Protect the Documents That Prove Your Legal Status in the United States

Passports, visas, and Arrival Departure Records (Form 1-94 and I 94W) are official travel documents issued to non-immigrants while entering the United States. Form I-94, for those of you who may not be readily familiar with the document, is a short form that has information such as the date of entry, the visa classification issued to the traveler, the alien registration number, and the date the status will expire. It is important that you protect these documents and keep them in your possession as they show your country of citizenship and serve as proof that you entered the U.S legally.

If your passport, visas, or Form I-94 are lost stolen, or mutilated you must get them replaced immediately! The Process to replace your document(s) requires that you provide the U.S Embassy, Consulate or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) with specific and detailed information. If you are a foreign citizen temporarily in the U.S., and you lose your U.S visa, you can remain in the U.S for the duration of your authorized stay as stated on your Form I-94. You will, however, need a valid passport to depart the U.S. and to enter another country. Your lost or stolen visa, however, cannot be replaced in the U.S. You must apply in person at a U.S Embassy or Consulate abroad to replace your stolen/lost visa. When applying to replace your visa, you will need to provide a written account documenting the loss of your passport and visa.

Regarding your lost or stolen Form I-94, USCIS requires that you submit a copy of the original I-94 along with your application to replace your arrival record. If you do not have a copy of your original I-94, you must submit a copy of the biographic/photo page from your passport and a copy of the passport page that was stamped by immigration inspectors when you entered the country. If you cannot submit any evidence of your legal admission to the United States, submit a full explanation and proof of your identity.

USCIC might deny your application if you do not provide the requested information or might send you repeated requests for additional information-a process that might last for months. USCIS will issue replacement documents only where it is satisfied that certain criteria have been met. It is recommended that you speak with an immigration attorney regarding the kinds of documents that best support your application to replace your lost or stolen documents.

If you have not already done so, make a copy of your passport biographic page, U.S. visa and From I-94 as soon as possible and keep them in a secure location. If your documents are ever lost or stolen, here are a number of steps you should follow:

  1. File a Police Report- Go to your local police station and report your document(s) lost or stolen. If you have copies of the original documents provide them to the police so that the incident report that is generated in your case will be as detailed as possible. Once the incident report is available, usually within three business days in the metro-Atlanta area, obtain a copy of the report for your records.
  2. Report your Passport Lost/Stolen to your Embassy- Contact the local Embassy or your consular section for the county of your citizenship and notify them that your passport is lost or stolen. Depending on your particular situation, it may be necessary to request documentation regarding you original passport. Request information on the procedure to replace your lost or stolen passport.
  3. Report your Visa Lost/Stolen to the U.S Embassy Abroad- To report your visa lost or stolen, fax the consular section or Consul General at the Embassy abroad that issues your visa. Be sure to include your full name, date of birth place of birth, address in the U.S., and an e-mail address (if available). Specifically state whether your visa was lost or stolen and, if known, provide the type of visa, and the passport number associated with the visa. Here again, if you have a copy of the passport or visa, fax this to the Embassy or consular section.

By following the above steps, you will be in a better position to complete the required forms and to provide the necessary supporting documentation to obtain replacement documents. If you are not currently in possession of the documents that prove your legal status in the U.S. you can still request replacement documents. Consult with an immigration attorney about the facts of your particular case to insure that your forms are completed accurately in the first instance and to minimize delay in the processing of your paperwork. While immigration forms may, in some instances, appear to be simple, there are innumerable details not included in the instructions that slow or assist your application or petition in being approved. An immigration attorney is able to navigate you through the important details. Among other things, an immigration attorney is knowledgeable regarding the various sources of information available and is skilled in methods of data recollecting. Time is always of the essence when addressing immigration matters and experienced legal counsel can assist you in getting the results you and your loved ones need.


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