What happens when you are a foreign citizen legally living and working in the United States, but you discover your I-94 is very close to expiring? The I-94 is your official admission record issued by the US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) and proof of your immigration status. As we’ve written about before, this happens all the time, particularly when someone forgets to check the expiration date on their I-94. You have two options: fly outside of the United States, or file an extension with the US. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.
Neither are particularly convenient options. Filing extensions with the USCIS can take a long time to be approved. Extensions are also expensive in terms of fees and costs. For most people, flying outside of the United States means flying back to their home country. However, there is another option: fly to a contiguous territory or a third country.
If you have a valid Visa and a valid Passport, you can fly to a third country or to contiguous territory and request USCBP at the US port of entry to issue you a new I-94 when re-entering the United States. Mexico and Canada are both contiguous territories of the United States. Panama, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas are third countries and also options. Flying there tends to be much cheaper than flying to a home country in Asia or Europe, or filing for an extension.
When seeking re-entry into the United States from Mexico or Canada, it is totally up to the USCBP Officers at the port of entry when you seek to return to the U.S. whether or not they will give you a new I-94. There is no guarantee of success to this method, as opposed to the other, more difficult options. We tend to see the most success when flying to Costa Rica and Panama, followed by the Bahamas, and seeking re-entry into the US. There is not much information written about this method online, but it is a legitimate, legal option that we have seen solve a difficult issue many times.
This method primarily only works for E Visa holders, since they receive a new I-94 valid for up to 2 years from the date of entry every time they enter the United States. It’s advantageous for employers too, since it typically means less downtime than flying to a home country and back again.
If your I-94 Form is close to expiring, remember that you have the option to fly to a contiguous territory or a third country rather than back to your home country to get a new one. While it is not a guaranteed method, it has often led to success. It all comes down to the client’s individual needs. If you need help with your I-94, contact Valvo & Associates today! We are your go-to legal immigration leaders.