ESTA extension granted to foreign nationals due to COVID-19
Following the Coronavirus outbreak and resulting travel ban, many foreign nationals who had been staying in the United States on an ESTA permit have found themselves unable to fly back to their home country. An ESTA allows travellers to lawfully remain in the US for a period of 90 days. When that period is up, there is normally no chance for travellers to change or extend their status: they are lawfully required to leave the United States. However, in the current situation, many foreign nationals who entered the country shortly before the travel restrictions were placed must now deal with the upcoming expiration of the stay permitted by their ESTA.
Is it possible to require an emergency extension of the ESTA?
Under normal circumstances, the only possible extension of an ESTA is a 30-day emergency forgiveness named Satisfactory Departure. However, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has now taken exceptional steps to facilitate the Satisfactory Departure process for foreign nationals, increasing the number of possible requests to two 30-day periods.
How many days can I stay in the US after the expiration of my ESTA, if I apply for Satisfactory Departure?
As of the 17th of April, foreign nationals who have been granted a first Satisfactory Departure permit, may ask for a further 30-day extension, given that they are unable to travel back to their home country due to COVID-19. This means that, by submitting these two applications, foreign nationals can stay in the US for a 60-day period following the expiration of their ESTA.
Where can I place my Satisfactory Departure request?
Due to the temporary closure of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the CBP is handling these requests. Their offices can be found in or around international airports throughout the US. It should be considered that CBP offices may have varying regulations regarding the timing and mechanism to make a request. Travellers should be ready to provide documentation, such as flight cancellation receipts, illness or COVID-19 exposure information, and knowledge of the situation in their home countries.
How to time each request?
Request for a first Satisfactory Departure permit should be made within the 90-day period of the ESTA. Application for a second Satisfactory Departure permit should be made within the 30-day period in which the first one is valid. The timing and respect of these deadlines is extremely important for those who apply.