015 non-resident arrivals data are more accurate than ever reported. To purchase a subscription to I-94 data, please complete the order form by visiting