Columbus Immigration Lawyer: What happens if I left the U.S. and did not return my I-94 (Departure Record) to CBP?

i-94.jpgThis question has been raised by a few of our clients. If you have not turned in your I-94 upon departure, the US will have no record of your departure. This means, according to the US, you are still in the country because your departure was not recorded properly. This article offers assistance to correct this problem.

Ooops, I did not return my I-94 upon Departure
If you leave the country and the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) officer forgets to collect your I-94, you will be ok if you left by airplane or a cruise ship. Your departure will be automatically verified. So, you do not need to contact the U.S. officials regarding your exit. To be safe, hold on to your outbound boarding pass. This will help CBP officials next time you enter the U.S. andit will expedite the re-entry process so you do not have to explain the error.

However, if you left the U.S. by crossing the boarder on foot or a private plane, you need to take the following actions so that the U.S. government can properly track your exit. The reason for this is that if you don’t validate your exit from the U.S., or if you cannot reasonably prove you departed within the time frame given to you when you entered, the next time you apply for admission to the United States, the CBP officer presumes you stayed in the country past your authorized period of stay indicated on the I-94 arrival record. This can cause CBP to summarily dismiss you from the country. Or if you applied for a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad, it may cause CBP to cancel the visa at the border causing you to have to return home and do the process all over again! If you leave on foot or by private plane and did not turn in your I-94, then the following guidelines will govern what steps you need to take.

Entered under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
You must register your exit if you entered pursuant to the VWP. This is because if your I-94 was not taken by a CBP officer when you left, and you entered under the VWP you cannot re-enter the U.S. unless you obtain a visa at a consulate abroad. This is because under the Visa Waiver Program, foreign nationals who remain beyond their authorized stay in the U.S. cannot reenter the U.S. in the future without obtaining a visa from a U.S. Consulate. This is applicable to those foreign nationals who leave the U.S. by land through Canada or Mexico to catch an onward flight home. If you do not register your exit within a reasonable time and you try to re-enter the U.S., the CBP officer will very likely order your immediate return home. Do not worry if you are a VWP visitor and you left the U.S. by a commercial aircraft or cruise ship.

Registering your Exit
To register your exit, first send your I-94 departure record together with any evidence that proves you left the United States to:

DHS – CBP SBU 1084 South Laurel Road London, KY 40744

You do not want to mail your I-94 to any U.S. consulate abroad or to the CBP. Simply mail it to the above address and your information will be updated. Mail the I-94 with as much of the information of your exit as possible. CBP will consider any of the following:

  • If you flew home from Canada or Mexico, send the boarding passes from those countries
  • Send copies of all the pages of your passport including the departure stamp indicating your entry to another country
  • Pay stubs from your employer to show you worked in another country after you left.
  • Bank statements showing transactions in another country after you left the United States.
  • Any school records showing you attended school in another country after you left the United States, and
  • Other such evidence showing that you were living abroad after you left the United States.

Finally, include a written statement, in English with the above documentation in your package. This will assist the adjudicators quickly understand your situation, which will help correct the record. Photocopy and keep the entire package for the next time you enter the U.S. That way, CBP will know you took the appropriate steps and they will let you enter the U.S. without any problems. They will be able to quickly correct the record if the London, Kentucky office did not yet do so.

How to Contact Us
If you have questions about a abnormal immigration visa or green card matter, and/or you need help in an immigration process, please contact our immigration attorneys or call The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates Co., LPA at the nearest office close to you to consult with an attorney. Our law firm handles various specialty matters including arrival departure issues with your I-94, Green Cards and Permanent Residence, family immigration, immigrant visas, non-immigrant visas, employment visas and H1B visas, Investor Visas, PERM applications, and many more. Please contact us and experience how our law firm can assist you in your immigration matters. Whether you are an employer, an employee or a family member, The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA has competent, responsive and innovative lawyers who can make your immigration experience pleasant and seamless.