If you have a passport that is expiring soon, you will get a shorter I-94 ( arrival departure record) duration at US Port of Entry than your actual approval notice. Due to COVID-19 situation, most of us cannot leave US and now with the Trump US entry Travel Ban for H1B, H4, others, it is more risky and difficult to leave the country.
Many of our users like ( anonymous for privacy reasons), Adi, and Manish were able to get I-94 Extension done in US – Mexico Border (CBP Otay Mesa, San Diego) without crossing the border. The users were kind enough to take time to share the detail experience with our readers. Thanks a lot to the users for taking time to write up. We really appreciate it. You can email your experience as well to firstname.lastname@example.org or add it as comment and we will update this article.
As a background, if you are looking for all options to extend i-94, you may read article How to Extend I-94 in US, Options – CBP vs PoE
Experience 1 : I-94 Extension without Crossing Border – E1 Visa
Background : Below is the background info on the I-94 extension experience
- Date / Time: Saturday Feb , 2021 ( Weekend)
- Main applicant: E-1 Visa (work visa) valid until March 2024.
- Spouse and two children (7Y and 3Y) : E-1 dependent visa, also valid until March 2024.
- Location: Los Angels
Challenge with I-94 Extension
I-94 will expire in May 2021 (main applicant ) and June 2021( other family members) . Our driver licenses are tied to the I-94 so they have the same expired date. The driver licenses’ renewal requires an updated I-94.
It’s our first time to have this problem. We used to fly back to home country every year and get extra 2 years I-94 extension automatically. However, last year we didn’t take risks to travel on air during pandemic.
After reading the articles on redbus2us website, we guess we could give it a try in San Diego border. Based on the previous shared experiences and CBP website, Otay Mesa CBP office is closed on weekends. We are not sure if we could have a chance to talk to any Otay Mesa CBP officer in Permit Room before crossing the border so we decided to try San Ysidro first.
Experience at San Ysidro – Could not I-94 Extension done
San Ysidro PedWest is closed due to Covid so we parked at the outlet mall and follow google map and signs on the road to walk to the main building. It took us about 15 mins to walk. You could also park near the building, where there are some private parking lots starting from $7 per hour or $20 per day.
When we approached the building, the security guard in front of the main building showed us the way to Mexico. We told him we were here to see the CBP officer about I-94 renewal. Then he came in and brought someone out. The officer checked our passports and said we have better come back in Apr., one month before expiration date. He said we could still walk to Mexico and come back but they might not issue us updated I94 since it’s still valid for 3 months. He assured us that we could re-enter USA definitely because we have work here and no COVID-19 test report necessary in our case. The only concern for us is the waiting time , 70mins at that moment based on the border wait time website. The officer asked where are we from and he said Los Angels is not too far, we could try later because we might wait 2-3 hours today but got nothing updated.
I-94 Extension at Otay Mesa – without Crossing Border
We checked the wait time in Otay Masa, only 5 minutes. Since crossing border is necessary, we decided to go to Otay Mesa to save time. It took us 15 minutes to drive there and parked at Tello’s parking, just across the Plaza Parking most people mentioned. Parking fee is $4 for 2 hours and $3 for every extra 30 minutes. $10 weekdays and $15 weekends for 24 hours.
We know it’s closed on weekend but we still want to check if it is possible to have a talk with CBP officer before crossing border. We walked 5 minutes to the SENTRI/CBP office building and entered the glass door like other people said. There was nobody in the permit room. The lights was dim inside but two doors kept open. Then two young ladies with uniforms ( not sure they are guards or officers.) showed up and asked us our purpose. They checked our passports and said the same thing as in San Ysidro . Our I-94 are still valid for 3 months so we came too early.
We explained the driver license expired date and we drove far from LA to make this done. We also mentioned we had paid online. They were very nice and helpful to check with the CBP officer right behind them and then come back to ask us what documents we brought. We showed them W2, utility bills , pay slips , house lease agreement and DMV renewal notices. They said the CBP officer is willing to do exception for us. How nice all they were!!!
They only collected our I94 online payment confirmation and gave us small white papers which are the receipts and will become paper I-94 later. They asked us to wait in front of the permit room. After 10 minutes, one officer came in the permit room and turned on the computer. It seemed the computer or system connection worked very slowly.
