It is very important for everyone to maintain Status in US and have I-94 valid at all times. If you get a shorter I-94 ( arrival departure record) duration at US Port of Entry than the approval notice listed end date, it is very likely that your passport is expiring soon. In such case, you need to apply for I-94 Extension within USA after getting new passport.
With COVID-19, getting this can be very tricky as many of the CBP offices and borders are closed. Some were successful to get I-94 Extended by going to Canada Border from Detroit, but our reader Vijay was not lucky. He flew to San Diego and got it renewed there. Also, other users like Ravs, Manny, anonymous also got their I-94 extended. Thanks to Vijay, Ravs, Manny and anonymous user for taking time to write down the detail experience and sharing it with community. We really appreciate it ! You can email your experience as well to [email protected]
Best time to go to Otay Mesa for I-94 Extension ?
If you are planning a trip to Otay Mesa to extend I-94, we suggest you go late in the afternoon as the foot traffic is less. See below screenshot for a typical day on how much wait time you have for passenger foot traffic. You can check Otay Mesa Passenger Traffic CBP
Crossing US Mexico Border – Get back to US Side [Photos]
If you cross the US – Mexico Border at Otay Mesa, there are high changes that you may have challenges to find the way back to US side. For some users it took like 30 mins to figure out how to get back. The fact is there isn’t any signage, so may get lost and keep walking up and down few times before you figure out where you would see the turnstile at first. Below is some guidance shared by our users with pictures. Thanks to our users !
In below image, Location 1 is the Mexican side where you will exit out, cross the road (arrow) and head north and when you reach end of walkway around Location 2 in picture is where the gate/turnstile is that will let you cross over to the pedestrian line for CBP Otay Mesa building.
The queue can be long at times. Some users said there were like 500 people one time. So, plan it and be prepared. Below are some additional pictures from the Mexico Side. Thanks to Yash for sharing below.
I-94 Extension Experience 1 – San Diego, CA for H4 EAD
Anonymous users experience from August last week 2020
Background : We are on H1B and H4 Visas. My wife needed to update her I-94 after passport renewal, she is on H4 with EAD and we needed the new I-94 for EAD renewal. We also live in San Diego so fortunately didn’t need to fly or travel long to the Mexico Border, it is just 20 mins away.
After reading the blogs and experiences in RedBus we were pretty confident and clear on the process since everyone else had shared vivid details of the experience. I wanted to share some unique experiences applicable for H4 – EAD applicants.
Called San Ysidro CBP office
Initially, we called the San Ysidro border CBP office and presented the issue to them, they mentioned that we can cross the border into Mexico and turn back into the US and they can update the I-94 after that. We were a bit worried about crossing the border due to the Covid situation. I also read the other experiences of people crossing at Otay Mesa without much issues and we decided to give it a shot.
Driving to Otay Mesa, Parking, Directions
I parked my car at Plaza Parking 2489 Roll Dr San Diego CA. The walk to the CBP office is about 2 mins from the parking lot. There is a McDonalds across the street and a couple of small shopping plazas with 7-11 type stores next to the parking lots.
We walked straight down Roll Dr and you pass the bridge where you can walk into Mexico on the right. Once you reach the end of this road, there is an office building, SENTRI office to the right (currently closed) and a passageway on the left leading to the CBP office. We walked straight into the CBP office and there is a permits office with a blue sign on the right side once you enter the building. We waited in front of the office and within 10s an officer came by to ask what we wanted.
Talking to CBP officer before Crossing Border
My wife mentioned she wanted to get her I-94 updated due to a passport renewal. He understood the issue and said we would need to go over into Mexico and come back. We then asked if there are any travel or entry restrictions due to covid situation and that we are both in H status. The officer went inside the permits room to check with another officer, they chatted for a minute and he came back and said there shouldn’t be any issues. He mentioned that he will remember us and if we came back from border crossing before 2pm (presumably his work-shift) he can take care of it.
