Must Foreigners in the U.S. Always Carry Their Passport?

Posted by Jeremy Morley | Apr 06, 2017 | 0 Comments

Does a foreign visitor or resident need to always carry a passport while in the United States?

The question arises when, for example, a foreign parent wants to visit a child who lives with the other parent in the United States and the custodial parent asks that the visiting parent deposits all passports with an attorney to prevent possible child abduction.

The issue arises because Section of the Immigration and Nationality Act requires that, “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 ….”

Thus, a visitor needs to carry a record of lawful admission, not a passport. 

The federal regulations, 8 CFR. § 264.1(b), identify the prescribed alien registration documents as including the Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record, the I-551 “green card” and the I-766 “EAD card.”

The “I-94” is the usual record of admission for a visitor. The problem is that the I-94 is now usually stamped in the passport upon entry, so that it cannot be separately held.

The solution is to print the I-94 from The Customs and Border Protection website.  It then serves as the official record of admission. 

Homeland Security helpfully expressly and clearly states - - that

"A traveler lawfully admitted (or paroled) into the U.S. may print their lawful record of admission (I-94 form) from this CBP website. If someone requests your admission information, this is the form you would provide."

Accordingly, it can be entirely appropriate for a custodial parent in such circumstances to require that all of the visitors passports be deposited with a court or an attorney prior to child visitation in order to help prevent international child abduction, and to explain that the visitor can comply with the law by printing and maintaining in his or her possession the I-94 printout.

About the Author

Jeremy Morley

Jeremy D. Morley was admitted to the New York Bar in 1975 and concentrates on international family law. His firm works with clients around the world from its New York office, with a global network of local counsel. Mr. Morley is the author of "International Family Law Practice,...


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