Visa Waiver Program–Unable to Depart Due to COVID-19
For individuals in the United States admitted under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), there is no provision of law that would allow an extension of stay. However, for those individuals under the VWP who find themselves unable to depart before the expiration of their current period of admission due to exigent circumstances, there is an option to request relief in the form of a Satisfactory Departure (SD) request.
What is Satisfactory Departure?
Pursuant to Title 8 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 217.3(a), if an emergency prevents an individual admitted under the VWP 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 that the request is made during the period of admission and the individual is still in status at the time of the request. If departure is made within the period of approved Satisfactory Departure, the individual is regarded as having made a timely departure without overstaying the allowed time.
Who has authority to grant a SD Request?
Both U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have authority to handle these requests.
What is the procedure for requesting SD from USCIS?
- Contact the USCIS Contact Center indicating you wish to request SD. (The phone number for the USCIS Contact Center is 800-375-5283);
- Be prepared to answer questions asked by the USCIS Contact Center representative to establish your eligibility for SD (entered the U.S. on a VW, unable to depart due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and applying timely);
- The USCIS Contact Center representative will instruct you to send an e-mail to them with “SD” in the subject line and to include an image of your passport biographic page(s), reason for requesting SD and your contact information.
- The USCIS Contact Center will then forward that e-mail to your nearest USCIS Field Office.
- A designated, “SD officer” at the USCIS Field Office will review the documentation , process the request and notify you of the decision by creating a Service Request Management Tool (SRMT) number and emailing you.
What is the procedure for requesting SD from CBP?
- Apply at any local CBP Port of Entry or Deferred Inspection Site.
- To find a Port of Entry in your state and obtain instructions as to how to apply for SD, refer to https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports and follow the site-specific protocols for your local Port of Entry.
- To find a Deferred Inspection Site near you and obtain how to apply for SD, refer to https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports/deferred-inspection-sites and follow the site-specific protocols for your local deferred inspection site.
What if you continue to be unable to depart the U.S. within the granted 30-day SD period?
On April 13, 2020, USCIS announced that for those under the VWP who have already been granted a period of SD and continue to be unable to depart the U.S. due to the COVID-19 outbreak, USCIS has the authority to grant an additional period of 30 days of SD.
We will continue to update this advisory with any additional information as it becomes available.
If you have any questions about requesting SD or any other immigration matter, contact our attorneys at the Law Offices of Azita M. Mojarad, P.C. Our experienced immigration attorneys can address your concerns and advise you of the proper course of action.