Articles Posted in Customs and Border Protection

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On December 16, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a press release to announce the launch of the Border Wait Time app to help travelers better plan for an excursion over the border. From the release:

The app provides estimated wait times and open lane status at land ports of entry allowing travelers to make an informed decision of where and when to cross the border. Wait times for pedestrian and passenger and commercial vehicle crossings are broken down by lane type (standard, SENTRI, NEXUS, FAST, Ready Lane, etc.).

App users can download the app for free from Apple’s App Store and Google Play, per the release, and it does not require registration or input of any personal information for use.

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children-crossing-border.bmpImmigration to the U.S. is not a new phenomenon, but the recent influx to the U.S. by tens of thousands of young Central Americans in the summer of 2014 was notable. Over the past few years, the number of illegal border crossings had leveled off, even declined over the past few years. What were some of the reasons that motivated the dramatic rise of people from Central America crossing the border illegally in the past few months?

Right now, several Central American countries, namely as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, have been experiencing an increase in violence as young children are being recruited by dangerous gangs, while others have been threatened by them. Smugglers have taken advantage of the situation and the despair of parents, and effectively spread false rumors that the U.S. Government passed a new law that allows children from Central American countries to stay in the United States as long as they arrived alone to the country.

These false rumors originated not only from the smugglers or “coyotes” seeking to increase business, but also from the misinterpretation of the law by immigrants who are already in the United States and communicate with their families. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act is a 2008 law which protects children from countries that do not share a border with the United States by giving them the right to have an immigration hearing in order to decide whether they can stay in the country or if they should be deported, but it is important to note that this law does not guarantee that the child will remain in the U.S.

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1416931_untitled.jpgCustoms and Border Protection (CBP), the federal agency that admits foreign nationals into the United States, recently announced that it is terminating its issuance of the paper Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. This change in CBP policy is critically important for foreign nationals entering and exiting the United States. In the past, the Form I-94 was one of the most important immigration-related documents that was issued to foreign nationals.

Current Paper Form I-94

The Form I-94 is a white card that the CBP officer staples into a foreign national’s passport after the officer inspects the national’s immigration documents. The form contains the foreign national’s name, date of birth, and country of citizenship. Each form also contains a unique 11-digit number.

Before the officer staples the card into the passport, the officer stamps the card with an admission stamp that states the port of entry through which the foreign national came to the United States. The officer also writes the foreign national’s nonimmigrant status (such as H-1B for a temporary worker or F-1 for an international student). Most importantly, the officer writes the date on which the foreign national’s lawful status expires. The foreign national must depart the U.S. on or before the status expiration date printed on the Form I-94 (or extend the lawful status before that date).

The status expiration date is the main reason the Form I-94 was so important. If questioned concerning their status in the U.S., foreign nationals could present authorities with their Form I-94 to prove that they are authorized to be in the country.

Another reason why the Form I-94 was important is because the form contained the CBP officer’s admission stamp which serves as proof of the foreign national’s legal entrance into the United States.

New Automated/Electronic Form I-94

CBP is terminating its issuance of this paper Form I-94 for most foreign nationals. Instead, officers will place the admission stamp directly in the foreign national’s passport. Officers will also make an electronic record of the Form I-94 and upload the information previously written on the form into a computer system. Foreign nationals will be able to access their electronic Form I-94 by visiting the website www.cbp.gov/I94 and printing their form. (Note that the website will not be active until thirty days after the new Form I-94 rules appears in the Federal Register).

This website will likely become very important, as foreign nationals will need to print a copy of their Form I-94 in order to apply for drivers’ licenses and social security numbers.

Increasing Efficiency and Decreasing the Admissions Processing Times

CBP’s goal with this change is to increase its processing efficiency, reduce its operating costs, and streamline/facilitate the admission process as a whole. CBP Deputy Commissioner Mr. David Aguilar estimates that the new electronic Form I-94 will save the agency approximately $15.5 million a year.

Foreign Nationals Who Will Still Receive the Paper Form I-94

According to CBP, the new automated Form I-94 procedure will only affect those foreign nationals who arrive by air and by sea. Therefore, those who enter the country at land borders will still be given the paper Form I-94.

Additionally, a small number of foreign nationals, such as parolees, refugees, and certain asylees, will also still be given the paper Form I-94, no matter if they enter the country by land, sea, or air.
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