Crossing US Mexico Border – No Stamps in Mexico Side
So we went back out and over the bridge, walked into the Mexican side. In the inspection area, someone took our temperature and let us in. At the counter they asked where we are going and we mentioned we just want to get back to US for I-94 update. They just scanned our passports and let us in.
I remember reading in some other posts that the Mexican authorities asked for $30 fee when entering, we did not face this. They also didn’t stamp our passports- so I guess there is no record of us coming into Mexico.
Once you clear the entry, you walk down a long sidewalk closed on both sides, that leads into a wide road. This is where vehicles would wait in line for entry into US, it was empty now due to Covid, I assume. We turned back and walked for another 2 mins when you see the passage on your right for the pedestrian crossing. This is where you see a lot of local stores/vendors selling snacks and playing Mariachi music etc.
After entering US CBP Office – Process for I-94 Extension
Once we got back to the border, the US border agent scanned our passport and asked the purpose of the visit. We mentioned about I-94 and he asked why we went into Mexico. We told it was the procedure and were asked to do this. By this time, the other officer from earlier signaled and we were asked to go over to him.
We had already paid the I-94 fee online. The officer checked my wife’s documents, asked for passport and took us into the permits room. Asked where she worked. No other questions were asked. New paper I-94 was issued and we were done.
The whole experience took us about 25 mins, which is really short but I think it was due to the Covid situation. There were about 4 people in the line for pedestrian crossing back into US. The officers were really helpful and polite and they understood the procedure which was great.
Couple of things are noteworthy:
- No fees paid at the Mexico border and no passport stamps, we went on a Sunday
- My wife needed the I-94, I was just accompanying her. I actually did NOT get a passport stamp after entering back into the US either. So no record of me having ever been there.
- No apparent travel restriction for spouses if the other spouse needs to update I-94 and cross the border.
Overall it was a smooth experience, I recommend carrying all your paperwork to make it easy for the officers. Including address proof, I-797, online fee payment, pay stubs etc although we were not asked for anything except passport. Also I recommend explaining your intention clearly to the officer and confirming travel restrictions for your visa status.
I-94 Extension Experience 2 – Milpitas to Otay Mesa
Experience by Ravs from end of July 2020
Background for I-94 Extension
I have consulted my attorney about the possibilities of extending my i94, have a valid visa and extension too.
- Call near by cbp offices and see if they can help
- Walk in near by cbp offices and see if things work out
- Cross the border
I live in milpitas, tried calling all the California CBP offices where they said either make an exit and comeback or reach out to uscis ( i was not able to succeed by calling them)
Walk-in experiences CBP SFO, San Jose
I have tried visiting near by CBP offices (San Jose, San Francisco). I was told offices are closed due to COVID-19 and they are working from home. So I have emailed all the CBP offices around USA and their normal template response is make an exit and come back.
Otay mesa experience I-94 Extension Process
I took all my documents (most recent i94, paid my fee online, address proofs, w2’s, payslips, i-797 docs and offer letter just in case). Drove from Milpitas, CA to San Diego and walked into the CBP office. I arrived at CBP office by 7.00 am, thought office will be less occupied and can get things done pretty quickly.
I walked into permit room and officer asked me the reason why I was there ?? I explained the situation and I was told to get back to the payment booth first. I walked near the payment booth where a friendly officer approached me and looked at all my documents and asked me to cross the border.
So I walked into Mexico.
Mexican authorities asked me pay to 30$ (which is his tip I guess) asked me bunch of questions like whether I am going to stay in USA ( I thought he is crazy not bothered to answer) walked out of the Mexican office and crossed the road back to USA CBP office. I was shell shocked by the queue at morning (350 people are standing in the queue and 70% are not wearing any masks) after waiting for 1.5 hrs in the queue finally entered into CBP office.
