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I-94 Extension at US, Canada Border – Peace Arch – 3 Experiences

As many of you know,  US non-immigrant visa holders usually get shorter I-94 duration at US Port of entry process by CBP officer, if their passport is expiring before the I-797 approval notice validity. There are many ways to update the I-94, but one that works most of the time is crossing the border. 

Some of our users anonymous, Dheeraj were able to get their I-94 extended by crossing the US Canada border at Peace Arch, Blaine, WA.  Thanks a lot to them for taking the time to share the experience with our readers. You can share your experience by emailing it to [email protected].

If you are new to the process, read 5 Options to Renew / Update I-94 – COMPLETE Guide


Experience 1 – Successful I-94 extension by Anonymous User – Dec 2020

I-94 Extension by Driving from Seattle to Peace Arch

Below is my I-94 Extension Experience at Peace Arch Border crossing.

My Situation with I-94, Company Suggestion, US Canada Border   

  • I had to renew my I-94 because my stamped H1B visa and I-94 were expiring in Jan 2021 even though but I had a new I-797 extension till Jan 2024
  • I hold an Indian passport and stay on H1B in US
  • I was advised by my company’s attorneys to renew my I-94 at the US-Canada land border crossing
  • I went to the Peace Arch US-Canada border crossing in Washington State by car on December 30, 2020.

Experience at Canadian Border – Entering Canada at Peace Arch Border Crossing

  • I drove on I-5 freeway all the way to the Peace Arch border crossing
  • As I neared it, I followed the big signs for Customs and Immigration which took me to the big 10 lane land border crossing into Canada
  • Just one out of 10 lanes was open
  • As I reached the immigration booth (sitting within the car), the following exchange happened with the Canadian immigration officer (CAIO)

Questions asked by Canadian Immigration officer (CAIO)

  • CAIO: Where is home?
  • Me: Seattle, and I’m here for my I-94 extension
  • CAIO: Can I see your passport?
  • Me: Yes, and hand over my passport
  • CAIO: So you don’t intend to enter Canada?
  • Me: No, I’m here just for my I-94 extension
  • CAIO: Do you have any cough, cold, fever, chills? (Asking re: COVID-19)
  • Me: No
  • CAIO: Are you carrying any alcohol, marijuana, guns, explosives?
  • Me: No
  • CAIO: Okay, follow the road, and you’ll see a stop sign (points to it about 100 meters ahead) and my colleague will open the cones for you to take a U-turn and re-enter the US.. You can ask the US officer for an I-94 extension and they can help you, and hands my passport back
  • Me: Sounds good, thank you. Have a good day
  • CAIO: You too, take care
  • The other CAIO officer opened the cone for me and I whipped a U-turn and followed the road to re-enter US

Experience at US Border – Entering USA, Questions asked

I had the following exchange with the US CBP Immigration officer starting with the officer at the booth when you drive up from the Canada side

  • US CBP Officer : Where is home?
  • Me: Seattle, and I’m here for my I-94 extension (I hand over my passport)
  • US CBP Officer : What were you doing in Canada?
  • Me: I didn’t go to Canada. I live in Seattle and drove here for my I-94 extension. I told this to the Canadian officer and they helped me do a U-turn to direct me back here for that
  • US CBP Officer : Is your latest US visa stamped here?
  • Me: Yes, and that is till Jan 2021 only. I have a new I-797 valid for another 3 years using which I’d like to get my I-94 extension
  • US CBP Officer : Can I see it?
  • Me: Yes, and hand over my new original I-797 valid till Jan 2024
  • US CBP Officer : Does something on the computer, comes out of the booth and sticks an orange slip on the front screen and hands me back my passport and I-797
  • US CBP Officer : Follow the road, it leads to the parking lot only and there is no other way. Stop in the parking lot and an officer will come out and help you
  • Me: Thank you, have a good day
  • Me: I drive slowly to the parking lot and stop in front of a building entrance and wait in my car. After 10 mins, an officer comes out from the building and approaches me
  • US CBP Officer : Hello, what’s going on? (In a friendly voice)
  • Me: Hello, I’m here for my I-94 extension and the officer at the booth guided me to here (as I hand over my passport)
  • US CBP Officer : Is your latest visa in here?
  • Me: Yes, and that is till Jan 2021 only. I have a new I-797 valid for another 3 years using which I’d like to get my I-94 extension
  • US CBP Officer : Can I see it?
  • Me: Yes, and hand it over
  • US CBP Officer : He looks at it for a couple of mins and then tells me that he has to go inside (with my passport and new I-797)
  • Me: Okay, I’ll wait here
  • US CBP Officer : He comes out after 5 mins and says that I should park my car and come in
  • Me: I go in with all my other docs and he waves me over (it’s a big facility with lots of counters but it’s almost empty except a few officers)
  • US CBP Officer : He waves me to a counter where he hands me over to a different officer who’s sitting at a counter
  • US CBP Officer : The new officer is friendly too, and has my passport and I-797 now
  • US CBP Officer : Do you have a driver’s license with your current address?
  • Me: Sure, and hand it over
  • US CBP Officer : He takes a few mins on the PC, confirms that he can see my I-94 payment online and asks me what do I do for work
  • Me: I do xxxxxxxxx (Doesn’t need to be a 5 min reiteration of job duties, I cover what I do in a couple of sentences and wait for him to respond)
  • US CBP Officer : That sounds interesting, and he starts talking about the weather, and general chit chat and we have a friendly conversation for a couple of mins while he works on his PC
  • US CBP Officer : He prints out a new I-94 on a physical piece of paper and stamps it to my passport (very similar to the old I-94 when they used to have physical paper I-94s at airports customs too)
  • US CBP Officer : You are all set, with a new expiry of 3 years from today and hands over everything to me
  • Me: Thank you very much, you have a lovely day. Is there anything else that you need?
  • US CBP Officer : Thank you, and that’s it
  • All in all, the entire process took me less than one hour

