The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website that nonimmigrant travelers access for their arrival record now allows such travelers to access arrival and departure records going back five years from the request date. The availability of the five-year record may obviate the need for a nonimmigrant to submit a FOIA request for his or her travel records, but the five-year record also reveals some potentially significant problems. Here’s one problem: a foreign national first schedules, then cancels or reschedules international travel but his name remains on the airline’s original flight manifest. This can result in CBP removing the current I-94 record from the website portal and also recording on the portal that the foreign national departed the United States.

In a recent exchange with CBP officials, CBP provided the following explanation why this could occur. CBP registers foreign nationals’ departure through information reported in the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS). If APIS shows that a foreign national is named on a flight manifest, the I-94 is removed from public access on the Web portal; the foreign national also may be identified on the public access website as departing the U.S. It appears that APIS is not automatically updated under these circumstances — the airline is responsible for the departure information in APIS and the airline is supposed to report the update. What happens when the airline does not update its information? While USCIS can determine from the APIS records that the person was in fact a “no board” and did not depart, the non-availability of the I-94 record on the CBP website can be an issue for the individual needing that information, such as in the context of changing or adjusting status.

Nonimmigrant travelers are well advised to regularly check their automated I-94 record and, now, their five-year history whenever they travel in and out of the United States.