I-94 Extension by Traveling to Mexico from US experience

I-94 Extension by Travel to Mexico during COVID – Experience

In US Immigration - Visas by Guest AuthorUpdated : 32 Comments

If you enter US on a visa and go through US Port of entry procedures, you will be issued a stamp by CBP officer on your passport and also get I-94 either electronic or physical card. If your passport is expiring sooner than your visa stamp or approval notice, then you will get shorter I-94 duration than the visa or petition expiration date. In such cases, you need to extend I-94 before it expires within US. But, at times, mistakes happen and you may not extend it on time and sometimes with extreme situations like COVID-19, you cannot get it extended. In such cases, flying out of US is the only option. One of our reader’s spouse was in exact same situation. It was a painful process to get I-94 extended as she had to travel to Mexico City to get I-94 extended during COVID-19. Thanks a lot to Rahul S, who has taken time to capture every single detail of their planning and process to get I-94 extended by flying to Mexico City. We really appreciate Rahul taking time to write up for community benefit. You can share any of your experience by emailing us at redbus2us(at)gmail.com


My wife recently flew into Mexico to get her i-94 updated. That was our only option at the time, and I would like to share our experience with the community.

Background, Reason for I-94 Extension

I am on L1 visa and got it stamped roughly around three years back from Vancouver, with the L1 petition expiry date (PED) of 06/15/2020. The same PED applies to my wife and kids’ L2 as well. While entering into the US last year from Canada, all our i-94 were stamped valid till 06/15, but my wife’s I-94 was stamped only till March based on her passport expiration date. We were able to get the passport renewed on time and got her new passport in February. I always knew that we had to update the passport number on the i-94, but somehow, I missed her i-94 expiration date.

How we missed the I-94 extension on time

Two main reasons contributed to that  1) Prior to her last visit when we entered the US, her i-94 had the expiration date of 06/15, so that played somewhere back on my mind, and 2) Our lawyer were in process of filing H1 change of status petition in February, so I thought it might all be filed on time and we might not need to update i-94 separately.  The change of status paperwork took time and by the time we were ready to file the paperwork around the end of March, we realized that her i-94 had already expired. Now she was out of status

In the hindsight, the best way for us would have been going to Niagra falls (we live in Ohio), cross the border, and come back. She had a valid Canadian visa till her old passport expiration date. It would have been a quick weekend trip.  

Experience at CBP after I-94 Expiration – Lucky not to be deported

Our lawyer, first suggested us to go to the closest CBP deferred site and request for i-94 update. She went to the CBP deferred site and explained the situation to the CBP officer. CBP officer stated that she is out of status and could be deported right away. The officer made few calls and after talking to his superiors, gave her the link to i-539. He asked her to talk to the lawyer, and file of i539 as soon as possible. I think she was lucky to be not deported and that could have been because of COVID circumstances.

Next, we got to understand that the Miami CBP is good at handling such requests, so we emailed Miami CBP, and explained our situation. We tried to explain that due to COVID, we could not travel and requested them to consider our case. Here is the email we sent to Miami:

Email Sent to CBP Miami Office for I-94 Extension

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wanted to request your assistance to update my I-94 information. My most recent I-94 record number is xxxx. I currently have an L2 visa that is effective through 06/13/2020.  

While preparing for my non-immigration extension paperwork, I realized that my latest I-94 was valid only till xx/xx/xx, based on my old passport expiration date. I renewed my passport, but I was unable to apply timely for I-94 change due to the disruption caused by COVID-19. I was also under the impression that my I-94 validity is till June 2020 as was in my all past I-94s. 

I request you to please consider my case as a one-time exception and update my I-94 with my new passport number. I have attached a copy of my new passport, valid L2 visa, the latest I-94, and one of the old I-94 with validity till June 2020. Please feel free to contact me if you need any further information.

I would be profoundly grateful for your help.

Thank you

After two weeks of wait, we received the following response back from Miami CBP:

CBP Miami Office Response to Extend I-94

We are in receipt of your email regarding your I-94 information; however, we are unable to assist you with your request because you arrived at the US in a Port that is out of our jurisdiction.  As per Memorandum dated 04/13/2015 Number MFO-15-001. Thank you for contacting Miami CBP Admissions Program.

Final options given by CBP Office to Extend I-94

So, we tried to call CBP at our port of entry, and they suggested that the only two options are: file for an extension through i-539, or to leave the country and come back.

Issues with Filing I-539 – Processing Delays, Potential for bar to enter US

We discussed this with our lawyers at length, and they suggested that they can file i-539, but adjudication can take time, as there was no premium processing at that time. Also, they mentioned that if a person is out of status for more than 6 months, then USCIS bars the person for three years. For us that meant, if we don’t receive the decision on i-539 by September, she need to leave the country and stay outside the country till adjudication. And that would have been a huge disruption.

