Many of the US non-immigrant visa holders would get shorter duration on the I-94 than the visa expiration or I-797 approval notice due to expiring passport, when they enter US and go through Port of entry Process. In general, it would have been a straightforward process to Extend I-94 after Passport Renewal in US. But, now with travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19, it is very different, and tricky situation. One of our readers, Vinod, was in similar situation. After much research, he was able get his I-94 extended by not flying out of the country. He was kind enough to take time to share his detail experience. Thanks a lot to him for taking the effort and sharing it with our community. We really appreciate it ! Also, Mainsh was able to get his I-94 Extended as well following similar process, we have added it at end, Thanks to Manish. You can also share with our readers, by emailing it at [email protected].
My Situation – Passport Renewal, on H1B Visa, I-94 Expiration
- I have recently renewed my Indian passport (in Chicago Indian Consulate). But, my current I-94 is valid only till my old passport expiry date which is June 2020.
- In general, CBP officer will issue I-94 end date either petition/VISA end date or passport expiry date when you enter US. In my case, I have H1B I-797 approval notice and H1B Visa stamp on old passport, which is valid till 2021 August, but my passport was expiring in June 2020. Hence, I got I-94 till June 2020.
- Now with the new passport in hand, I need new I-94 with the validity matching to my VISA stamp and the I-797 petition end date. I live and work in Michigan.
Options for Extending my I-94 after Passport Renewal
After my research I realized that there are only three options to renew I-94.
- Travel outside of US, re-enter : Travel outside US and Re-enter by holding both old and new passport. CBP POE will issue new I-94 based on new passport and VISA expiry date
- Travel to India and Re-enter to the United States is the best option. No consequences, you are legally re-entering with new passport, VISA stamp on old passport & approved I-797.
- Travel to Mexico ( Indian citizens holding US H1 VISA can travel to Mexico without Mexican VISA) and Re-enter to the United States.
- Travel to Canada ( Indian citizens require Canada Visitor VISA) and Re-enter to the United States.
- SENTRI Enrollment Center : Go to SENTRI enrollment center in Laredo-Texas, San Diego ( Otay Mesa or San Ysidro) or Arizona. Sentri enrollment centers are there in only Texas, California and Arizona state.
- Process is very simple. You just walk into the enrollment center, pay the $6 fees at PERMITS section and attend POE interview. Better to fill and pay online “New I-94 request form” and carry the printout.
- This SENTRI enrollment centers are inside US, so no question of crossing the border.
- CBP Locations : Go to the one of the below three CBP location and renew your I-94 – Need to cross the border and re-enter. All are pedestrian crossing locations in Mexican border. Pay online fees for new I-94 and attend the POE interview to get new I-94.
- a. Laredo-Texas ( gateway bridge 1): Enter the bridge walk mid-way and walk on yellow line back to US line ( per different forums online, this is legal so no worries). Up on meeting CBP officer, you will be called for an POE interview and officer will issue you a new I-94.
- b. San Ysidro East and West – San Diego CBP POE office: Go to the CBP office and request for I-94 renewal, if you are lucky you will get new I-94 based on your online payment receipt without crossing the border. However if the CBP officer asks you to cross the border then just cross the pedestrian border line, return and join to the US line. Crossing the border is easy, just a pedestrian crossing so no need to go to the Mexican side to meet Mexico officers. Just a walk, cross the line and U turn kind of deal.
- c. Otay Mesa – San Diego CBP POE office: Same rule applies here as 3.b above.
- I have called all above a, b & c locations and the CBP officers confirmed me that I-94 renewal is a valid case and they will issue new I-94. But the condition is you have to cross the border and officer will guide you back to join the US line. As long as you have proper I-797, living in the US legally and a VISA stamp on old passport you are good to Re-enter to the United States in all the three pedestrian crossing locations.
How I Extended my I-94, Process followed with COVID-19 Travel Issue.
Due to Covid-19 pandemic and all international restrictions in place, my options were limited. Option no 1 and 2 were not possible for me. I was left with CBP option. Below is the process I followed.
