Under the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”), B1 and B2 visas are generally referred to as “B visas”, and they are the most common types of visa issued for a wide range of uses in the United States. The B1 visa is issued mainly for short-term business trips, while the B2 visa is issued mainly traveling for tourism purposes.
Foreign nationals admitted under the VW authorization who, due to COVID-19 related issues, find themselves unable to depart the United States before the end of their current period of admission may be eligible for an extension of their stay. Normally, VWP visitors are admitted to the United States for 90 days, without a possibility to change or extend their immigration status. However, pursuant to federal regulations, if an emergency prevents a VWP visitor from departing the United States within the period of authorized stay, a period of Satisfactory Departure may be granted not to exceed 30 days—provided:
If the individual then departs the United States within the period of approved Satisfactory Departure, the individual is regarded as having made a timely departure without overstaying the allowed time.
Requests for Satisfactory Departure are generally adjudicated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at an in-person appointment. However, USCIS Field Offices have closed until at least April 1, according to the agency’s announcement. All in-person appointments have been cancelled and will be rescheduled.
In extraordinary circumstances, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) may adjudicate requests for Satisfactory Departure. Some individuals admitted under the VWP may be stranded at U.S. airports due to canceled flights. Where appropriate, CBP has the authority to grant Satisfactory Departure if the individual is awaiting a canceled flight and the period of VWP admission is expiring prior to the traveler’s ability to depart.
As of the time of this alert, only individuals who were admitted to the United States through John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY (“JFK”) and Newark Liberty International Airport, NJ can contact the CBP Deferred Inspections office at JFK and request Satisfactory Departure for up to 30 days. Individuals and their attorneys are permitted to request Satisfactory Departure if the individual’s period of stay will expire in 14 days or less from the day he or she contacts JFK Deferred Inspections. If their period of VWP/ESTA admission has expired, the decision to grant satisfactory will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
CBP is aware of the situation nationwide but has not announced whether it intends to expand the issuance of Satisfactory Departure to other ports of entry and, if so, to which ports.