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Entry into the U.S. in Nonimmigrant Visa Status

Overview

This memorandum provides guidance on the process of entering the United States in nonimmigrant status; obtaining your I-94 admission record; and confirming admission in the proper status.

What to Expect at the Port of Entry

When entering the United States, you will be inspected by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.  You will likely be asked questions about the nature of your entry and your destination within the U.S.  You should carry documentation to evidence your eligibility for admission in your visa status.

Entry with an Employment Visa

If you are entering the United States with an employment visa, you may be asked about your employment (e.g., employer name, job title, job duties, salary, and work location). 

We advise that you travel with a copy of your employer’s nonimmigrant petition and supporting documents, as well as current documentation of your employment, such as recent pay statements.  If you are entering on a petition based visa status that has an I-797 approval notice associated with it, you should present that I-797.  If you are entering in H-1B, H-1B1 or E-3 status, you should carry the LCA obtained in connection with your employer’s petition. 

Entry with a Dependent Visa

If you are entering the United States with a dependent visa (based on a visa held by your spouse or parent (referred to as the “principal” visa), you may be asked about your relationship to the principal visa holder, and the principal’s current nonimmigrant status.

We advise that you travel with a copy of documentation evidencing the principal visa holder’s current relationship with his or her visa sponsor.  This could include pay statements (for employment visas), transcripts (for student visas), or other documentation recommended by the principal’s visa sponsor.

Entry with a Student or Vocational Training Visa

If you are entering the United States with an F, J or M student or training visa, you may be asked about your educational or vocational training program; as well as the temporary nature of your visit to the U.S. and your ties to your home country.

Prior to travel, you should confirm with your educational or training institution that your status document (Form I-20 or DS-2019) is endorsed for travel.  We advise that you travel with a copy of your I-20 or DS-2019; and documentation showing your current enrollment in the program.

Retrieving your I-94 Admission Record

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has an electronic system to issue Form I-94 admission records.  Within 48 hours of your entry you should retrieve and print your electronic Form I-94 online at:  www.cbp.gov/I94/#/home

Confirming Proper Admission

It is important to check that the I-94 admission Record properly reflects your visa status and your authorized period to stay in the U.S.  The status on your I-94 record should match the status on the visa that you presented upon admission.  Note that the period of admission on the I-94 may not match the visa validity.  The I-94 admission period is dependent on the type of visa and underlying petition validity, if any.  If you discover an error in your I-94 record in either the visa classification or the expiration date, you should contact your immigration attorney immediately.  Once in the US, it is the I-94 that is the legal document that governs your lawful stay regardless of what the visa stamp says.  I-94 error corrections are critical to ensuring no immigration violations which can jeopardize eligibility for future immigration benefits.

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