VWP Travelers Who Have Been Granted Satisfactory Departure May Apply for 30-Day Extension
Under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), citizens and nationals of certain countries are eligible to travel to the United States for tourism or business stays of up to 90 days, without going through the visa process.
Due to continually shifting challenges and health risks related to international travel this past year, as well as other emergent circumstances, some VWP travelers currently in the United States may wish to extend their stay. While applications for an extension or change of status are not permitted under the VWP, travelers may request discretionary grants of satisfactory departure up to 30 days, by sufficiently showing that an emergency prevents their departure. Most recently, JLG was able to procure a 30-day extension under this policy for a foreign national who could not travel due to Covid-19, without resulting in any violation of the terms of the VWP.
Generally, satisfactory departure extensions are only granted through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, following the difficulties in traveling during Covid-19, CBP announced in April 2020 that it would also be granting satisfactory departure extensions related to the pandemic of up to 30 days, while extensions related to other emergencies are still requested through USCIS.
Requests to CBP are made at the local Port of Entry (generally by phone) and are at the discretion of the CBP Officer. Because of this, different ports of entry and inspection sites have varying requirements. As of December 2020, many CBP ports have stopped granting satisfactory departure altogether due to decreased travel restrictions and have referred such cases back to USCIS. In either case, travelers seeking these extensions should apply before their current period of admission ends, though they may have to wait until 14, 10, or 5 days prior this date.
CBP officers or USCIS agents considering a satisfactory departure request will require that the traveler show departure is not possible due to emergent circumstances. For example, if the emergency is related to Covid-19, they will often require that no departing flights to the traveler’s home country be available, and will do independent research to confirm this. If the request is done by phone, this may include e-mailing supporting documentation.
In applying for this extension for our client, we prepared a packet of credible supporting evidence based on local port requirements and spoke with multiple CBP officers from different deferred inspection sites. We were ultimately successful in obtaining a grant of satisfactory departure for 30 days through USCIS, even though flights to the client’s home country were available upon an online search. The entire process was done remotely and the client was not regarded to have overstayed.
While this kind of relief is considered rare, especially as flights have become more available, it remains a valuable option during emergency circumstances. JLG can help you be as prepared as possible to make a satisfactory departure request. Please feel free to reach out to us for more information.