After another 15 minutes, another officer explained to us the software was down so we need to wait a moment. We really appreciated that they told us the progress, not taking our waiting time for granted. Then about 5 minutes later, the officer inside the room called us. We took photos and fingerprints. It took us about 10 minutes and everything all set. We checked the I-94 website after leaving the building and it had been updated, too. We all have renewal I94 valid until Feb 2023. It took us about 50 minutes (2:20pm -3:10pm) in the building. Everyone we meet there are friendly, helpful and kind. It’s a very pleasant experience.
Suggestions for I-94 Extension
- Do such renewal until I-94 is going to expire soon to decrease the chance of rejection.
- We’re not sure why they did not mention the border crossing, maybe we have two kids with us? Maybe we are just in luck.
- At that moment, no people in line if we paid renewal fee in the cashier. However, in our case, we guessed prepaid online might be a little help for them to consider and have green light for our case. They were also happy to hear we paid already. I believe that would help save time for both of us.
Experience 2 – Otay Mesa – Not crossing Border – Feb 2021
Background for I-94 Extension, Getting there
- I was made aware of, by the HR office of the company that I work for, that my i94 expiration is coming up in May 2021 and that it is very crucial to get this extended/renewed.
- I did some research and came across this page with the posted i94 experiences. I decided to give it a shot. To everyone on here : thank you so much for sharing and posting this (also thanks for hosting this page)! It took a big burden of my shoulders. On Feb18th, 2021 my friend and me drove to San Diego.
- As instructed I gathered supporting documents prior to the drive, such as confirmation letter of employment, copy of lease, a couple recent bills with my name and address on it, my last W2. My second ID was my drivers license. Of course I took my passport w me. I am on a E1 Visa.
Process at Otay Mesa for Extending I-94
- We spend a night at a friends house so we can head to the Otay Mesa CBP office fresh in the morning.
- Feb19th, 2021 (Friday) we drove down to the Plaza Parking (2489 Roll Dr, San Diego, CA 92154) and parked the car there. It is a small shopping area.
- I saw the First Bank right away and on it’s right hand side there is the construction area everyone is talking about. It was quiet busy and people keep coming from the direction along the construction area (they all came out of the CBP office as I discovered- since there is nothing else there).
- It is a very short walk from the First Bank to the CBP office. Maybe 3 minutes, if even. Just take the walkway at the First Bank and walk straight down. I did not see any guards outside. I did walk past the parking lot and the bridge as well (both on my right hand side).
- As soon as I stepped in I saw the oval shaped booth with a sign that said *Fees $6*. The night before I tried to pay the extension fees online but I was not successful. Therefore I had to pay it directly on the spot. There was only one person in line. I was approached by a female CBP officer dressed in black asking me if she can help me. I replied, that I would like to pay the extension fee for my i94. She asked for my passport. I showed her my passport with the i94 stamps and she replied to give her 3 minutes and she will open the booth. She even apologised. Everyone was friendly and it made me really comfortable.
- She opened the booth and I paid the $6 in cash. She handed me the recipe and showed me the office I had to go to for the extension. The person that was in front of me also went there and I was told to follow him and wait outside until instructed by an officer to step in. The entire cbp area is not very big so there is no way you can get lost really. I waited outside and it took about 5 minutes till I was asked to step in.
CBP Officer Interview for Extending I-94
- Inside, the CBP officer asked me how he can help. I explained my situation and that I was there for the i94 extension.I handed him my passport, my DL and the recipe for the payment. I also pulled out the binder with the supporting documents I brought.
- The officer asked questions during the process like my last trip dates, the purpose of my trips overseas, my job and visa status during the interview. I showed him my employment confirmation. He also wanted to know how I knew about the process in Otay and if I tried to call the CBP office. My colleague and me actually tried to call but never got through. The interview took about 15 minutes.
- After all he took my picture and my finger prints and my i94 was renewed. The officer was very professional but kind at the same time. He as well made me feel very comfortable. Even though everything is in order, I was very nervous and intimidated about the whole thing. Therefore I was thankful for such kind and all around great staff at the CBP office.
- All in all everything went well and I personally can only advise anyone who is in a similar situation to do this.
- Of course I guess everyone’s situation is different with no guarantees but that is also the case when you cross the border at any time, even without Covid.
- Hope my experience helps.
