Our Chicago immigration attorneys at Zneimer & Zneimer PC assist people who need immigration help. With the Coronavirus closing borders and keeping airplanes grounded, many foreign travelers are scared that they may not be able to leave the United States before their periods of admission expire. The inability to leave the United States, however, does not suspend the application of the U.S. immigration laws. Stranded passengers should apply for extension of status, if their current status can be extended, or change to a different status if it cannot, so that they do not accrue unlawful presence. Yet travelers participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which enables citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa,1 are ineligible to either change their status or to extend their stay. The only option for people admitted on ESTA is to make a Satisfactory Departure request that, if granted, provides additional time for them to leave the country without overstaying their authorized stay.
According to the Code of Federal Regulations, “If an emergency prevents an alien admitted under [the VWP] from departing from the United States within his or her period of authorized stay, the district director having jurisdiction over the place of the alien’s temporary stay may, in his or her discretion, grant a period of satisfactory departure not to exceed 30 days. If departure is accomplished during that period, the alien is to be regarded as having satisfactorily accomplished the visit without overstaying the allotted time.”2 This is called a Satisfactory Departure. Continue reading →