Our best option was to leave the country and come back.

We were in April and COVID continued to raise concerns. Canada and Mexico borders were closed for non-emergency travel. India also stopped all international flights. We decided to wait and watch. Around mid-May, we reassessed the situation. Canada/Mexico border crossing was impossible as she now does not have valid Canada visa, and driving to Mexico from Ohio would have been challenging. The only option available was to fly into Mexico.

Situation with Mexico with COVID – Travel planning

I did some research on how things were progressing in Mexico. I found that Mexico declared phase 3 COVID alert that means no non-essential travel/business was allowed. I called Mexico International Airport but was not able to get reasonable answers. They directed us to check with the airlines. The airlines confirmed that they were operating in/out of Mexico but were unable to give any information on procedures/precautions at Mexico airport or anything regarding Mexico immigration due to COVID. 

Flight, Hotel Booking for Mexico Travel

I called the hotel (Courtyard) at the Airport, and they informed us that people are still flying in and staying with them. So, we decided to take our chances.

I looked up for flights to Mexico and as there were no direct flights from Columbus, I had to book one that was connecting through Atlanta. We ideally would have loved to return the same day, but no options were working out for us due to connections. I booked directly with American Airlines. All flights were fully refundable (due to COVID), so that gave us some confidence if in case we had to cancel last minute due to any new discovery. 

I then moved on to book the hotel. I was looking for some hotel at the airport itself so Courtyard and Hilton were only two options. I tried booking Courtyard online, but the hotel was not coming up at the Marriot website. I called the Courtyard and got to know that as a response to COVID, the government has restricted all travel portals to book online. They told us that it can be booked over phone, and helped us with the booking.

Flight Experience to Mexico – COVID-19

On the day of travel, my wife took all the precautions like masks, gloves, etc. and made the travel. Flights were surprisingly full, that could be because of memorial day weekend. She told that people were sitting next to each other and there was no physical distancing maintained on the flights. Flights were mostly on time. 

Mexico Immigration at Mexico City Airport

When she reached Mexico immigration, she handed her the passport, along with hotel and return tickets. The officer asked her the reason for her visit and she told the correct reason i.e. renewal of i-94. Officer again asked if it is for business, she still said the same thing i-94 renewal. The officer just put the reason as business and allowed her.

Going to Hotel at the Mexico City airport: 

The hotel is actually connected to the airport and was only 5-10 minutes walk away from the security check. The entire food court was open and decently crowded. At the hotel, check-in was smooth. The hotel restaurant/cafe was open only for takeout. [Tip] Carry your own food as much as possible to limit unnecessary exposure. 

The next day she took her scheduled flight back to Atlanta.

Documents Checklist for I-94 Extension

She carried the following documents per advice from our lawyers:

  • Original Marriage Certificate
  • Old Passport
  • New Passport
  • Copy of my US visa
  • Copy of my US approved petition (i-129s)
  • Copy of my few last payslips

At the US Immigration in Atlanta – Port of Entry Process

Officer asked her for the reason of her trip and she told the renewal of i-94. The officer suggested that this could have been done easily at a deferred site based on the visa extension. She told the officer that she contacted multiple CBP offices and this was the best way suggested. Officer said that he could see my extension in the system (surprising to us as it is not yet filed) and told her that it should be okay, but need to look into some more details. The officer kept her documents and gave her a token. She was directed to pass the hallway and give her token to another officer. She did the same and then was asked to accompany the officer to the CBP office at the airport. 

The officer in the CBP office looked up some more details, gave her the i-94 for 10 additional days (i.e. till 06/25 instead of 06/15), and mentioned that once the lawyer files for visa extension, the i-94 can be updated by going to the deferred site if needed.

Post that it was a relatively easy flight home.

Post Travel to Mexico – Self Quarantine

We were very concerned about traveling during COVID time, and it can get really weird. For the safety of our kids (9 and 4 years old), my wife followed self-quarantine for at least 7 days. Now it is two weeks, and all is good.

Few tips for traveling during COVID:

  • Face mask is absolutely necessary. This is the order of preference – N95, surgical masks (we used this), cloth masks (last resort)
  • Wash hands often. Obvious.
  • Wear hand gloves if possible 
  • Avoid removing your mask (for eating/drinking) on the airplane
  • Carry your own food
  • Call your hotel ahead of your travel and ask for tips/directions
  • Try at least a week’s self-quarantine 
  • Language could be a challenge if leaving the airport, traveling to the city center, etc. 
  • Try to control the urge of venturing out. 

Overall, it is a stressful travel with uncertainty related to immigration/i-94, risk of COVID, language challenges, etc. So, it is good to stick to the plan, be early to the airport, avoid unnecessary adventure, and drink a lot of water. Oh, that reminds me of the last tip, carry your own water bottle.

