Need to prove your status in the U.S.? You can no longer rely on passport stamps

Canadian citizens who have applied for U.S. immigration status may know that almost all immigration applications require an accounting of travel to and from the U.S. Traditionally, people who apply for visas or permanent residency in the U.S. have used passport stamps to prove their status in the country while they await their formal approval notices. Evidence of lawful entry to the U.S. and the immigration status awarded is also required for other important applications, such as driver’s licences, tax identification numbers, work authorization and social security numbers.

If you’ve travelled to the U.S. recently, you may have noticed your passport did not get stamped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. The days of using passport stamps to prove you status in the U.S. are coming to an end. CBP officers stopped issuing passport stamps in October 2022 and are now only using electronic I-94 entry records.

What if your I-94 is inaccurate?

I-94 records were historically issued directly into a traveller’s passport until they moved to an electronic version in 2013. When the I-94 system was automated, CBP confirmed that passports would continue to be stamped for this very reason – so that travellers would have a duplicate record of their status.

While your I-94 record serves the same purpose as a passport stamp, what happens when your passport is not stamped and your electronic I-94 is recorded incorrectly or doesn’t exist? How do you prove you entered or exited the U.S. lawfully? Imagine having to comb through your credit card statements or use photos of famous landmarks to prove you were in the United States. Those are hardly ideal solutions, and ultimately may not be accepted as proof of status.

Here are two steps you can take to ensure you have a record of your travel.

Know where to find your I-94 – and verify it quickly

If you need your I-94 information to verify your immigration status or employment authorization, CBP recommends accessing the I-94 website or using the CBP One mobile app as soon as you enter the U.S. to ensure that your travel has been properly recorded.

If you notice any inaccuracies with your record, you’ll still be close to a CBP officer who may be able to correct it for you. You should also take a screenshot of your I-94 and email it to yourself so you have a backup.

Ask for a passport stamp

While CBP officers are no longer required to issue passport stamps, they still have discretion to give you a stamp if you ask for one. So you may as well ask, but bear in mind that CBP officers may be less inclined to help you if you’re travelling through a busy airport or during peak travel times.

Whether you’re a Canadian resident travelling to the U.S. for work or an American company looking to recruit talent from north of the border, the lawyers in the MLT Aikins Immigration team are here to help. Contact us to learn more about navigating immigration issues.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.