Usually, visitors who are admitted to the United States in accordance with the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”) cannot change or extend their status of permanence in the United States over the 90 days granted by the program.
However, according to the federal legislation, if a major emergency prevents a VWP/ESTA visitor from leaving the United States within the authorized period of permanence, it is possible for them to request a period of “Satisfactory Departure” for a maximum duration of 30 days, on the condition that the interested person submits their own request before the expiring date of the period of permanence granted in virtue of the ESTA. According to the legislations of reference, the period of Satisfactory Departure can be permitted by the immigration service (USCIS) or by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Considering that USCIS offices are currently closed, starting from March 16th, 2020 CBP started giving few travelers who are not able to leave the United States within the deadline of the period of concession due to problems related to COVID-19 the opportunity to submit the request of Satisfactory Departure directly to the Deferred Inspection Office of the international airports.
In the request, those interested have to provide their name, their date of birth and the details of their passport. The competent office can moreover request the itinerary of the original departure flight together with the new flight itinerary. Furthermore, generally speaking, it is possible to request the period of Satisfactory Departure whenever the period of stay in the United States is expiring within 14 or fewer days since the day when the applicant contacts the Deferred Inspection Office. If the period of permanence allowed by the ESTA has expired, the decision will be taken case by case.
The CBP has started processing the requests of the Satisfactory Departure submitted by the travelers who have been admitted to the United States from the John F. Kennedy (JFK) international airport and from the Newark Liberty (EWR) international airport, although the list is still growing. In accordance with the Deferred Inspection Office of the Miami International Airport (MIA), each request is analyzed and decided case by case.