CBP Officer Questions for I-94 Extension
Once I have entered CBP office they recognised me since I presented and explained the docs before. I was allowed to go to permit room. This is where the fun starts:
- Officer: what are we doing now here ?
- Me: i94 extension since my passport is about to expire in couple of days and i have valid visa and passport.
- Officer: give me your passport
- Me: i have provided my fee payment receipt along with the passport
- Officer: you’re saying your passport is going to expire on 08/01 but your passport was already expired (01/08)
- Me: that’s how we write dates on passport (dd/mm/yyyy)
- Officer:gotcha, you have two valid visa’s you should cancel one
- Me: I said okay
- Officer: you have valid i94 in your passport which was given till end of your visa why you need i94 extension
- Me: nope, that’s the stamp when I first entered after my visa stamped. You have to check most recent i94 and gave him the document
- Officer: where do you need the i94 stamped in the old passport or the new one
- Me: i said both
- Officer: i can provide only one stamp
- Me: i said i am not sure
- Officer: okay i will give that in old passport
- Officer: what you do for living
- Me: software engineer
- Officer: address please
- Me: gave him the address proof
- Officer: please verify if everything is fine now in your i-94
- Me: verified and confirmed all good
I have walked out. One suggestion is if you are planning to visit San Diego Mexico border just try to be there by afternoon you will less traffic and of possible wear N-95 mask and have hand sanitizer ready up the sleeve
I-94 Extension Experience 3 – Los Angeles to Otay Mesa
Experience 2 by Anonymous User from July 2020
Background for I-94 Extension:
After being struck for 10 months in India in 2019, I got my Visa Approved in and arrived to US in November 2019 and here My I-94 was given till 19th July, 2020 (Tied to the expiry date of my old passport). (My Employer suggested me to apply for passport renewal in US instead of India as we don’t want to risk further and come back to USA ASAP). I hold an H1B Visa, valid until Aug 2021
My Options to get I-94 Extension
With COVID-19, I had the below 3 options for I-94 Extension after Passport Renewal in US.
- Call CBP Office near to me (LAX Airport and Long Beach Sea CBP Office).
- Applying for an H1B extension.
- Crossing the Mexico land border and re-entering the United States. (Suggested by Employer).
Below are the things I tried with all three options for I-94 update.
- Option 1 : I tried Option 1, called LAX CBP Office. They referred to Deferred Office and they said that they can only correct i94 mistakes and cannot extend/update it. They suggested to contact USCIS and apply for I-129 form if I dont want to travel outside US during COVID-19 Pandemic, but for my case, they suggested to apply for H1B Extension.
- Option 2 : Since I had more than 13 months of VISA validity left, and a renewed passport in my hand and I dont want to risk with my client (took 6 letters in 2 years) and H1B application again.
As I had no luck with above two options, my fall back option was to cross US Border.
Planning to Update I-94 in US by Crossing Border
Please note I had called the CBP offices LAX Airport, Land border (San Ysidro, CA) as well as Sea (Long Beach, CA) and explained my situation. One Officer(Long Beach CBP Office) is kind enough to suggested based on my client (I was given essential work certificate back in March 2020) to try with nearest land borders with Mexico as I stay in Los Angeles, CA.
Address nearest to CBP Otay Mesa Center, Parking
- First Bank for CBP Office : 2494 Roll Dr, San Diego, CA 92154
- 24 hrs Parking is available at Plaza Parking, $5 for 2 hours, $10 weekdays and $15 weekends for 24 hours.
As I wanted to go at Lunch time to escape lines, I drove to San Diego from Los Angeles late morning 10:30 AM and reached the Otay Mesa Center by 1:00 PM.
Process to Update I-94 at CBP office at Otay Mesa
I tried to reach “Permits” Room but one of the CBP Officer advised to Cross US and Mexico Border, they were not ready to update my I-94. He pointed me to the bridge that connects US and Mexico and asked me to walk down, go to the Mexican Immigration, get stamped and take a U-Turn to the United States.
