Normally, visitors admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)/Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) don’t have the possibility to change or extend their immigration status beyond their initial 90-days.
However, pursuant to federal regulations, if a serious emergency prevents a VWP/ESTA visitor from departing the United States within the period of authorized stay, a period of Satisfactory Departure may be granted not to exceed 30 days, provided that the request is made during the period of admission and the individual is still in status at the time of the request. According to the regulations, Satisfactory Departure may be obtained from USCIS or Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Since the USCIS Field offices are currently closed, beginning March 16, 2020, CBP began allowing certain travelers the opportunity to make a Satisfactory Departure request directly to the Deferred Inspection Office of any International Airport if, due to COVID-19–related travel issues, a traveler is unable to depart the United States before his or her period of admission expires.
Individuals need to provide the affected individual’s name, date of birth and passport information at the time of the request. Individuals may be asked to provide the original departure flight itinerary along with the new flight itinerary and generally they are permitted to request Satisfactory Departure if the period of stay will expire in 14 days or less from the day he or she contacts Deferred Inspections Office. If the period of VWP/ESTA admission has expired, the decision to grant satisfactory will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
CBP began to adjudicate requests made by travelers who were admitted to the United States through John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), though the list continues to grow. According to the last information received from the Deferred Inspections Office of Miami International Airport (MIA), each request is analyzed and adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.
By Piero Salussolia PA
This article contains general information and does not replace in any way the help of a lawyer. We suggest you seek professional help for further information and assistance. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience.