Admission to the US - Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Entry to the US is granted by CBP, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. A CBP officer will inspect your travel documents at or soon before reaching a US Port of Entry (POE).  S/he will determine which immigration status and for how long you should be admitted to the US. This information will then be noted on an I-94 Arrival-Departure Record.

The I-94 record:

  • Serves as the only evidence of your proper, lawful admission to the US
  • Lists your immigration category, port of entry, date of entry, expiration of stay, and a unique 11-digit identifying number on top.
  • What to Expect at Entry
  • Entry via Air or Sea Ports

    You will receive a passport stamp, which should reflect the information in your electronic I-94 record. ISSS recommends you access your I-94 record to check that it is correct within 10 days after your arrival  print a PDF and/or save a screenshot of your electronic I-94 within 10 days after your arrival.

    Entry via a Land Border

    You will receive a paper I-94 card and should immediately check that the I-94 is properly annotated for your immigration category and duration of stay. The I-94 must be turned in to CBP upon departure from the US, except for short trips to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands. For individuals departing by air, the forms are usually collected by airline officials.


    US VISIT

    US VISIT is a tracking system in which all foreign nationals (with limited exceptions) are registered upon entering the US. Photographs and fingerprint scans are taken, then this biometric data is matched and stored with the individual's passport information, immigration status, US visa number, and other information. US VISIT is currently in place at many airports and seaports across the United States. 

  • F & J Status Holders
    • F and J status holders should have the notation D/S (Duration of Status) on their I-94, meaning that they can remain in the U.S. as long as they comply with the terms and conditions of their immigration status.
    • New F-1 and J-1 students and scholars and their dependents may enter the US no earlier than 30 days before the program start date indicated on I-20/DS-2019.
  • H-1B, O-1, E-3, and TN Employees
    • H-1B, O-1, and E-3 status holders and their dependents, and TN workers and their dependents, will have specific departure dates written on their I-94, usually corresponding to the employment end dates.

    • If entered via a land border, the CBP officer should also note the back of Form I-94 with the employer's name and/or position title for a TN employee.

    • H-1B/O-1/E-3/TN employees with more than one employer should have all employers noted on or next to I-94 annotations.

    • New H-1B employees and their dependents may enter the U.S. no earlier than 10 days before the employment start date as indicated on I-797 Notice of Approval.

  • Improper Notation On Form I-94
  • Occasionally Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will make mistakes when admitting an individual to the U.S.

    • F Status: your I-94 should be date-stamped and noted F-1 D/S or F-2 D/S.
    • J Status: your I-94 should be date-stamped and noted J-1 D/S or J-2 D/S.
    • TN, H, O, and E Statuses: your I-94 will have a specific departure date noted.
    • Anyone with doubts about what is written or not written on his or her forms should consult an ISSS advisor.
    • If there is indeed a problem, the advisor will instruct you to take the documents to the CBP office at the Philadelphia International Airport or nearest port of entry.
    • The Philadelphia CBP office hours are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and the office is located in Terminal A West. SEPTA Regional Rail R-1 from 30th St. Station runs to the airport.

Automated I-94 Process

In April 2013 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transitioned to an automated I-94 process for those who enter the US by air or sea ports. The intent is to streamline the inspection process and reduce wait times at passenger processing. An Entry Stamp will be placed in your passport in leiu of the paper I-94 (which is still used if entering US by land).

At the point of entry you will receive information on accessing your electronic I-94, which allows you to obtain a printout I-94, the uses of which are explained below.

  • What are the benefits to the automated process?
    • The intent of the automated process is to streamline the inspection process and reduce wait times at passenger processing.
    • Having access to your I-94 electronically, will allow you to print a new copy if one is lost, or to print multiple copies if needed.
      • CBP recommends waiting 48 hours from arrival.
      • Currently the paper I-94 replacement application costs over $300 and takes a few months. 
    • Please note: the Paper I-94 comes with the I-797 Approval Notice (e.g. for H-1Bs) cannot be reprinted at the new CBP website as I-797s are USCIS documents
    • Unlike with the paper I-94, you no longer have to print, store, and distribute the paper I-94 forms.  This may result in significant cost savings for you.
  • How can I use my electronic I-94?
    • Both PennDOT and local Social Security Administration offices will require the I-94 printout from the foreign national  who has been issued an electronic I-94.
    • ISSS works closely with local SSA, PennDOT, and CBP-PHL to ensure minimum disruption to our international students and scholars. 
    • USCIS will continue to issue paper I-94s for change of status applications, H-1B petitions, and other applications in the form of an I-797 Approval Notice. 
    • Either a printout of your valid I-94 or an unexpired entry stamp will be acceptable as the required proof of registration for foreign nationals over 18 years of age. 
    • If an I-515A is required, you will receive a paper I-94 so sthat you can complete the process with ICE. Please read more on I-515A
  • Does my electronic I-94 affect automatic visa revalidation?
    • If you meet the revalidation criteria, CBP will already have the electronic I-94 on record, and it will be revalidated.
    • You will be provided with another stamp in the passport, and the I-94 will just be revalidated electronically.  
    • There is no need to present a paper I-94 because CBP will have the electronic record of your I-94. 
    • If you fly back to the U.S. you will receive a new passport stamp with entry/admission information
    • If you drive in you will be processed according to the land border port of entry process and receive a paper I-94. 
    • ISSS recommends that you print your I-94 before leaving the U.S. as a back up.
    • For more information about automatic visa revalidation (including eligibility criteria), visit the Automatic Visa Revalidation section.