Crossing US and Mexico Border
I did as directed by officer. Walked the bridge, passed the two revolving black gates and entered Mexico. Went to their immigration and explained the situation. The officers took my new passport, and asked for cash only $30 or 600 Mexican pesos to stamped it.
I was not aware of this fee and I carried only $20 cash with me, they showed me nearby ATM but it was out-of-order. They discuss for 2 minutes in Spanish and showed me the way out without stamping my passport.
There is no help from any of the Mexican authorities as there are no boards or anything to guide the way, took me 30 minutes to figure out. (Knowing Spanish might help here)
I took a U-turn and started walking towards the US. There’s a pre-check at the gate to the US, Police verified my Passport and Visa Stamped page and let me in, then there is another gate to the POE CBP officers same as in the airports.
Questions asked by CBP officer during entry:
- Why are you here? for I-94 Extension.
- Where do you work? xxxx in Los Angeles, CA.
- Show me your Visa. Showed my I-797 Approval Notice.
Next, I was taken to “Permit” Room where another officer was handed over my passport with a “yellow note” attached.
Another CBP Interview – Questions
- Where are you from? (Not interested in taking India as answer) Los Angeles.
- Why are you here? I-94 Extension
- Where do you work ? Los Angeles.
- You came here based on Internet Blogs? No.
- Why Otay Mesa? Why didn’t you go to San Ysidro Center? I did call San Ysidro Center after CBP Office at LAX asked me to cross border and they suggested Otay Mesa Center as Pedestrian Traffic is less here.
Took my Passports (old and new), I-797, Old I-94 and Online $6 Payment Receipt.
Biometrics were taken, and then my old passport was stamped with “Admitted” stamp until the end of my VISA validity.
I was given white slip of I-94 with extended date attached to my old passport. Thanked Officer and came outside of CBP Otay Mesa Office by 3:00 PM.
Important Notes, Tips
- Make sure to carry all the supporting documents like Pay slips, Residency Proof etc.
- Cary some extra cash like 50 USD, in case you need it on the other side.
- Online I-94 Fee Payment: I paid the fees for I94 update form online ($6), valid for 7days after payment, cutoff my waiting time in Permits room by 15-20 minutes.
- Face masks are compulsory. Carry your own pocket hand sanitizer.
- Carry your own water bottle as it is super hot and dehydrating.
I checked my I-94 online along with travel history it shows Arrival Record from Otay Mesa. It did not show any departure record as Mexico Immigration did not stamp anything.? Meaning, I got my I-94 extended without crossing border but in fact I did crossed border.
I-94 Extension Experience 4 – Oakland to Otay Mesa
Experience 2 from Manny – July end 2020
Background of I-94 Extension
Thanks to all who contributed their story of i94 extension during the covid19 pandemic and the Executive Order issued on 6/22/2020. It really helps a lot of people so here is my story. I did go from Bay area to San Diego for this purpose.
Flying to San Diego, Stay overnight
I like driving however Southwest offered $99.99 from OAK to SAN with Return, so Why not. Flew after work during weekday, stayed overnight at Otay Mesa Holiday inn which is super close to the CBP office Otay Mesa < 5 min drive. Next day in the morning, drove and Parked at Plaza Parking ($10) at about 8:30 AM.