Document Checklist for I-94 Extension

My company’s immigration team advised me to carry just the documents with * in front of them. I carried the others just in case as backup.

  1. *Both original I-797 documents – Renewed (valid till Jan 2024) and the current (valid till Jan 2021)
  2. *Original Passport with H1b stamp
  3. *Print of last I-94 entry card https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home. ( Read How to print I-94 Online Step by Step )
  4. *Employment letter from HR stating that xxxxx employee works at xxxxxxx
  5. *Pay-slips (Recent 2-3)
  6. Print of pre-paid I-94 request (https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/apply-document, costs $6) – I think you can pay for this in person at the border crossing as well
  7. Address proof — Driving License (I think this should match your AR11 address)
  8. Scanned print of my I-140
  9. Print of my full H1b petition
  10. Other misc. documents else that I would carry to a in-person H1b interview like educational documents, etc.

Tips, Misc. Thoughts

  • I had a valid stamped Canadian visa – I don’t know if that made a difference or not, you’ll have to check with an attorney about that..  
  • The USIOs said that they can give a new I-94 for max 3 years from the date of this process

Experience 2 – Successful I-94 extension from Dheeraj – Oct 2020

I-94 Extension at Canada Border – No Canada Visa

I was able to renew my I-94 by crossing US border at Seattle – Canada border at Peace Arch, Blaine WA

  • No Canada Visa : I do not have a CANADA VISA but I still decided to risk and go to Canada border and return to US based on the experiences shared here and other blogs.
  • I was able to successfully extend my I-94 and my wife’s I94. Even before entering Canada border, US CBP officers stopped us and asked the reason why we were there, I explained the actual situation and told them I want to cross US border and come back to extend my I-94.
  • They checked our Visas and showed us direction to Canada border. At Canada CBSA I again explained the actual situation to her, she just scanned our passports and helped us with the direction back to US. Again, no question asked!!
  • At the US port of entry, there were 2 officers at the booth, both were laid-back. I told them I want to extend I-94.
  • They verified all our passports, attached a yellow sticker with details on the windshield and showed us directions to CBP office. A officer came out of the building, verified passports and the sticker attached on windshield and asked us to come in. We already filled new I-94 form online, so it was quick and he issued new I94.

Luckily all officers were very helpful and had positive attitude!!


Experience 3 – Successful I-94 extension by Milind – Feb 2021

I-94 Extension at Peace Arch, No Canada – 2021

I recently got my I-94 extended at Peace Arch on 12th Feb, 2021. The process and experience is pretty much same as above experience shared by users. Below are couple of additions.

  • Documents Checked : Passports and I-797 Approval notice
  • Waiting Time was about 1 hour
  • They did not check my car for any items.
  • I did not have a Canada Visa
   


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4 Comments

  1. Hi Team,

    Happy New year 2021.

    Thank you for the detailed post.

    Just curious to know what is having I-94 extension. is it the same as VISA on Passport. can I travel with the I-94 extension to India and come back without any visa interview?

    Thanks
    KR

    Reply
    • Kesava,
      No, it is not the same. The thing is, sometimes, when your passport is expiring within 6 months or a year, then CBP officer at port of entry gives shorter I-94. In such cases, you need to update I-94 after you get new passport. Rule is, when you are in US, you need always I-94 to be valid. If it is expiring, you need to get it extended.
      No, it cannot be used as Visa. You need to attend visa interview to get Visa.

      Reply

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