ITA - Office of Travel and Tourism Industries
I-94 Methodology
  Methodology

The Summary of International Travel to the United States report accumulates the volume of inbound international tourist visitors to the United States. The Summary defines the size, select characteristics, and travel patterns of inbound international visitor arrivals coming into the United States from world regions and countries based on residency. These data are tabulated and published monthly by NTTO.

This report integrates the volume of inbound international visitors to the United States from residents of other countries, using three U.S. and international government sources: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

1-94 Program data, Statistics Canada's International Travel Survey (ITS) and Banco de Mexico travel data.

The 2014 and 2015 I-94 Arrivals data 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.

Beginning in 2015 I-94 Arrivals monthly data are released as Preliminary, with these data subject to revisions that may be possible with improved solutions and/or sources discovered during the reported calendar year.

  Overseas and Mexican Tourist Visitor data

The count of overseas visitors to the United States is based on DHS/CBP Non-Immigrant 1-94 Arrival/Departure Records. On April 30, 2013, Phase 2 of the I-94 Automation project was implemented. Most (approximately two-thirds) of the I-94’s were automated in 2010 during Phase 1 of the project with the conversion of the I-94W paper-based document system to an electronic record system together with the implementation of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) Program. Citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries were affected by ESTA and the rollout of the ‘e-I94W,’ specifically for the WB and WT visa types. By April 30, 2013, the remaining I-94 records (approximately one-third), for citizens of countries requiring a visa, were automated in Phase 2.

DHS/CBP provides NTTO’s contractor with 1-94 Program (raw) data on a monthly basis. To account for visits (arrivals) to the United States, NTTO only selects 1-94 records bearing certain visa types:

  B-1 Visa Holders-Business
  B-2 Visa Holders-Pleasure
  E-1 Visa Holders-Treaty Trader
  E-2 Visa Holders-Treaty Investor
  F-1 Visa Holders-Students
  F-2 Visa Holders-Family Members of Students
  GMB Guam Visa Waiver-Business
  GMT Guam Visa Waiver-Tourist
  I Visa Holders-Foreign Information Media
  M-1 Visa Holders-Vocational Students
  M-2 Visa Holders-Family Members of Vocational Students
  WB Visa Waiver-Business
  WT Visa Waiver-Tourist

To comply with globally accepted international tourism definitions and classifications (United Nations World Tourism Organization/UNWTO), a traveler must spend one or more nights in the United States for a period that does not exceed 12 months in order to be classified a visitor to the United States. The purpose of the trip must be for pleasure, business (i.e., conduct business meetings and consultations, attend conventions and conferences or negotiate contracts) or study. In addition, all visitors are recognized by residency rather than citizenship.

The aggregate count of Mexican visitors to the United States is based on monthly counts from Banco de Mexico which are classified as ‘border’ travelers (1 + night) and ‘tourists.’ However, NTTO does use the DHS ‘1-94 air only’ count to determine Mexican air travelers to the United States. The count of Canadian resident travelers to the United States is provided by Statistics Canada's International Visitor Survey. The inbound arrivals from the Survey are reported in the Summary but are subject to monthly revisions by Statistics Canada for up to three years following the initial data release.

Other "non-tourist" visitor counts reported in DHS 1-94 Program data, such as transiting passengers on the way to another country destination, airline crew members, official diplomats, temporary and religious workers, members of the foreign media, press and radio, are excluded from the Summary report because they are not by definition considered an international visitor to the United States.

  Canadian and Mexican Tourist Visitor Counts

Canadian Tourist Arrivals
Data on Canadian arrivals are derived from Statistics Canada's International Travel Survey. NTTO uses Statistic Canada's data as the official visitor estimates. These data reflect the number of Canadian residents visiting the United States overnight or longer. The Canadian arrival data are subject to monthly revisions by Statistics Canada for up to three years following the initial data release. Contact the National Travel and Tourism Office to obtain revised Canadian monthly and total arrivals data.

Mexican Tourist Arrivals 
Prior to 2010, the United States only reported monthly Mexican tourist arrivals who visited the U.S. 'interior', beyond the 40 kilometer-25 mile border zone. The source of these data is the I094A semi-automated entry document system in use at U.S. land border ports. Starting in 2010, NTTO reports all Mexican travelers to the United States, on a monthly basis, using estimates from Banco de Mexico. Banco counts are subject to periodic revisions. Air travel counts, however, are derived from DHS/CBP 1-94 records.
  Report Limitations

Trend Line Analysis Over time, several system changes have occurred to collecting, processing and reporting the visitor arrivals data for the United States. System changes to select data make some elements of this data base incompatible with arrival statistics produced and reported in prior years. When using this report in a time series, the user should pay close attention to past report introductions to assess comparability issues. Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust past data as DHS does not store the raw data for extended periods of time. And there is no way to determine the impact of these changes. Therefore, each year’s counts are the best data available at the time it is released. Additionally, many official country designations change over time, which may affect time series analysis.

  Address while in U.S., a/k/a First Intended Address of Non-Resident Arrivals by Country of Residence

During entry processing, CBP officers ask visitors to the United States to identify the address (number and street), U.S. city and state, they will be visiting while in the country. Currently, DHS/CBP only provides NTTO’s contractor with the U.S. state (not city) the traveler is visiting, as indicated in the arrival record. The data are found in the First Intended Address of Non-Resident Arrivals by Country of Residence tables (G.1 and G.2, H .1 and H.2, I.1 and I.2).

While these data can be a useful barometer of the visitor’s intention, it is limited to a one destination response. Since the average overseas traveler visits 1.4 U.S. states (in 2013), the I-94 tables will understate the total number of international travelers that visited any given U.S. state. However, based on the Survey of International Air Travelers, another NTTO research program, travelers can indicate up to eight destinations. Therefore, simply using the First Intended Address tables will shortchange the state visitor total. Furthermore, within the First Address data, there are a number of records in which no address is provided. This further understates visits to U.S. states.

To develop more accurate estimates of nonresident arrivals to a particular U.S. state, please call the National Travel and Tourism Office at (202) 482-0140, send a fax with your request to (202) 482-2887, or visit the Inbound section of the National Travel and Tourism Office web site at https://travel.trade.gov for state-level visitor estimates. NTTO believes that NTTO’s Survey of International Air Travelers program provides the best estimate for total visitation of international travel to the states and cities within the United States.

  Processing Improvements

I-94 Automation Project
Effective April 30, 2013, DHS/CBP completed Phase 2 of the I-94 Automation project, basically eliminating the paper version of the I-94 Form, as it had done in 2010 for the I-94W, for all travelers at U.S. air and sea ports of entry. With this new technology in place, CBP creates an electronic I-94 Form based on the information in its databases. 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.

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.

1+ Night Visitor Counts
Also, 2014 I-94 Program data 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.

Advance Passenger Information System (APIS)
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.

Mexican I-94A’s
Mexican and overseas land arrivals are accounted for by I-94A’s and I-94/94W’s respectively. The Mexican I-94A’s are issued electronically. The departure card is given to the traveler to use for re-entry during the six month duration of the I-94A. Paper I-94’s and I-94W’s are still issued to land arrivals, via Mexico and Canada, from overseas.