Process at CBP Otay Mesa – Permit Room
Process at CBP Office Visited Otay Mesa CBP office and stood near i94 Permit window as all suggested. Main Head of the CBP officer asked me the reason for my visit, I explained the reason due to Passport expiry, H1b valid until 2021….etc, he asked me to cross the border and then get back in. (In my mind….damn it…) But I guess if I would be doing that job, I would not stamp anyone without re-entering the USA. And honestly speaking, I think it’s better that way for even us since you are officially leaving the USA and then entering legally from Mexico …..with lots of other amigos standing in a line listening to various Spanish music by the street artists along the way while waiting.. 😉
Crossing Bridge – Process on Mexico Side
Crossed the bridge as they suggested, and in less than 5 mins of walk I was in Mexico territory, I was sweating due to both slight fear and humidity. I entered CBP building at Mexico side (thank God Google on my phone didn’t shout out loud “Welcome to Mexico”). Told lady officer that I wanted to go back to USA, she introduced me to this Male border officer who had his own cabin, he asked me to fill out custom form, etc. I filled out the form with new Passport number, signed at the bottom and then……… that sweet $30 bucks request was made. Obviously I didn’t ask for an explanation and played dumb. I happily paid him the amount. I kept that ready to go actually…… And I don’t care if it goes to his pocket or to the Govt registry. By the way it Instantly reminded me of India. 😉
Continued going forward, I started seeing lots of cars lined up to enter into the USA. First few lanes are regular car lanes and then there is a sentri car lanes which runs faster. Crossed both the lanes and then started going towards USA entry point. There is a small opening to go towards the pedestrian border crossing line from the cars lanes. Was able to find a line for which the end wasn’t too far luckily. Due to covid19 they let people go in batches. Stayed in the line for about 40 mins (now it’s about 10 AM) or so and enjoyed Spanish music artists, and stuff while waiting.
Process at CBP office after entering US Side
Now with the CBP Officer (at about 10:40 AM), looked at my passport, visa, i797. I explained my situation. He asked me go and wait in the same line where I initially went, The i-94 Permit window. It was kept closed for about 30 mins. After some time, one CBP officer came, and took care of my request. Got i94 extension done successfully. Simple general questions on the job, residence address, etc. Didn’t ask for any other documents other than the usual stuff i.e. passport, i797, old i94, receipt for online i94 Extension payment. Took a photo, fingerprint, and issued new paper i94 with extended validity.
So now my passport has Mexico Entry date, USA Leaving date and US entry date with updated i94. All done complying with all the legal stuff. I would have been little hesitant if my passport wouldn’t show an entry to the Mexico.
I would highly recommend anyone who is in a similar situation to go to the CBP office at Otay Mesa and get your i94 extended. Overall the experience was fine. Officers were aware of such circumstances and were very helpful.
I-94 Extension Experience 5 – Chicago to Otay Mesa
Experience 3 from Vijay from May 2020
How I extended my I-94 (With lock-down restrictions in place)
Background : My I-94 was expiring on 15th July, 2020 (Tied to the expiry date of my old passport)
I hold an H1B Visa, valid until Aug, 2021
My Options for I-94 Extension with COVID-19:
With the ongoing restrictions in place (especially air travel to international destinations), I had just two options for extending my I-94.
- Applying for an H1B extension (As suggested by my employer)
- Crossing the land border and re-entering the United States
Since I had more than 15 months of VISA validity left, and a renewed passport in my hand, I found no point in applying for an extension and putting myself in risk of a potential RFE/Denial. I decided to try both the land borders (Canada and Mexico).
Option 1 : Extend I-94 at US – Canada Border (via Windsor Tunnel ) near Detroit
I drove all the way from Chicago to Detroit (Detroit-Windsor tunnel), however, I wasn’t successful in getting my I94 updated. Felt I was a bit unlucky. I did cross the US border, entered Canada, and explained my situation to the Canadian border officials. They were nice, polite, and agreed to send me back after some verification (took about 30 min). On returning I was stopped at the Detroit checkpoint, and the officer politely admitted me WITHOUT renewing my I94. On explaining the situation, the officer said, since I was not “technically Admitted” into Canada (just turned back from border), I never really left US, and hence cannot be issued a new I94. Turns out going to Canada Border, and being admitted inside Canada are two different scenarios. Weird. But this is what happened. Looks like updating the I94 is at the sole discretion of the CBP officer at the checkpoint. Done on a case by case basis and there’s no written guideline for this process.
