Disclaimer: The information published in this article are based on my personal experience. I am not a legal advisor or an Immigration Lawyer.
My passport was due to expire in November 2020. I applied for the passport renewal in June 2020 after the CKGS started accepting applications and was able to get my renewed passport by July 2020.
My experience with CKGS Indian passport renewal went well. Now, I knew that an I-94 Extension after Passport Renewal is required to stay legally in the USA.
Due to my old passport expiry in November 2020, when I came back from India in 2018 December, my I-94 was given until the passport expiry date. However, I had a valid I797A stamped in my old passport until March 2021.
If you are an alien in the United States, you must know that your legal stay is solely governed by the I-94 validity date and not your stamped visa or valid I797. “(Unless an I-94 is provided along with I797A after an extension)”
Different Ways to Get I–94 Extension
There are mainly three ways to get an I94 extension.
1. Visit CBP Office at US Land Border
One of the easiest ways to get an I-94 extension is to visit the CBP office located at the US land border in Mexico or Canada. You may be asked to cross the border. There is a 50-50 chance depending on the CBP officer.
Some people also have reported simply making a U-turn in Canada-US border.
These CBP offices are located on the US side of the border. You can expect to be interviewed, just like you were when you landed in the United States with a valid H1B visa from India or any other US visa.
- US – Mexico Border: CBP Otay Mesa, San Diego/ Laredo, Texas / Arizona crossing etc.
- Canada-US Border: Detroit Windsor Tunnel
2. Filing Extension of Stay Application with USCIS
This is a costly and time-taking affair. For this, you need to apply extension of stay Form i539. You need to pay $370 for the i-539 application, and no extra fees for i94 renewal.
And the extension of status applications can take 4-12 months.
Once your extension is approved, USCIS sends a new extended I94 attached to the approved I797. This is the only way to extend
3. Leave US and Return
If you leave the US and return, the new I-94 is issued immediately on your arrival in the US and can be downloaded from the CBP i94 website.
Documents Required to Extend I-94
Here are all the documents required to extend I-94 after passport renewal.
- Old/Existing I94: You can get it here on the CBP website anytime. Reconfirm the I94 date of expiry before the trip.
- I797 Notice of approval form
- Passports: All your old expired passports and the most recent new passport.
- US address proof: – Driving license, Utility bill, Lease agreement, state ID etc.
My Situation before I-94 Extension
Here is how everything went, and why I decided to leave the USA to extend I94.
Response from the CBP Office in US
I contacted my local CBP office location both by phone and in person and they weren’t giving a convincing answer. Since I was close to my max out period, couldn’t apply for an extension to get my I-94 updated with the next petition.
So the only option I was left with was to travel across the border and come back to get it updated at Port of Entry (POE).
Trip to Mexico
Decided to travel to Cancun, Mexico (As Mexico provides tourist permit on arrival), and booked a two-way same-day return ticket to Cancun with 3 hours between both onward and return flights.
Boarding the Flight
1. Online check-in wasn’t allowed so I checked in at the airport airline desk. Only an onward Boarding pass was provided.
2. No check-in bags so direct security check where I had to undo my Face Mask when the airport guards check your passport and Boarding pass.
3. Boarded a flight to Cancun and there was a 2-hour delay due to technical issues leaving only 1 hour for catching my return flight. (Face masks are mandatory from the moment you step foot in the airport).
Landing in Mexico
Mexico Immigration Form (FMM) Details:
The FMM or Forma Migratoria Multiple card for Mexico is basically a tourist fee that everyone who enters the country must pay.
The FMM form for Mexico Immigration was provided by the flight attendants en-route.
There is a chance that Airlines crew may run out of FMM forms, so you can take one and fill out near immigration desk before you join the line for Port of Entry in Mexico. I had to UNDO my Face Mask once for Mexico Immigration.
You need to fill in personal details such as
- First name, Last name, Gender
- Name of the airlines to fly to Mexico, Flight number
- Details of Stay (Address of stay)
- Passport details (of current passport).
As I didn’t book any hotel for stay, I had to mention in Address of Stay as ‘N/A (Same day return)’ and since I mentioned same-day return the Immigration officer stamped the Exit Visa part of FMM form with the current date.
