U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reviewing requests from travelers in the U.S. who entered as visa-waived nationals under an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and are at risk of overstaying because of COVID-19 travel restrictions and lack of commercial flights.

Key points:

  • Certain CBP ports of entry will process “satisfactory departure” requests from travelers who entered under an ESTA who are unable to depart before their authorized period of stay expires. Satisfactory departure allows travelers in emergency situations to extend their expiration date up to 30 days so they do not overstay without authorization.
  • Procedures differ depending on location, but in general CBP will only review priority requests close to the traveler’s I-94 expiration date. At JFK International Airport and Boston Logan International Airport, the request must be made within 14 days of the expiration date; at Raleigh Durham International Airport, the request must be made within two to three days before the expiration date.
  • The list of CBP ports of entry processing satisfactory departure requests is changing, so travelers should check with individual ports of entry for availability, eligibility requirements, and procedures.

BAL Analysis: ESTA travelers are reminded that even though they entered the U.S. on the visa waiver program, remaining in the U.S. beyond the departure date on their I-94 constitutes an immigration violation that carries consequences, including ineligibility for future ESTA travel. Travelers who are unable to depart on time because of COVID-19 travel restrictions or other emergency circumstances should avail themselves of the satisfactory departure process at an appropriate CBP location.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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