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The DHS website allows one to apply for an I-94 online before arriving to the actual border. The description on the page says that:

To complete your I-94 application you will also need to:

  • Appear at a port of entry within seven days of completing this online application. If you do not appear within seven days or are not issued an I-94 for any reason, there are no refunds.

  • At the port of entry, submit your biometrics (if required) and complete an interview.

  • Please bring the documents you entered into the application with you to the port of entry.

  • Be prepared to show evidence of your residence, employment and/or travel plans, if asked by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer.

... which sounds like exactly what you have to go through if arriving without a pre-application. Does it therefore make any sense to apply for the I-94 online in advance?

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I've arrived into the US today by bus with a pre-filled I-94 so I can answer this.

You don't really save much time as the officer still asks you about your visit and you still have to submit your fingerprints. You maybe save a minute as the officer doesn't have to type in the address where you're staying in the US and another minute on not having to pay the $6 entry fee since you've already prepaid.

However I can still recommend applying in advance as it's one less thing to worry about at the border. Likewise you can pre-print the customs declaration to avoid filling it out with a pen.

  • +1. If there is a queue at the cashier window you can save considerable time as you can bypass this and go direct to the processing. Typically though the pre-paid I-94 saves little time. I find the best reason to pre-pay (and why I always do it) is to avoid the need to have exact change to pay the $6 USD! – Midavalo Feb 4 '18 at 2:52

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