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I am in the U.S. on an E-2 visa and I need to renew my I-94. Can I do it from within the U.S.? Can I leave and re-enter during Covid?

By February 19, 2021May 14th, 2021E-2 Visa, Immigration, Investor Visas

Recently, we have been asked a lot about renewing the I-94 if an E-2 investor/E-2 employee is in the U.S., and more specifically, whether it is possible to renew the I-94 without leaving the U.S.

What is I-94?

I-94 is a form that is issued to aliens that come to the U.S. (except green card holders) and that governs their lawful stay in the U.S. Sometimes the period of time you can stay in the U.S. differs from your actual visa stamp and therefore it may be confusing that your visa is valid for a longer period of time than your I-94.

Every time you enter the U.S. on an E-2 visa, you will be granted 2 years in E-2 status (even if your E-2 visa has a different expiration date). For example, you may be granted an E-2 visa for 5 years, but you will only be granted 2 years in E-2 status every time you enter the U.S. That’s why it is extremely important that you check your I-94 form after each and every entry to the U.S.

Can I renew my I-94 from within the U.S.?

Unfortunately, no. You cannot get your I-94 renewed from within the U.S., unless there is a mistake in your I-94 (the mistake would be for example if you enter the U.S. on an E-2 visa and the I-94 is not reflecting your most recent entry date). In that case, you can reach out to a CBP office that admitted you to the U.S., and they usually update the I-94 for you. Please see our blog post on How to get the I-94 corrected when you click here.

However, CBP will not be able to renew your I-94, meaning they will not grant you another 2 years in E-2 status. In order to get new I-94 (and 2 additional years in E-2 status), you will have to leave the U.S. and re-enter.

Covid considerations

Please note that in the past, it was possible to leave the U.S. for a short period of time, re-enter on an E-2 visa, and get 2 new years in E-2 status (e.g. you could have gone to Canada or Mexico, spend couple of days/weeks there, and then come back to the U.S. and get a new I-94). Please note that even in the past, some CBP would give you a hard time if you spend less than 30 days outside the U.S.

Currently, due to Covid-19 global pandemic, leaving the U.S. and re-entering has become more complicated than it used to be. Currently, if you want to enter the U.S., your travel would have to be considered an “essential travel.” It is unclear whether E-2 investor’s/E-2 employee’s return to the U.S. would be considered essential travel and what would be the position of different CBP posts on this.

You could alternatively fly to a third country (e.g. Mexico, Bahamas, Barbados), spend some time there, and then re-enter the U.S. You should review what are the requirements for third country nationals (if you are not a citizen of the country where you are planning to go), and whether you would be allowed entry. Some countries (e.g. Canada) may be very strict in allowing third country nationals to enter, and other countries may require that you have a negative Covid test or that you agree to quarantine upon your entry. If you decide to travel to a third country, it is extremely important to check the specific country’s requirements before you travel so you are not denied an entry.

Additionally, starting January 26, 2021, everyone entering the U.S. must have a negative Covid test that was not taken more than 3 days before you travel.

Extension of Status petition with USCIS

Another option if you want to stay in the U.S. on an E-2 status but you don’t want to leave the U.S., you could apply for an extension of status with USCIS. Please see the E-2 extension of status process when you click here.

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