When you arrive in the US – either on the VWP or on a visa – you must go through Immigrations. A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will check your passport and take your Biometrics (photo and fingerprints).
He/she will ask a few questions about your visit. Give short, clear answers. Do not go into details unless asked. Do not get into an argument even if you feel you are right – you will lose.
After admittance is granted, the officer stamps your passport.
Your passport will be stamped with the date on which you must leave the US. Check this Date of Exit immediately. If you think a mistake was made alert a CBP Officer. When using the VWP the allowed stay is usually 90 days. When entering on a B-1/2 Visa it is usually 6 months.
- If you arrive by air or by sea you do not need to complete a paper form anymore. CBP gathers information from the records of the carrier you travel with.
Your arrival is recorded with an electronic I-94. The $ 6 fee is included in the price of your ticket.
- If you enter by land you must submit a paper application Form I-94. The fee is $ 6. CBP prefers this amount in cash. Part of the completed I-94 form will be stapled in your passport.
A CBP officer can ask for evidence of your home address, your employment (if applicable), proof of sufficient financial means for your trip and/or travel plans. Biometrics can also be required.
- You can already complete the I-94 on-line and pay by credit card for up to seven days before you travel. The fee is non-refundable.
- If you leave by air your departure is also electronically recorded by CBP.
- If you entered over land and leave over land, the I-94 must be removed from your passport at the border. If you travel to Canada a Canadian immigration officer will do this for you. If you go to Mexico you must request a US CBP officer to remove it.
- If you entered over land but leave by air or sea, a CBP officer or a representative from the carrier you travel with, will remove the I-94.
- If you enter by air but leave the US over land, you need your I-94 Record on paper. You can ask for a paper I-94 when you enter the US.
Your I-94 record can be retrieved on the CPB website. You must be able to print the record. If you travel to Canada you must hand it to a Canadian immigration officer. If you go to Mexico you must hand it to a US CPB officer.
- If your Departure is not recorded by the CBP system, you have officially NOT left the US. You are then in overstay and that can cause problems later on.
- If you entered over land and only take a short trip – 30 days or less – to visit Canada, Mexico or a Caribbean Island during your stay, you can hold onto your I-94. It should be turned in when you leave the US to return home.
- You are still required to complete a paper Customs Form when bringing in goods. In that case you must go through Customs after you have been cleared by Immigrations.