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CBP: Get I-94s early for Easter travel

Are you hosting family and friends from outside the U.S. for Holy Week and Easter - or visiting yourself? U.S. Customs and Border Protection is urging travelers planning extended stays to file their paperwork early to avoid delays from the holiday rush and they're sending out information for travelers about everything from crossing points to upcoming online options.

“With the spring holiday season just around the corner, we expect March to be a very busy month at all the ports of entry,” said Director of Field Operations William Brooks in a press release. “With that in mind, we are suggesting those travelers who need permits to apply early and avoid possible delays.”

Those who hold Mexican border crossing cards, nicknamed "laser visas," can prepare for extended stays in the U.S. by filling I-94 forms at any time. For people traveling with families, each person will need their own permit. They will also need to show up for the application process which includes proof of residency and financial means.

There are two versions of the $6 permit which allow visitors to stay in the U.S. for up to six months.

One allows people crossing through San Luis and Lukeville to travel "farther than 25 miles from the border."

The other allows people crossing at Sasabe, Nogales, Naco or Douglas to travel "farther than 75 miles."

Officials are also encouraging travelers to plan ahead for transportation including factoring in wait times for vehicle crossings or leaving their cars parked near the Ports of Entry and using the pedestrian crossings.

Customs and Border Protection officers will be available for "special needs cases" due to health or handicap concerns, according to official statements.

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Travelers are also encouraged to to visit the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol site for more official information on travel documents and ports of entry as well as updated lists of items that can't be taken across the border.

For many travelers, this may be the last time they go through the paper process.

Online application options for I-94 forms will be available starting in late April. The policy change will be effective April 26 and will start being phased in to land and sea ports beginning on April 30 and is expected to streamline admissions and travel arrangements, officials said.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Rebekah Zemansky/TucsonSentinel.com

A pedestrian crossing east of The Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales.