Will going “paperless” create more headaches (and more paper)?
© 2012 Farhad Sethna, Attorney
On your legal admission to the USA at a port of entry or at an airport, you will not be receiving a form I-94 from the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”). The paper I-94 is going to be phased out by a USCBP “paperless” initiative. The I-94 data is going to be captured by travelers coming from visa-waiver countries on the “ESTA” application. For non-ESTA travelers, their machine readable passport will record their data on their admission to the USA.
Going “paperless” poses new problems. How do you prove your entry to the USA without the paper I-94 showing the stamp of your entry date, class of entry and duration of your stay? You need this proof if you want to apply for extension of status, change of status or any other immigration-related benefit.
The simple answer would be to keep proof of your legal entry to the United States such as your airline ticket and your itinerary. Make sure the CBP officer stamps your passport with your entry date and class of entry, as well as the expiry of your stay. You could also obtain and save other travel information such as baggage claim tickets, receipts for payments at airports, port of entries, etc.
Especially vexing is the fact that if you come through a land border port of entry you may not have any proof of admission at all. Therefore, I would highly recommend that you make a purchase immediately following admission to the USA on your credit card or some other transaction which would result in a paper receipt. Having a credit card receipt is much more preferable to a cash receipt, because that would appear on your credit card statement on which your name and address are printed, thereby showing ownership of the credit card and use of the credit card within the USA on a specific date at a specific location.
It is important that you maintain your own documentation of proof of entry. Current requests to the CBP for verification of legal inspection and admission through the Freedom of Information Act are taking over 6 to 8 months for a response. This would certainly slow down or result in denial of any procedure such as change of status, or extension of status in the USA.
Therefore, please keep in mind that even though your entry to the USA may be “paperless”, the issues that might arise later on are certainly going to require a lot of paper! To preserve your U.S. immigration options, be sure to maintain your own “paper trail”.
This is only for your general information about trends in immigration law and procedure. It is not intended to be specific advice about your case. Please consult an immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.