Experience 3 – Otay Mesa – H1B Visa – Not crossing Border
My Situation for I-94 Extension
My I-94 was expiring in August, 2020 (tied to my old passport expiry date). I hold an H1B Visa till May 2021.
The options I had were as follows
- Extend I-94 SENTRI Enrollment Center – Closed due to COVID-19.
- Visit the CBP Office at nearest Airport – Called SFO CBP office and they said to file H1B Extension.
- Cross the US border by land/sea and return back.
- File H1B Extension (Extension of Status).
Plan to go Otay Mesa for I-94 Extension – How I made the decision?
I did not want to file an H1B Extension and have new I-797 which would put me at ban for travel with the new Executive Order in place or to actually go through the hoops of H1B extension and RFE’s and all. Also, I did not want to fly to some country and spend a day or two there in this time of COVID-19.
So, I decided to go to the nearest land border which was, US – Mexico Border (CBP Otay Mesa, San Diego).
When did I extend I-94 ? Before or after Trump EO on Entry ban ?
I went to the CBP office after the Trump signed the Executive order banning entry of H1B, H4, L1 and other visa to US holders took place. I did not face any specific questions on the travel ban or any issues at the I-94 extension.
How to reached Otay Mesa, San Diego for I-94 Extension ?
Below are the various steps followed to get the CBP center and what I observed while I went to the CBP office for easy reference.
Booking Flights, Flight Experience
I was travelling from the San Francisco Bay area. I booked my flights a day before. I clubbed my itinerary on Alaska Airlines & Southwest Airlines. Both airlines did a good job of keeping people 6 feet or more apart at the airports, boarding & inside the flights. Masks are mandatory and if you do not have a mask, the airline might offer you one. The crowd at the airports was far too less than any regular day which makes it easy for you to be distant from people and sit by yourself keeping everyone safe.
How to get to CBP Center, Otay Mesa – Uber/Lyft, Address, Cost
Took Uber/Lyft from San Diego airport to the CBP Otay Mesa. It did cost around $30 – $33 for the ride at noon time. I put the First bank address below as my ride destination.
Address of the First Bank for CBP Office : 2494 Roll Dr, San Diego, CA 92154
Right at the corner of the bank, there is a Stop sign and there is some construction going on diagonal to the Stop sign. I got down there and started walking straight to the CBP/SENTRI office which are in the same building.
Walking to CBP Building, Otay Mesa – Do NOT get on the Bridge
On my walk to the CBP office I passed by a parking lot on my right, I believe it was the CBP Office parking. Next I saw a bridge on my right which had few stairs, this is the actual bridge pedestrians take to cross the border. Do not get on to the bridge unless you want to or are asked to cross the border. Kept walking straight and saw an office building with two black metal benches outside. This might be the SENTRI Office because it was closed when I went there. Behind this building was the CBP building. There were two ways to get to the CBP building, a small passage in between the SENTRI building or there is a path to the left of the SENTRI building.
Walked through the passage and saw the CBP building, it has glass doors and as I entered I saw a couple of guards loosely hanging out. I also saw people walking out of that building, these are the people who crossed the border and went through the immigration. So, as I walked in, people were walking out of the same glass doors.
I-94 Extension Process at the CBP Office in Otay Mesa
As I entered the building saw a circular/oval shaped small office, this was the cashier’s office. To the right of the cashier’s office as I went a little further I saw the Permit room with two doors, one for entry (left) and one for exit(right). I waited outside for someone, because it was their lunch time as I could see people grabbing pizzas in a small office behind in the Permit room. Soon one of the officers came and asked me what I wanted. I said I am here for my I-94 renewal, he asked me to sit on the steel metal bench inside the office. Soon there were some sirens that sounded like the hospital ones and one other officer came there and asked me what I wanted, I said the same again, that I am there for the I-94 extension. He said to go back out and wait outside. I told him that I was instructed by another officer to wait here, to which he replied that “I prefer you wait outside”.
CBP Officer Interview, Process for I-94 Extension
I went out again and waited. Soon the same second officer called me in and asked to see my documents, he just took my old passport which had my current unexpired H1B visa on it. Asked me where my permit is, I did not understand, so he clarified that he wanted to see the payment receipt. I said I have to pay yet and he sent me out to pay at the cashier’s desk I mentioned earlier. I paid and came back and gave him the receipt. He again took my old passport and started verifying the dates.