Please note: I had called the officers on both sides of the border, explained my situation 2 days ago, and was given a green signal, and hence I made the journey. Sadly it just turned out to be a nice long drive and nothing else.
Option 2: I-94 Extension at US – Mexico Border (CBP Otay Mesa, San Diego)
This was my last try before applying for an extension. Staying in Chicago, this option involved “Air Travel” which, at this point, is both risky and expensive. I planned a day trip to San Diego.
Flight Booking, Flights Process with COVID-19:
Flight tickets were very expensive. It will be hard to get direct flights. They are trying to club cities and minimize losses (connecting flights). Face masks are compulsory to enter the airport/flights. Airports are deserted. It will be difficult to get water/coffee so be prepared. Uber/Lyft facility is available at San Diego airport. Saves time as opposed to getting a rental car and driving if you are under tight time constraints.
- I flew to San Diego from Chicago early morning and reached the destination airport by 11am. Next, I Headed straight to the CBP Otay Mesa center.
- Used Uber/Lyft for my commute from Airport to CBP center as that was the easiest option in new location.
Note on SENTRI Otay Mesa center : Remember, as I write this on 5/21/2020, the SENTRI Otay Mesa center (which is in the same building as CBP) is currently closed for in-person visits. I followed the instructions of Abhishek (in another post), and reached the “Permit” room of Otay Mesa CBP center.
CBP Officer advice to Cross US and Mexico Border : The officer there was not ready to update my I94. In fact, she suggested “crossing of borders” may be one of the options, but not to hold her accountable if something goes wrong and I am not admitted inside the US. However, she was kind enough to tell me the whole process, pointed me to the bridge that connects US and Mexico and asked me to walk down, go to the Mexican Immigration, get stamped and take a U-Turn to the United States. And then, she told me to forget about her and this conversation that we had. Basically, we never met and no one explained me the process
Note on Mexico Visa : I did not had any specific Mexico Tourist VISA. It appears that holding a valid US VISA is enough to enter Mexico. My H1B Visa is valid until Aug, 2021
Crossing US and Mexico Border for I-94 update : I did as directed by officer. Walked the bridge, passed the two revolving black gates and entered Mexico. Went to their immigration, and explained the situation. The officers took my new passport, stamped it and showed me the way out. I took a U-turn and started walking towards the US. There are lanes for cars, and trucks, and a parallel pavement that pedestrians take to enter the US. There’s a pre-check at the gate to the US, and then there is another gate which leads you to the POE CBP officers (a set up that we see in the airports).
Questions asked by CBP officer during entry for I-94 Extension :
- Why are you here?
- Where do you work?
- Did you come all the way from Chicago (exclamation)!!?!! When are you flying back?
Process in CBP Center to issue New updated I-94
Next, I was sent to another officer with a “yellow note” attached to my passport. That basically means, I was to be issued a new I-94. I was taken back to the permits room (where this all started). Another min-interview – basic questions. Very friendly officer. Showed sympathy that I had to travel all the way from Chicago, paying almost double the amount of normal fare. My fingerprints were taken here, and then my new passport was stamped with “Admitted” stamp until the end of my VISA validity. All good, all smiles. Thanked the officer. Headed back to the airport, boarded the flight back to home. At no point I had to produce any documents other than my passports (old and new).
But then, do ensure you carry all the supporting documents. So yes, Second time lucky: I did get my I94 updated at the Otay Mesa CBP.
Remember : In this case, I was specifically given the option to either cross over to Mexico and enter (at my own risk) or just go back without doing anything. No one will ever assure of “cross and we will admit you to US safely”. You will be the decision maker.
Online I-94 Fee Payment : Although I had paid the fees for I94 update form online ($6), but I was never asked for it. May be because I has to cross the border and enter anyways. So, the I94 gets automatically updated.
Why I had to cross the border : According to the officer, she was not allowed to directly update my I94, and It can be only done when I cross the border and re-enter.
Let me know if you have any questions, and I will be happy to answer. Good Luck!