Extension Permitted for Visa Waiver Travelers Due to COVID-19

April 20, 2020 | United States of America

Because of travel issues caused by COVID-19, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is allowing Visa Waiver Program travelers to stay in the U.S. if they cannot depart the country on time.

Normally, the Visa Waiver Program lets foreign nationals travel to the U.S. visa-free for 90 days. Extensions are not usually permitted. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, CBP has made emergency exceptions.

The temporary provisions apply to individuals who cannot return home due to flight cancellations, travel restrictions, or illness. Travelers who have been granted satisfactory departure have 30 additional days to leave the U.S. after their lawful period of admission ends. Travelers who have not yet received an extension can request satisfactory departure by contacting either a CBP Deferred Inspection Site or a Port of Entry. Satisfactory departure may also be issued through the USCIS Contact Center. Regardless of the contact they choose, travelers should provide their passport number when submitting a request.

Additionally, travelers must apply for satisfactory departure before their current admission period expires. Anyone who remains in the U.S. beyond his or her lawful period of admission loses the ability to travel through the Visa Waiver Program. Additional penalties may apply.