   

Other Articles


Comments ( 32 )

  1. GD

    Hi Kumar,

    I was working on H-1B for a company that shutdown. I was not able to find an employer to file H-1B within 60 days of termination, so I applied for COS to H4 before the 60-day deadline and the petition is pending. Now (after 60 days) an Employer is filing my H-1B, which most likely will be for counsular processing. I have an H-1B stamp that is valid till Aug 2021. If the petition is approved without I-94 (i.e. I-797B), then what are my options if I do not want to exit the country and come back to get an updated I-94/activate H-1B?

    Thank you,
    GD

  2. KM

    Hi Kumar,

    I have a tricky situation on I- 94 extension. I was in India from March to June and our company has stopped operations due to Covid-19, so they were closing the business. They told that official Last day of Employment for me as June 15th. In meanwhile I got another job and they processed my H1B but hey wanted me to come ASAP. It was a premium processing so the approval came very quickly in the E-mail. The attorney said, receipt also would be fine to travel. As I got the approval E-mail, I booked the tickets in VBM on July 5th and come to US. At the POE I showed my Passport with Visa stamp from my old employer and the officer didnt ask me any questions and allowed my entry.

    Here is my doubt now,
    I Didn’t tell or show any documents or approval e-mail of my new H1B and my I-94 was given based on my previous employer’s Visa stamp. After I came back I joined my new employer in a week and got the H1B approval copy from my Employer.
    I saw that my approval is a “I-797-B” consular processing. As my H1B was filed when I was in India so I think they filed in a consular processing. Now I already started working with my new Employer and my I-94 is not updated with the new approval,

    1) Is it OK to work with my new employer now. I have my i-94 (based on my old employer’s Visa stamp) valid until next year November. ***
    2) If I go out of the USA any time before my current I-94 expires, will that be fine or should I need to do something immediately.
    3) Is there any way to get the I-94 updated without leaving USA in this case.
    3)When Visa services open up in India, can my wife apply for the H4 visa with my new approval notice (I-797-B)? or will there be any trouble doing that as my new approval is not recorded with the POE?

    I am not willing to travel unless it is really needed.
    Please suggest me the best thing to do now.

    Thank you.

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      KM,
      No, you cannot work like that, they should have applied as change of status. You cannot work like that.. Also, when you entered, you should not have used your old employers details as they let you go before your entry date. If there is a site visit or something that happens you will be deep trouble. You should talk to an attorney immediately and get this sorted out.

      1. KM

        Hi Kumar,

        How will they apply change of status in my case, as I was not out of Status correct, I was on H1B ?
        My attorney was saying I can go before my current I-94 expires. But I will speak once again to reconfirm the same.
        If I plan to travel out of the US (May be to mexico/canada) ASAP and get the I-94 extended, will that be fine, or there will be an issue that I entered with my old employer details? If there will be a trouble in that case, I will be struck in Mexico or canada.

        So any better way to get this cleared?

        1. administrator
          Kumar

          KM,
          Anytime you do not follow rules, you are considered violating your status, that’s when you will be considered out of status. In your case, if your employer filed as Consular processing, the intent was that they want you to enter from outside country and you will not get I-94. In such cases, you cannot start working for them.

          Usually, the best thing to do in these kind of situation is to leave the country immediately and then re-enter. Discuss with your attorney and be prepared with what you need. In general, if everything is right, CBP should let you in. But again, there is never 100% guarantee for anything… Stay positive and act swiftly as directed by your attorney. Do update how it goes here too. Good Luck !

          1. KM

            Hi Kumar,

            Discussed with my attorney about my situation. They said that, I had a valid I-94 when I entered the US so CBP officer allowed me to the US and I have an approved petition to work. So my work authorizations is also legal. Basically my extension of stay in the US is not approved so I cant stay as per the timeline specified on my approved petition. They said I can get my I-94 updated before my current I-94 expires, either by Visa stamping or by exiting and re-entering. This is what is told by them and my HR is aware of this.

            I will post the updates if something new happens with my situation.

          2. administrator
            Kumar

            KM,
            I suggest you check with another attorney to be sure. You entered using a company document that you were already laid off. It is technically a misrepresentation. It does not matter you had approval or wrong. It is your discretion…Some of these things can come back and haunt you in the long run. So, be careful and verify with another one or two attorneys.

  3. Pratima

    Hi Kumar,

    We live at New Jersey and my husband i94 has to be renewed,Canada visit visa we can’t apply as biometric is closed at Canada.can we reach Canada border and get it done without enter ring Canada? Please advise it is emergency.thanks..

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Pratima,
      You need to call the CBP office and validate before you try to exit the country. It is very risky without having proper clarification with the CBP office that you plan to visit. If they say that they will update without crossing border, then only go to their office. Some had luck, some did not had luck…so depends.

