Picture this familiar scene: You pick up a refugee family at the airport. They arrive on time. They’ve got their IOM bag. They’re in good spirits. You get them a warm meal and introduce them to their new home. You give them an overview of what the next few days will look like and check to make sure they’ve got all the right documents. All of a sudden you realize that their I-94 documents are missing. You freak out.
Good news! Everything is OK. Last week the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) officially announced that beginning September 7, 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will automate the issuance of I-94 records at Ports of Entry. Essentially, what this means is that instead of receiving a paper I-94 card when they first arrive, refugees will instead need to obtain their I-94 online. Here are a few things you should know about this change:
- The electronic I-94 will be available within hours of a refugee’s arrival at the Port of Entry.
- In order to access the electronic I-94, the refugee will need to enter his or her name, date of birth, and alien number (which is entered in the “passport number” field, without the preceding “A”).
- You may still see some paper I-94 documents as this change is still in the process of being implemented.
- In order for refugees to receive Social Security Cards they will need to present a printout of the I-94 obtained online in addition to the original transportation boarding letter (commonly known as the “travel document”) stamped by CBP with a refugee stamp.
For a more detailed explanation, here is the official announcement: 2015-20 Refugee I-94 Automation.
Additionally, step by step instructions on obtaining the electronic I-94 are provided on CBP’s website.