- Contacted CBP Detroit: I have called CBP Detroit Windsor tunnel office and explained my situation. Officer assured me that I can re-enter to the United States if Canada is ready to let me in. But there is a Non-Essential travel ban in place between US and Canada. However, officer suggested me to contact Canada border agency and explain my situation to them and request for entering Canada and Re-enter to the US.
- Contacted Canada Border Agency : I have contacted Windsor tunnel Canada border agency and explained my situation and told officer that I will be just crossing the border and will take U-turn go back to the US. Officer assured me as long as I don’t enter Canada, I am good to take U turn and re-enter.
Now the challenging and risky part 🙂
- Drove to Detroit Windsor Tunnel : I just drove to the Detroit Windsor tunnel and entered the tunnel. Upon arriving at Canada border, officers asked me the reason. I stated the actual reason (to get the new I-94 back in US POE) and told officer that I don’t’ want to enter the Canada and my purpose of visit is just to cross the US border and Re-enter to get new I-94. I will just take U turn and go back. Officer called other officers and they pulled me to park the car in parking lot. I explained the situation and they did few paperwork and handed over my passport and a letter stating that I have travelled as Non-Essential travel category and they are sending me back to the US. Officer told me to hand over the letter to the US CBP officer and they guided me to drive back to the US
- Arriving at US Port of Entry, Interview with CBP officer : Upon arriving at the US POE. Officer asked me the reason, I stated same like to renew my I-94 I have crossed the border. Officer did POE interview, I had filled online new I-94 request form ( you can fill this form only using old passport) and paid the fees online. Handed over the I-94 request form to the officer and they guided me to the CBP office in border crossing ( US side). I went inside and attended regular POE interview, explained my reason for the travel to Canada border and told officer that I did not step out of my car and just took a U-turn. Officer took the finger prints and issued me a new I-94 paper record attaching to my new passport.
Anything to note or Potential Issues with the above process ?
In general, no issues. Entry and Exit is as normal. However, you cannot enter into Canada during Covid-19 pandemic because of the non-essential travel ban. But going to the Canada border and taking U turn is feasible because they won’t let you inside and they will have to send you back to the US. But, you should have valid Canada Visitor VISA.
Key learnings, Tips for I-94 Extension with Passport Extension in US
- Be honest, no matter what do not try to give wrong answers or some cover up story. All we need is legal I-94 and do it at the right way. All option 1, 2 & 3 are valid cases.
- Fill and pay the fees for new I-94 record online. Go the I-94 website and fill & pay online take the print out. It is valid for 7 days.
- During this Covid-19 Pandemic, options are little tricky. Please check the travel restrictions in State ( example: You cannot travel to Texas from other state, there is a mandatory 14 days quarantine order in place)
- Northern side folks can try Canada border during this Covid-19 pandemic situation as long as you have valid Canada Visitor VISA. If you don’t have Canada Visa , please confirm with Canada border agency before you enter. Otherwise you may have to face the consequences, in my opinion they will still deport you or send you back to the US even if you don’t have VISA.
- Texas and San Diego is the best options for other state folks.
That’s it folks. Be prepared and Good Luck !
If any questions, leave comments, I will be happy to answer.
Experience from VJ – Word of caution for above process. Thanks to VJ.
Not able to Renew I-94 Using above process used by Vinod
Hello Everyone: A quick update on my case. 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. They were nice, polite, and agreed to send me back after some verification (took about 30 min). On returning I was stopped in 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. The devil lies in the details. I Returned from Canada checkpoint, however since I wasn’t admitted in Canada, It is counted as , I never left US. Weird. But this is what happened. Looks like it is at the sole discretion of the CBP officer at the checkpoint.
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. However it turns out, the decision is made by the officer on duty and there isn’t a standard protocol.
So, when you plan the above, have backup plans as well, if the above does not work out…
Below experience is by Manish at Otay Mesa CBP center. Thanks to him
I-94 Extension after Passport Renewal at Otay Mesa
Thank you Vinod for writing this post. Based on information you provided and help I was able to get my i94 extended at Otay Mesa, San Diego Mexico border. Vinod has already covered all the steps in details.
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.
Please feel free to contact me for any query.