The Visa Waiver Program or ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is a program that allows citizens from certain countries (38 countries) to apply for admission to the U.S. using a simplified process.  The applicant can use a web interface to answer certain questions and can be granted ESTA online. This contrasts to other countries where the applicants must go to a U.S. Consulate and apply for a B1/B2 visa. Visa waivers can be granted for a maximum of 90 days. For more information on this, please click here.

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak and the travel bans currently imposed on most of EuropeIran, and China. Countries such as Canada have also closed its borders to non-citizens and permanent residents. Visitors who are in the United States at this time may find that they cannot find a way to leave the country before their current period of admission will expire. Usually, ESTA is strictly restricted to only 90 days of admission, however, in an emergency, the US government can grant a Satisfactory Departure. Please note, Satisfactory Departure is available depending on which port of entry the visitor entered the US from. Some of the main port of entries that this is available at are Boston, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and more.

Satisfactory departure is an extension of admission period and is granted only in limited cases and for serious emergencies, such as hospitalization, or conditions that cause flights to be delayed or cancelled for more than 24 hours (weather, worker strikes, etc.). Otherwise, people visiting under the Visa Waiver Program may not stay beyond their initial 90-days.

These reasons are typically:

  • Hospitalization emergencies, such as getting into a serious car accident on the way to the airport to leave the USA
  • Inclement weather that cancelled the outbound flight
  • Airport strikes
  • Catastrophe events impacting your departure area.

CBP have announced that starting on April 16, ports of entries are now allowing a second satisfactory departure application for an extension of up to 30 days, giving the applicant 60 days extension in total. Please note that an extension of satisfactory departure is not guaranteed. Please speak to an immigration counsel to see if you have the option to use satisfactory departure. 

You can find key immigration information related to the Corona Virus below.

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