  4. Pompana

    Hi,

    I need inputs. I got my passport renewed last month and my i94 is expiring on 29th July. I wanted to understand options in this pandemic situation. Is it safe to travel to Mexico? Is there mandatory quarantine of 14 days in Mexico?

    Is it okay if we get flight and return same day to USA for i94 renewal?

    How about going to Canada or Mexico border? Is there advantage of visiting SENTRI centers?

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Pompana,
      Before you plan any travel, do check with the embassy and then only try. Now, with the Executive order that is speculated, anything can happen. So, wait for few more days and then plan it.
      If they are given option to update I-94 without exiting the country, it will be the best. Try calling all of them and verify.

  5. Kumar Ravi

    Hi Kumar Good Day,
    I got new job and new employer applied h1b in consular processing. I traveled to India in the month of Jan 2020 and came back to USA in Feb 2020, after that my new h1b consular procession petition got approved in April 2020. I have valid visa and i-94 upto 2022. Am I eligible to work with new employer or do I still need to exist and back to the country to extend my i-94 as per my new h1b. If so, can I travel to Mexico(Laredo,TX border) to get extended.
    Thank you!

      1. Kumar Ravi

        Hi Kumar ,

        H1B visa, H1B I-94 is valid upto April 2020.
        Can I join with new employer applied in consular processing with out exist and re Enter to USA.

        1. administrator
          Kumar

          Kumar Ravi,
          You say April 2020…confusing.
          In any case, if your I-94 and Approval notice are valid, you are fine. If your I-94 is expiring and your petition is valid for more time, then you need to extend I-94.

          1. Kumar Ravi

            Hi Kumar,

            Sorry, Its my mistake, typo.
            i-94 and visa are valid upto April 2022. Got new i797B approval, now am I eligible to join with new employer or POE is required to get h1b activated.

            Thanks in advance.

          2. administrator
            Kumar

            Kumar Ravi,
            If your New I-94 with approval notice Class shows H1B and it is valid, then you do not need to travel out. Check Sample I-94 to get an idea.

          3. Kumar Ravi

            Hi Kumar,

            New I-94 is not attached to my new i797B approval notices, it was applied on consular processing.

            Thanks in advance.

          4. administrator
            Kumar

            Kumar Ravi,
            If you do not have I-94 attached, you need to get out and get stamping to be able to be on H1B. Or talk to your attorney and apply for COS.

          5. Kumar Ravi

            Hi Kumar,

            Spoke with my attorney, she said visa is not required as I already have valid visa which is valid upto April 2022. She asked Me to show new i797 to CBP officer at POE.
            Can I exist and reenter to USA with out getting visa stamped ? I’m planning to go to Laredo, TX .

            Thanks in advance.

          6. administrator
            Kumar

            Kumar Ravi,
            If your visa is valid, you do not need stamping again, you can use the old valid stamp in passport that is valid to re-enter US.

          7. Kumar Ravi

            Hi Kumar,
            I visited CBP office Laredo TX, with out existing country I am done with my i94 extension.

            Thanks for your inputs.

    1. Santoshi

      Hi,
      I am also planning to go to Laredo TX to get my i94 updated. Can you please share your experience with the CBP at Laredo?

      Thank you.

  6. Abhishek Mehra

    Hi

    Very helpful article. I’m on H1b and i’m also in a similar situation that my I-94 has already expired in Mar 2020. I had travelled to India in Jan 2020 and while coming back I did not show the extension papers, and so I got my I-94 date based on my old petition. Then after getting an email from my lawyers, that I would need to travel outside country and come back to get new I-94, I contacted CBP Miami and explained them my situation. They understood and were able to correct my I-94 to new passport expiry date of June 2021. But still my lawyers want me to outside US and come back. Is it really necessary considering my electronic I-94 was already corrected by CBP office?

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Abhishek Mehra,
      Well, technically, if your online I-94 is updated and you have proof indicating the same that it was corrected, there may not be a need for travel. Your attorneys want to be extra safe, so they are suggesting to…

    2. Abhishek

      Hi Abhishek,

      Thanks for this update. My friend is in the same situation. She just got her new Indian passport. Her H-1B visa is in her old passport and her current I94, the most recent one, she got when she came back from vacation from India at the port of entry. This I94 is expiring soon. Can you please describe in detail how to extend the date on one’s I94 without possibly traveling outside the US? Can you please send me the email or phone of the CPB office you contacted in Miami?

Leave a Comment

Comments Policy :
  • Comments are to drive conversation, add your thoughts, experiences, ask questions!
  • Do NOT write hate speech, swear words, or get into fight. Maintain etiquette
  • Enter your Name, valid Email, URL(optional - Facebook, LinkedIn profile URLs).
  • Your email will NOT be published. Do NOT post any phone numbers, email-ids
  • Do NOT post any links from other websites, unless official sites, University websites.
  • By submitting your comment, you agree to Term and Conditions of our website.