I-94 Extended based on Old Passport that has Visa – Checked online
Next thing I know he was stamping my old passport and gave me an extension on my I-94. I did clarify with him that why not the stamp of extension on my new passport to which he replied that I-94 will be extended and stamped on the passport that has a visa in it. I said thank you and left. I came out and checked my I-94 record online; it was already updated on the CBP website.
Please note – At no point I was asked to cross the border, nor was I asked any more documents then my old and new passport. But I did carry whole set of docs like below
Documents Checklist for I-94 Extension
- Old & New passports
- I-797 Original
- Employment Verification letter
- Pay stubs (4 latest)
- Residence proof (Utility bills)
- Rental Lease agreement
- Tax documents
Tips for I-94 Extension without Crossing Border
The entire process I described is the one without crossing the border. This is my belief that since I did not talk to any officer outside the Permit room and directly went in there, I got lucky and did not have to cross the border.
- Avoid Talking to guards : Try not to talk to any guards and officers outside because not all officers know the process of I-94 extension and they might ask you to cross the border.
- Paying Fee beforehand : Also pay the permit fees (I-94 extension fees) in advance online or before entering the Permit room at the cashiers desk, this might save you the awkwardness with the officer.
- No options for Food, Coffee Shops : During this time of COVID-19 no restaurants or coffee shops are offering places to sit or use the restroom or anything like that. So be prepared and plan in advance.
Timing – How long did it take ?
I guess I was in and out of the office building in 25-30 minutes, with 15 minutes wait time included as it was lunch time. I did a day trip and was able to return back same day.
Experience 4 – Otay Mesa I-94 Extension – Not Crossing Border
I was able to use above information in first experience to drive to Otay Mesa CBP office and get I-94 extended WITHOUT crossing the border. Some tips: if you follow them, you till get your I-94 extended without crossing the border.
Important Tips from my I-94 Extension
- Get there early and do NOT miss the exit.
- Park at Plaza Parking (2489 Roll Dr, San Diego, CA 92154)
- Walk by foot to CBP office via First bank signal (T junction of Roll Dr, and Via De La Amistag)
- You will pass by CBP parking on your right, keep walking
- When you are close to CBP building, you will see “Bridge to Mexico” on your right. DO NOT take it
- When you approach building , you will see SENTRI office doors, which is currently closed, keep walking inside.
- You will see a entrance to oval shaped office with people walking opposite to you and guards on your left (DO NOT Talk to them)
- Walk to the midle-right side of the building where you will see “counter for $6 I-94 fee at land border”.
- Pay the i-94 fees online to avoid unnecessary touching and questions
- Show I-94 payment confirmation to Guard at the Payment counter and tell him that you want to wait at PERMITs line (to the right of the payments counter) to extend your I-94 because you already pay the fee.
- Wait patiently in the line, it seems like they prioritize people crossing the border from Mexico side much more and process permits for few minutes every hour or so.
Experience 5 : I-94 Extension after Passport Renewal at Otay Mesa
I checked all the information collected by Vinod at I-94 extension at US Canda Border and based on information I was able to follow the same and get my i94 extended at Otay Mesa, San Diego Mexico border. Most of the steps are same as above too. I’m adding few more points that are specific to Oaty Mesa CBP office.
- Calling CBP Office : You may have to call multiple times to confirm, as not all agents know about i94 extension. My first call reached their cargo center and the person did not know much. Second call was same.vOn my third call, officer confirmed that they will do i94 extension. Please tell very clearly about passport expiration/new passport, valid visa etc.
- Address to CBP office for Driving : If you are driving to CBP office Otay Mesa and using Google maps, please do not put CBP office address. Google maps shows you route that cross Mexico border and back to reach CBP office in US. Rather put Sentri Otay Mesa in Google maps. This office is in the same building and google maps takes you to the office without crossing Mexico border.
- After Entering CBP Building : Once you enter the CBP building, on your right there is a small room that has “Permit” written at its door. That is the room for i94 extension. Officer checked my details, i94 extension form (suggest you fill and pay i94 form online and take printout), passports, i797, photo id (DL) and updated my i94. He did not even ask me to cross border. Overall it went pretty smooth.
Common FAQs, Tips for I-94 Renewal at Otay Mesa CBP
- CBP or SENTRI Office : You need to go to Otay Mesa CBP Office for the I-94 extension. Otay Mesa SENTRI center is closed due to COVID-19.
