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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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5 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I have Approved H1b Councilor Processing for my new employer, I need to get it activated by leaving the country and coming back. I have a valid H1b Stamp from my previous employer until September 2021. So I don’t need a new stamp as well. The immigration attorney advised to leave the country and while coming back it will be activated.
    I was planning to visit my hometown but with the current COVID scenario, I am skeptical.

    1. Can I activate my visa at US Canada border?
    2. If yes, what is the procedure?

    Thanks

    Reply
  2. 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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