Individuals who have entered the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP or ESTA) may now be able to temporarily extend their status in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ordinarily, those entering the U.S. under the VWP can stay in the U.S. for a maximum of 90 days and are unable to extend their stay or change status. They are generally unable to file any extension or change of status with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).
There are, however, regulations which permit requesting a temporary extension if an emergency (such as COVID-19) prevents the departure of the VWP entrant. The regulations permit a period of Satisfactory Departure that may not exceed 30 days, provided that the request is made within the initial 90-day period of admission pursuant to VWP. In emergent circumstances, requests for Satisfactory Departure may also be granted to individuals who are already out of status, but this is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the individual must prove their intent was to depart timely.
While USCIS generally adjudicates such requests for Satisfactory Departure, Customs & Border Protection (CBP) may also adjudicate them in extraordinary circumstances. Recent guidance from CBP in Chicago, Illinois instructs individuals in the Chicago-based area to submit requests for Satisfactory Departure to CBP’s office of Deferred Inspection via e-mail.
Individuals who need assistance in requesting a Satisfactory Departure to obtain a 30-day extension of their VWP or ESTA should contact an attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.