Foreign Nationals in the United States – What Documents Should I Carry with Me?

July 24, 2018

Clients often ask what specific documents they should carry with them while they are in the United States, whether they find themselves in their hometown or have need for domestic U.S. travel. In addition, highways and roads located on the U.S./Canada and U.S./Mexico border have traditionally been monitored up to 100 miles inland.

Section 262 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) dictates that almost all foreign nationals in the United States must be "registered" with the proper government agency.

Registration occurs when someone is admitted to the United States at the border, or when a change of status occurs. Registration has been set in law and has existed for decades. After registration takes place, the U.S. government is to furnish a "registration certificate" to the foreign national, per section 264(d) of the INA.

Specifically, section 264(e) states:

Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him. For lawful permanent residents of the United States, this would necessitate having the actual alien registration ("green") card. These would also include:

  • I-94, Arrival-Departure Record - Aliens admitted as non-immigrants; aliens paroled into the United States under section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act; aliens whose claimed entry prior to July 1, 1924, cannot be verified, but who have satisfactorily established residence in the United States since prior to July 1, 1924; and aliens granted permission to depart without the institution of deportation proceedings
  • I-95-Crewmen's Landing Permit -Crewmen arriving by vessel or aircraft.
    I-184- Alien Crewman Landing Permit and Identification Card - Crewmen arriving by vessel.
  • I-185 – Nonresident Alien Canadian Border Crossing Card - Citizens of Canada or British subjects residing in Canada.
  • I-186-Nonresident Alien Mexican Border Crossing Card - Citizens of Mexico residing in Mexico.
  • I-221, Order to Show Cause and Notice of Hearing -Aliens against whom deportation proceedings are being instituted.
  • I-221S, Order to Show Cause, Notice of Hearing, and Warrant for Arrest of Alien Aliens against whom deportation proceedings are being instituted.
  • I-766-Employment Authorization Document.
  • Form I-862, Notice to Appear - Aliens against whom removal proceedings are being instituted.
  • Form I-863, Notice of Referral to Immigration Judge - Aliens against whom removal proceedings are being instituted.

Effective May 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stopped issuing paper I94 cards at ports of entry. Under current procedures, most foreign nationals who are admitted into the United States have their passports stamped with a notation of status type and the status expiration date. To obtain a Form I-94 card (considered a valid “registration certificate”) a foreign national must take steps to download the I94 at the Customs and Border Protection website and to print their electronic I94 form onto paper:

We would also recommend that foreign nationals carry with them a photo ID, and if applicable, their visa document (i.e. Form I-797 petition approval notice, Form I-20 student form or Form DS-2019 for J-1 Visa holders).

Many individuals are unaware of this registration requirement and have never encountered a situation within the United States where they are being requested to present immigration registration documents to officials while in the United States. However, it is most likely that these documents would be requested in southern or northern border states.

If you or your employees might have further need for information regarding documentation requirements necessary for travel in the United States, do not hesitate to contact our Immigration practice.

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