- Exact Address : So, Otay Mesa CBP and Sentri office are in same building. If you are using google maps, make sure it doesn’t take it across Mexico border. When I put Otay Mesa CBP address, it was taking me across the border and back to CBP office in US. So, put Sentri Otay Mesa address (2500 Paseo Internacional, San Diego, CA 92154). Be careful while using google maps to not cross the border. (I’m not sure what happens if you do by mistake.)
- Parking : There is private parking lot near CBP office. I think it is called Plaza parking.
- Open Hours : It is open only weekdays from 6am to 8pm. More details https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports/otay-mesa-california-2506 . San Ysidro is available 24×7, all week. https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports/san-ysidro-class
- Documents Required for I-94 Extension :
- Old Passport with valid visa
- New Passport ( Renewed)
- I-797 Approval notice
- One more photo id (I used my California DL).
- Additionally I took other usual docs like latest pay stubs, petition etc. but nobody asked for it.
- Travel by Flight or Drive : I’m in Bay area, I took Alaska airline from SFO to San Diego and back. No issues. Regarding Drive or flight, it is a personal judgement call. I considered driving to avoid enclosed space in air plane, but then driving would take at least 10 hrs with many breaks in between (more with family) using lot of public shared spaces. That looked more risky. I was also worried if car break down happens in this almost 1000 mile journey it may be difficult to handle due to this lockdown. So, decided to take flight. Surprisingly, SFO and San Diego airport were completely deserted and Alaska airline purposely booked only half of the plan, so only one seat is used on each side. Basically there is 2 seat gap between all passengers . Overall I’m happy with the flight journey.
- Masks, Gloves : Mouth covering is mandated by law during shelter in place at all public places. So pls. have mask/covering all the time.
Good luck. Please feel free to contact me for any query.
Experience 6 : Extending I-94 without Crossing – July 4th Weekend
by Anonymous User ( for privacy). Extension done on July 4th Weekend in 2021
Background: Due to passport nearing expiry, upon last entry to USA, CBP officer stamped my passport with I94 validity couple of months less than passport expiry date. Hence I needed to re-enter USA with new passport and update I94 up to I797A validity date.
Prep Work – Other Options Tried : Before visiting Otay Mesa land border crossing, I had called CBP offices at San Francisco Aiport and San Jose airport. Both replied to re-enter USA for adjustment to I94 date.
Experience at Otay Mesa for I-94 Extension
- I visited Otay Mesa land border crossing during July long weekend. Reached CBP office around late afternoon. Being a long weekend, there were very less number of people entering via that port of entry.
- Instead of directly crossing the border to Mexico, I entered CBP office and just asked for help to an officer. There are couple of officers just opposite/outside of Permits room.
- I just explained my situation asking for their recommendation. That officer walked with my passport to another CBP officer and started discussing what to do. At this point, that new CBP officer asked me to follow into Permits room and that he would do necessary adjustments.
- Thinking of not going to Mexico and re-entering USA was a relief.
- He just took my old passport, asked for I797A, new passport and DMV license. Looking at my address, he was surprised that I had to travel to Otay Mesa just for this I94 update.
- He was then explaining why on my last entry CBP officer had given I94 stamp with less validity. After checking documents and some updates in their system, he stamped new arrival stamp on my old passport with valid visa up to my I797A validity.
- I thought that new arrival stamp would have been in new passport instead of old one. But CBP officer explained that entry stamp is placed wherever there is valid visa present. Old or new passport does not matter to them or in their system.
- They just checked physical validity of passport for this purpose. Lastly, officer asked if I needed physical I94 copy or I can wait to update online. I just mentioned that I would wait to reflect online.
Overall Tips, Guidance
- I guess all this was possible because of long weekend and extremely less number of people arriving into USA. Again could be a lucky attempt as well. I had noticed that almost only 2-5 people were present in line to enter into USA and that too after sometime no-one was there.
- Just to note, I had not even paid $6 of I-94 fee either online or in person.
- Based on above experience, if someone is planning to travel all the way till Port of entry from such a long distance, I would still recommend to give a shot by physically going to CBP office at either San Jose or San Francisco airport (or similar) and request/try to renew I94 while explaining situation to officer.
Did you get your I-94 Extended without Crossing Border ? Share your experience in comments.