Tens of millions of foreign travelers visiting the United States can now get updates from a new government websiteon on how much longer they can stay, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced.
The new program applies to visitors from the 38 countries that have joined the Visa Waiver Program, which entitles citizens of those nations to travel to the United States (and vice-versa) without a visa.
Nearly 22 million visitors entered the United States under VWP last year and about 150,000 didn’t depart on time, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics. Some probably planned to stay illegally all along.
But because many of the travelers come not for a fixed period but until they complete some activity — medical treatment or a college degree, for example — they sometimes get confused about the legally mandated date for their departure.
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And for those who simply departed a few days late because of confusion, the consequences can be harsh. “Possible actions include apprehension and deportation, revocation of visas, denial of U.S. visa renewal applications and denial for re-entering the United States,” a Customs and Border Protection spokesman said.
To check on their departure date, visitors can now visit the I-94 website, named after the document that provides them proof they’re in the United States legally. After entering their name, birthdate and passport number, they’ll get a confirmation of the date by which they must leave. And if they’re already overstayed, the site will provide instructions about what to do next.
Customs and Border Protection officials said they eventually plan to extend the website’s service outside the VWP to travelers using visas, millions of whom — whether deliberately or by genuine error — overstay their departure dates.