It is ‘illegal’ to stay beyond the Exit date of FMM. So if you anticipate flight cancellation/delays and you don’t have hotel booked, please inform the officer with your correct tenure of stay so the exit visa can be stamped accordingly. They might ask for return ticket in some instances.
I landed in Mexico (Cancun Intl’ Airport) and went straight to Mexico Immigration. The officer asked how many days of stay – I mentioned ‘1 day’ & ‘Same day return’.
Mexico Immigration officer tore the bottom part of the FMM form with a stamp on it and gave me back with my passport. [Important: This part of the FMM form is the exit visa that you need to hand over to airlines while boarding when exiting Mexico.]
Don’t lose it.
After immigration, you can either exit airport to a hotel(if you have booked one) or be in the transit area. Since I had next flight to catch within one hour, I stayed in transit area only.
Boarding Flight for the USA
I had to go through the security check where they check your Passport and Boarding pass. I didn’t have my boarding pass at the moment, so I showed them my mobile app booking and they allowed me in after scanning my passport.
After security check, you enter the area of flight boarding gates. I directly went to the gate to take my next flight and asked the gate attendants to provide me a boarding pass. They inquired how I entered in and I showed them that ‘I just landed in Cancun an hour before’ and showed my mobile app with journey info.
A gate attendant took my passport and checked the Exit stamp from Mexico and generated my boarding pass.
Ensure that you surrender the form with Exit Stamp (provided by Immigration officer) before you board your flight back to the US.
US customs form will be provided by flight attendants[1 form per family] en-route and you will need to fill it as it has to be given to the Immigration officer.
US Port of Entry Questions:
Landed in the US and went to US Immigration. Gave my passports (Old and new) to the officer
Reason for travel?
I informed about the I-94 situation and said I made a 1 day trip to Mexico for getting my I-94 updated.
Are you still with the same employer as stamped in VISA?
Do you have a letter from the Employer?
I shared the letter that I am currently with them and showed my recent I797A additionally on my own.
Do you have any checked-in bags?
I was asked to undo the Face Mask and give fingerprints and after stamping was given back my Passports along with Customs form(stamped green as proof I didn’t bring anything illegal) which I had to surrender to the Customs officer later.
Automatic I94 Update
Checked my passport for ‘Allowed Until Stamp’.- To my surprise, the I-94 online in the CBP portal got updated with Renewed passport details and Date of Stay in just a couple of hours.
US-Mexico Travel Updates w.r.t COVID
– Food will not be provided during the flight. So you’re encouraged to take your own. However, you cannot land in Mexico with any food (there might be a penalty ). So you will have to either eat it or trash it before you land in Mexico.
– Face Masks are mandatory even while eating in flight. You can undo it – take a bite – put it back.
– For Return flight, i bought something to eat from Cancun Airport and boarded the return flight.
– A mini water-bottle, a mini biscuit packet and a sanitizing wiping tissue was provided while boarding the flight.
– Carry your own travel-accepted quantity of hand sanitizer for personal use.
In Summary: How to Renew I-94 after Passport Expiry by Going to Mexico?
So you have checked the expiration date on I94 and you have obtained your new passport. Here are four simple steps to follow to extend I94 after passport renewal.
- Buy a round-trip flight to Mexico.
- Carry all the documents needed for I-94 extension.
- Answer the questions at the port of entry in the USA.
- Get the I 94 renewed.
Can You Extend I94 at International Airport?
In short, no you can not. There are CBP offices inside international airports such as Dallas, Boston, and San Francisco. But they can fix any errors with your existing I-94. They will not entertain any requests with extending i94 based on the new passport.
So if there have been any I94 mistakes that happened during I94 issuance, feel free to approach them. But CBP offices in international airports will not extend your I-94 after passport renewal.
How Long Can We Stay in US after I94 Expiry?
If you are on a non-immigrant work visa like H1B, your legal stay can be up to 240 days.
If you want, you can even file the I-94 extension on the last day of the I-94 expiry. the thing to know is that the application should be received by USCIS on or before the I94 expiry date
That being said, many people have stayed in the USA long after the expiry of I94, while getting subsequent visa extensions without ever leaving the USA.