I travelled to the United States on holiday last year on a British passport, and I am planning to return there next summer. However, on my return to Dubai I noticed that the green visa waiver forms which we filled out when we flew into Chicago were still in our passports when we got home. I have since heard that some travellers have had problems re-entering the country if these forms are not collected. Is there anything we should do?
Foreign visitors who travel to the United States complete a white I-94 form if they hold a valid visa or a green I-94W form if they are travelling under the visa waiver programme. The card is obtained from the airline you are flying with, and must be surrendered to an inspector of the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the port of entry in the United States when applying for admission. The inspector separates the bottom part of the card and attaches it to the passport: the part attached to the passport notes the date of entry to the United States and authorised period the visitor may remain in the country. When a visitor departs the United States, the airline representative, usually at the check-in counter, should remove the I-94 or I-94W from the passport. Sometimes due to an oversight the card is not removed.
So you are correct - these forms should have been collected when you left the country and, if your passport was not stamped or swiped, the US immigration authorities may have no record of you leaving the country. You may therefore have problems re-entering the country next year and may be put in the position where you have to convince an immigration officer that you have not overstayed your tourist visa. You could be subject to a lengthy interview and, at worst, not be allowed to enter the country. This would then create problems later, as those who "overstay" on the visa waiver programme will have to obtain a visa in future.
However, the US has recognised this problem and you can avoid any uncertainty by sending the completed departure card to the Department of Homeland Security at: DHS-CBP SBU, 1084 South Laurel Road, London, Kentucky 40744, USA. Keep copies of everything and include a covering letter with evidence of the date you last left the United States - for example, the boarding pass stub from your return flight or your ticket. Full guidance is available at www.usembassy.org.uk/dhs/cbp/i94.html.
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