On August 7, 2012, U.S. Customs and Border Protection posted a Travel Update to its website, confirming that CBP agents will systematically stop issuing paper Forms I-94 (Arrival/Departure Records) at all airports and some sea ports of entry in the very near future.  Travelers who enter at land ports of entry will continue to receive paper Forms I-94, until further notice.

Instead of issuing an I-94, agents will stamp an admission date into the passport, and handwrite status and authorized period of stay on the stamp, similar to what is done for travelers under the Visa Waiver Program now.  CBP will maintain electronic arrival/departure records, and may eventually open a web portal into these databases so that travelers may print copies of their admission records, but has not announced a specific date for implementing that proposal.

Because the I-94 is central to documenting proper admission and maintenance of status, its virtual elimination will have wide-reaching consequences on a variety of immigration processes and benefits.  It remains unclear, for example, how U.S. employers will verify identity and employment eligibility for new hires on Form I-9, nor how applicants for driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, and other government benefits will demonstrate valid status, without the I-94.  We will publish additional information as more details become available from the relevant government agencies.

In addition, on August 15, 2012, CBP unofficially confirmed that its agents at both land and air ports of entry will no longer stamp foreign students’ I-20s with the usual admission data:  date of admission, category of admission, and “D/S” for “duration of status.”  This may be problematic for foreign students and their dependents who apply for driver’s licenses or other government benefits, where government employees are trained to look for the I-20 stamp as proof of valid F-1/F-2 status.