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CBP Updates Satisfactory Departure Process for Travelers Unable to Depart the Country due to COVID-19

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) now allows travelers admitted under the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”)/ Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”) to make Satisfactory Departure requests at some airports and other ports of entry. At this time, extensions are limited to 30 days, although this period may be modified as the pandemic continues.

Satisfactory Departure is a special remedy permitted under 8 CFR §217.3.  When an emergency prevents a traveler from departing within his or her authorized timeframe, he or she may request Satisfactory Departure.  If immigration authorities grant the request, and the traveler departs during the satisfactory departure period, the overstay will not accrue unlawful presence.

Traditionally, those requesting Satisfactory Departure were required to make an InfoPass appointment at a USCIS Office with jurisdiction over the place of temporary stay.  Due to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, USCIS field offices are now closed until at least April 1st and CBP is adjudicating requests at certain ports of entry.

A traveler must provide his or her: (1) full name; (2) date of birth; (3) clear copy of valid passport ID page; (4) current I-94; and (5) supporting documentation demonstrating a compelling reason why he or she cannot depart the country on time.

CBP may consider the following reasons compelling: COVID-19 diagnosis; COVID-19 symptoms; documentation demonstrating cancellation of a return flight; or a report showing the traveler’s inability to return home.  Travelers should also be prepared to provide their original travel plans, and updated travel plans if available.

Travelers should contact their local airport or port of entry to confirm whether requests will be accepted.  Some airports, such as JFK in New York, and Newark’s EWR, are only accepting requests for travelers whose authorization expires within 14 days.  Walk-in appointments may be permitted, but the preferred method of contact is via email or telephone.  CBP offices at the following airports are currently accepting requests via email:

Continue to check back with us for updates. Our firm is available to assist with your immigration needs. For more information, please contact Mechelle Zarou at mzarou@shumaker.com or Maria Ramos at mramos@shumaker.com.

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